Future Leaders’ Program for Global Peace (5th cohort) Participant Interviews
Since 2016, Hiroshima Prefecture has been hosting the Future Leaders’ Program for Global Peace in order to educate the current generation of high school students on how to achieve world peace. The program takes more than half a year, during which time the students study English, learn about international issues such as nuclear disarmament and conflict resolution, and participate in the Hiroshima Junior International Forum, where they hold discussions with students from around the world. The program was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it resumed in 2021 after a two year hiatus. I sat down with Kubo Hinata and Nakamura Kokomi, who both completed the program in February 2022 as members of the 5th cohort, and asked them about their experiences.
●Why did you decide to participate in the program?
Kubo: I’ve always been interested in international issues. I’ve been studying poverty issues since I was a third year student in middle school. I became a monthly supporter of a child in Guatemala and exchanged letters with them while I was donating money. A teacher at school who knew about my activities told me about the Future Leaders’ Program. It’s not often you get a chance to have discussions with people your own age from around the world who have the same interests, so I applied.
Nakamura: In high school, I chose a class called Global Issues, where we learn about various international issues. However, for the past couple of years, school activities and international exchange have been on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then I saw the Future Leaders’ Program poster at school. Some senior students who I looked up to had commented saying, “It was helpful” and “I felt that I grew”. I thought, “I want to shine like the senior students!” so I decided to give it a try.
●Were there any memorable moments?
Kubo: Two things really stood out to me. The first was the Hiroshima Junior International Forum, where we held online discussions with students from other countries. Suffice it to say that my English was not good enough at all. Rather than “night and day”, it was more like “night and a cheese sandwich”. [laughs] I realized just how lacking my language ability was. The other thing was the moment when I was able to see beyond the answers that I had been considering. For example, we had a class on terrorism. I had always thought “terrorism = 100% bad”, but someone voiced the opinion that the society which bred the terrorism might bear some of the burden. At that moment I was made to realize that I had only been looking at things from one side. Having my fixed concepts collapsed was a very meaningful experience.
Nakamura: I was shocked during the lecture on emergency humanitarian aid by Rikkyo University’s Watanabe Mayumi. She explained how distribution of aid supplies could be unbalanced by the influence of the media, and that this could cause confusion in the field. We need media reports to convey the state of the disaster to us, but as a result the aid supplies sometimes do not reach the places which need them the most. We discussed how we need to properly use the media and SNS, given this dilemma. I would like to study this issue in more depth.
● What did you learn at the Future Leaders’ Program ?
Kubo: I felt strongly that what we need to be doing now is not “argument” but “dialogue”. We had many discussions during the Future Leaders’ Program, and there were many times when someone—myself included—would try to defeat their opponent in debate or fall into the habit of arguing to prove that their opinion was correct. What’s important is not winning or losing a debate, but understanding each other and finding a solution to the problem. Through dialogue, I believe that a “third option” will be found which is neither the supporting faction nor the opposing faction. For example, if people in support of nuclear weapons had been invited to a forum like the Future Leaders’ Program, I felt that we could have grasped the true nature of the problem through dialogue.
Nakamura: I was particularly impressed by how adaptable the students from other countries were. If they heard a good opinion during a discussion, they would immediately internalize it. I thought their ability to listen to people with opposing opinions and honestly accept the good parts was very cool. Also, they were able to express their own opinions with confidence, which made them convincing and gave them the power to change the minds of others. I want to be able to confidently express my opinions on a global stage, too.
- Kubo Hinata. Second-year student at Kake High School. In the future, he wants to study sociology and anthropology while working as an activist who endeavors to resolve issues. His hobby is baking sweets; on Valentine’s Day, he gives more chocolates than he receives.
- Nakamura Kokomi. Second-year student at Hiroshima Jogakuin High School. She studied at an international school in China for three years, where she learned of the importance of Hiroshima and became interested in peace education. Her hobby is reading manga, particularly shojo manga.
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