Prime Minister Abe Meets With Local JET Alumnus

On April 27, 2007, for the first time in the 20-year history of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET), the Prime Minister of Japan met and spoke with former JET participants from across the United States. Cerell Rivera represented Northern California and Nevada in the meeting that took place in Washington, D.C. at the official residence of Ryozo Kato, Ambassador of Japan to the United States.

In opening remarks Prime Minister Abe stressed to American alumni that "government-to-government relations are not enough… It is people-to-people connections that are absolutely essential." He further illustrated his point as he spoke individually with alumni about their thoughts on Japan and the JET Program.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks with former JETAANC President Cerell Rivera
Prime Minister Abe and Ms. Rivera discussed the impact of the JET Program on students in Japan and former participants who have returned to their home countries. She described for the Prime Minister her own experience with special needs students and teachers in Japan, and explained how they were able to bridge language and culture gaps to successfully exchange ideas, collaborate, and address issues of mutual concern.

She also discussed how the program influenced her career choices, from Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, to Development Officer at the Asia Society in San Francisco, and led to her current standing as a Student Fellow in the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center.
Cerell Rivera and First Lady of Japan Akie Abe meet in Washington, D.C.
Following the discussion with Prime Minister Abe, Ms. Rivera spoke briefly with Akie Abe about the First Lady's active involvement in public affairs and the attention she has brought to important issues surrounding declining birth rates in Japan. In addition to meeting with the Prime Minister and his wife, Ms. Rivera had the opportuntity to speak with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura, Special Adviser on National Security Yuriko Koike, and Ambassador Ryozo Kato.
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program aims to promote internationalization in Japan's local communities by helping to improve foreign language education and developing international exchange at the community level. Now in its 21st year, the Program has seen significant growth: from its original 848 participants from 4 countries in 1987 to 5,508 participants from 44 countries in 2006. Over 46,000 people from 55 different countries have participated in the Program since its inception.

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