On October 12, 2016, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and TV personality Mari Sekine discussed the importance of studying abroad and shared their experiences at her residence.
MARI SEKINE: Thank you for having me here today. It's an honor to meet you. I'm Mari. Nice to see you.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Nice to see you. Thanks for coming. I'm Caroline.
MARI SEKINE: How may I call you?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: “Caroline” is good. Sure.
MARI SEKINE: So first of all, congratulations on the launch of this “A Broader View” project.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Thank you for participating. We are so happy to have lots of different people who all agreed to participate, because I think they had a great time in the United States and they wanted to share that experience with other people who might be considering that, but might be afraid to go.
MARI SEKINE: I heard it was your idea to start this project.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: During my time in Japan I have had so many people who tell me that studying in the United States changed their life, and that they came back to Japan and were able to pursue their dream or start a company or become an artist or do scientific research, and they wouldn't have had the courage or the imagination to do it if they hadn't gone abroad. So it just seemed to me that that was a message that younger people should hear, because we really need more people – more Japanese to go to the U.S. and more young Americans to come studying in Japan. From my experience, I’ve had such an incredible time in this country that I feel like that’s something that I want to share with Americans. So I’m working to encourage Americans to come here, and I also want to encourage young Japanese to go to the U.S.
MARI SEKINE: Including myself! I went to Boston and studied at Emerson College.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Going to school in Boston is really, I think, the most fun thing you can do.
MARI SEKINE: It's a beautiful city too. Lots of colleges. Excellent arts and entertainment. And sports.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Yeah, baseball, football … I went to school in Boston, so I'm speaking from experience. And I think now it's even more international than it was when I was in school. I think that people who are afraid there won't be anyone from their country shouldn't feel that way. The whole world is in Boston, or certainly in the United States, so I think you can always make friends.
MARI SEKINE: I made lifelong friends, actually. And I actually had a crush on a boy. And I went to my friend's party, and I saw him, but the next moment I saw him kissing another boy.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Oh no!
MARI SEKINE: So he turned out not to like girls, but boys.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Well, that's good but not for you, maybe.
MARI SEKINE: For me, not romantically, but instead we became really great good friends.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: That's great.
MARI SEKINE: We went shopping together, we did boy-watching together -- we still keep in touch.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: That's great. When I got to Japan, the Vice Foreign Minister told me that he had been at a party that I was at when we were in college, but he was afraid to ask me to dance. So now we've met so many years later. So you never know.
MARI SEKINE: Do you remember?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: No (laugh).
MARI SEKINE: So you never know.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: You never know.
MARI SEKINE: You meet so many different people from different cultures, different backgrounds. That again would broaden your perspective.
MARI SEKINE: How are you choosing the interviewees?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Some of them in the beginning were people I have met during the portion of my travels here, and then we've been reaching out to other people that we hear about, and we wanted to really show the variety of things you can do in the United States, so we have, you know, Nobel Prize winners who are very eminent and older, and then we have you, and we have Project TARO, who are studying hip-hop dance in New York, and pretty much everyone in between – people who are pursuing film or acting here back in Japan, or people who have started businesses like Mikitani-san. So there's really a range, and there's everyone doing every kind of thing, just as they are in Japan, but I think it gives them the freedom to try it in a different way. You may make mistakes, you learn from mistakes, and I think people find that kind of freedom. and exhilarating.
MARI SEKINE: So many different kinds of people.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: And we have so many different kinds of schools in the U.S. We have small liberal arts schools that are out in the countryside, if you're not ready for the big city. We have New York, Boston, Los Angeles if you want to go to a really urban environment. Depending on what you're interested in or what kind of person you are, I think you can find many places that would suit you.
MARI SEKINE: And what I thought was great was that you can change your major as you go along.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Right. I think that's more difficult here.
MARI SEKINE: It’s typical when people decide their major, they usually stick with it and graduate with that, but in the United States a lot of people change majors or they decide to do a double-major, or they have a major and a minor, if you're interested in different kinds of courses.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: My son, for example – after I became appointed as ambassador, he decided to minor in Japanese history, so you're right – you can add and change a little bit
MARI SEKINE: I started out studying marketing communications, but I also minored in psychology as well.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Oh, well they're kind of connected.
MARI SEKINE: Yeah – very interesting.
MARI SEKINE: When you communicate with people from different cultures, different backgrounds, what did you take into account?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: I think a lot of it is observation and listening. You just get interested in how other people approach something that you thought your way was the way that everybody did it. I’ve had that experience more now than I remember. I’m sure I had it then, but coming to Japan, there are many, many small things that people do here that we do differently in the U.S.
MARI SEKINE: For example?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Just the way meetings are organized or the way people walk down the street, or, little things. There’s no right way, but there are two different ways, so that just makes it so much more fun every day and to see how people are going to do things that are new and different that I didn’t think of.
MARI SEKINE: You just have to observe and see and enjoy it, and adapt in your own way.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Then you can choose which ones you feel are best for you. But I think listening is important. I think being open to people, not being afraid to ask for help. Those are all good things to do at home too, but when you’re in a new place you really need to do it more.
MARI SEKINE: Being brave.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Exactly. We’re all brave underneath, but sometimes you don’t feel like trying.
How is the A Broader View project important to the Ambassador?
MARI SEKINE: How is this project important to you as an ambassador?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: I think most importantly is the belief that this changes individual lives, but now that I’m an ambassador I also think about America and Japan. I think the thing that has most struck me since I came here was how deep the ties are between our two countries. But especially in the U.S. lately I think that people don’t really understand how important this relationship is. Japan and the U.S. are really the best of friends and that’s been built over generations of people going back and forth, learning from each other, studying in each other’s countries, working together in business and science. So for the future, if we want to keep all these benefits and blessings that we’re so lucky to have right now that come from those efforts of our parents and grandparents, we also need to keep that tradition going. And so we really need our students to have spent time in each other’s countries so that they can work together in the future on challenges, whether it's problems that we face around the world. Japan and the U.S. work together on combatting healthcare crises and global diseases. We work together in outer space. Our astronauts are planning to go to Mars together. We do incredible artistic and cultural exchanges. We do basic science. There’s so much opportunity for kids who have spent time in both places. I think it’s only going to grow.
I think President Obama and Prime Minister Abe set this goal because they realize that this is really important to our national future of both our countries. As leaders, they are looking at this, how do we make sure that kids will continue this tradition. As ambassador, it’s my job to help us try to meet the goal of doubling the numbers by 2020.
We had Prime Minister Abe participate in A Broader View, so I know that when he was a student in California, he rented a room with a woman that cooked Italian food and he’d never had that before and he listened to Carole King and the Beach Boys and all that. It just shows you that you never know what’s going to happen in your life. I was there when he went back to California and they gave him a jacket from USC where he had been a student and I think he was so happy to come full circle. I think for all the kids there that was a great moment too.
I think that hearing from people who have done it and had a great time is really one of the best ways to encourage more people to do it, so that’s what this project is all about.
MARI SEKINE: To better our understanding.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Right. There are so many issues that we need to work together on, so if you’ve got those friendships like you said, stay in touch, you might work together in the future and you’ll do a better job.
MARI SEKINE: I hope this project broadens a lot of people’s views.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Thank you, I hope so. People hopefully will see this interview and then try to figure out how to come to the U.S.
MARI SEKINE: Thank you so much for today.
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Thank you.