In the summer of 2013, Alice Liao and Sharon Lu attended the 65th Japan-America Student Conference.
Long story short, JASC was a life changing summer.
I started out a shy student uncomfortable in a suit. But exchanging views with international leaders like John McCain made me realize that I could and did fit into his community of “important people,” that I don't need to be just a bystander staring in awe, and that I have a voice just as important as his.
Listening to speakers including Shinjiro Koizumi, the former Prime Minister's son, tell us that we "are future international leaders" gave us a sense of confidence as well as responsibility.
I believed it.
Talking with my JASCer friends and sharing with each other our passions and dreams made me realize that it was okay to dream big. And that there were people out there that believed in you.
We dreamed it.
Weeks after JASC, after half of us returned to America, we all kept in touch. In fact we are now already planning a 2020 Olympics reunion in Japan. All the while, we never forgot who we came to be during that conference together. We held each other accountable for our growth, passion, and dreams.
We pushed each other to pursue it.
So what is "it"? Let me show you.
Life will never be about the stories you hear; it will be about the stories you are able to tell.
Night fell. We sat in a circle, with emotions jumbled up inside of us. The air felt stale; we breathed deeply. We had attended the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony, heard from an atomic bomb survivor, and visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Silence was the easy way out of this heavy ambiance--but we chose to speak up. We poured out our honest feelings of sorrow, anger, guilt, and confusion--and talked. We sought to understand each other’s perspectives; we strained to grasp our own beliefs. We struggled—but it was precisely through these struggles that we were able to step closer to not only one another, but also to ourselves.
In that one month together with other young minds sharing the eagerness for mutual understanding and the courage to embrace conflicts, I found confidence, motivation, and invaluable friendships. The conference concluded, but our conversations carried on, and we realized that JASC never ends; rather, it was a magical spark.
The conference prompted me to reflect on my life split between two homelands--Taiwan and the U.S. Through my interactions with students from both sides, I have noticed an alarming inadequacy of interaction and understanding between them. I thought,
Just like we chose to break that silence, I believe that we can use that spark to light a flame to break up the darkness of the night.
That’s how JASC inspired us. Together with the rest of the Executive Committee, we hope to ignite the passion within all delegates to pursue their dreams together.