Article by John Takeo Noguchi, Director of Convention Facilities Department City & County of San Francisco

It was truly an honor to be selected as a 2008 JALD delegate. Upon receipt of my acceptance letter from the Consul General, I can vividly recall a strong sense of both excitement and fear. After all, I had become quite familiar with the program during the months leading up to this moment, and had thoroughly studied past group reports as well as the impressive bios of those who had participated over the years. As a career civil servant with the City of San Francisco, I was not quite sure how I would fit in with the 2008 delegation, or if I would be able to properly represent the Consul General, San Francisco and the Japanese American Community in some comparable way that former Northern California delegates had been able to do so well in the past.

The pre-trip orientation at JANM in Los Angeles put these fears to rest. The issues presented throughout the program were pertinent and thought provoking. The speakers were knowledgeable and engaging. And perhaps most important, it was evident that there was a true sense of community among all 13 delegates. By orientation's end, there was no doubt that this impressive group would challenge the intimidating itinerary, and create the absolute most of an experience each of us knew we would never have again.

From the outset, it was clear in all of our minds that our mission, as a select group of Japanese Americans, was to make a lasting, positive impression on government and business leaders at the absolute highest levels. I sincerely believe that we were able to achieve this. In return, the lessons we learned from these impressive individuals has provided us with valuable advice and clear direction as to what we must do to further strengthen bilateral relations between our two countries.

That being said, and as exciting, intense, yet meaningful all of these meetings were, the memories I perhaps treasure most are those personal experiences shared with my fellow delegates. Those moments of encouragement prior to an important presentation, the feelings of relief following a successful meeting, and of course, the sense of camaraderie and support of each other throughout every waking moment of the entire mission. These relationships, forged as a direct result of the JALD program, will last a lifetime. For this, I am forever grateful.

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