Monday, February 23, 2009

In Pursuit of Peace

I've returned from Japan and had many amazing experiences there, both professional and personal. One of the more interesting experiences demonstrated to me that we are truly connected and it is a very small world.

While in Tokyo at a seminar arranged by Fujitsu, I met Yoshio Leeper from the Fujitsu Economic Research Center. He mentioned that his father Steven Leeper, was Director of Peace Park, the museum/monuments at the site of the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast. I told Yoshio that I would be visited Hiroshima on February 18 and would welcome the opportunity to meet his father.

Yoshio emailed his father. Steve Leeper graciously offered to take my family to lunch at Okonomi Mura, a building filled with Okonomiyaki restaurants (Okonomiyaki are a remarkable layered pancake with noodles and vegetables that deserves its own blog entry. Hiroshima is famous for them) and to give us a guided tour of Peace Park, based on his experience as Director.

We arrived in Hiroshima and went to lunch. Steve described his role as ambassador for peace to the world as Chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. He knew of my various roles in technology and policy and asked if I would like to meet the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba PhD and the CIO of Hiroshima, Asako Toyoda, (who is also Deputy Mayor).

One call to the Mayor's office and it was arranged.

We drove to city hall and were escorted to the mayor's private meeting room.

Dr. Akiba is a remarkable man. He's a graduate of MIT and is passionate about technology. Hiroshima is one of the most wired cities in Japan with near universal Broadband and 3G wireless coverage. He's passionate about Peace and specifically hired Steve Leeper to bring strong leadership to Hiroshima's peace activities. Dr. Akiba also has turned the city around financially by trimming expenses, scaling back public works projects and implementing tight fiscal management.

Asako Toyoda is one of the few CIOs in japan. Her energy and diligence have led to Hiroshima's IT pre-eminence. It was all accomplished with a very frugal budget.

My conversation with Dr. Akiba ranged from electronic health records and regional information exchanges to personal health records/Google Health. He was very familiar with my background including the unusual fact that I was Edward Teller's ('father' of the H-bomb) research assistant from 1981-1983. He asked for my help supporting the cause of peace, a critical issue over the next two years as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is renegotiated in 2010. Depending on the outcome of that treaty, we can begin a path of global nuclear disarmament or see an increase in countries throughout the world becoming nuclear weapons capable.

I gave him my commitment to work with my contacts in the House, Senate, and White House staff to raise awareness on this issue. Let's hope that the new administration finds the path to peace appealing as a way to bring stability and economic cooperation to the world.

Japan has high hopes for the Obama administration, and according to all the Japanese senior people I spoke with, there is a fresh look at America now that the administration has changed. The previous administration created a tide of negative public opinion about Americans which is now turning! Just north of Kyoto, there's a town called Obama City. So it's fair to say that while in Japan, I had a visit to see Obama. I hope that Mr. Obama follows Secretary Clinton's lead and visits the far east. Two of Obama's goal's are ending our unpopular wars and reinvigorating the economy. Pursuing the cause of peace by taking a leadership role in nuclear non-proliferation and strengthening American ties to the second largest economy in the world (Japan also holds much of the US national debt) are two good ways to further the administration's top priorities.

4 comments:

Grumpy, M.D. said...

This is an excellent post. I've enjoyed following your trip through Japan, and agree with many of your comments.

I particularly enjoyed learning about a practicing 97 year old physician. Even at less than half his remarkable ago, I couldn't keep up with his schedule.

chuck said...

As a young boy living in St. Louis in the late 1950s, I recall with fondness the thousands of envelopes with exotic stamps that my mother saved and brought home from her work at Washington University supporting two atomic physicists, Drs Condon and Compton. Those stamps imparted for me the sense of connectivity within the int'l scientific community. Your blog brings me back to those magical times. Thanks. Chuck Howes

Tom Mariner said...

Where better to have a conversation on nuclear non-proliferation. It says volumes about the Japanese soul that they have turned what could have been a center of hate over what was done into a place for peace.

Count me in with those who are nervous that some countries with less than stable governments are about to have the ultimate destructive capability. But without the knowledge of how to deal with the situation responsibly.

Tom Mariner said...

Where better to have a conversation on nuclear non-proliferation. It says volumes about the Japanese soul that they have turned what could have been a center of hate over what was done into a place for peace.

Count me in with those who are nervous that some countries with less than stable governments are about to have the ultimate destructive capability. But without the knowledge of how to deal with the situation responsibly.