Applying Japanese to my life

By Asa Marshall

On Wednesday, November 15th, 2019, my AP Language teacher, Ms. Berke, gave us a prompt from the Pulitzer Center’s contest for an under-reported news story. We were free to choose any topic, write a letter to a Congressperson that discusses our opinions on an issue, and propose ways to fix it as well as why it is important to us and our community. I was really excited to do this assignment and even though I wasn’t eligible to enter the contest, because my news source of choice was not permitted, I immediately thought of ways I could use what we discussed in Japanese class, where we always read very interesting articles and discuss topics that could be connected to the rest of the world. I recognized one of the sites our teacher allowed us to use for the assignment, which was The Atlantic, and I found a publication titled, Scenes From the Aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, by Alan Taylor, which was a collection of images from the disaster that happened around October 8th-15th, 2019. It caught my attention, because we recently discussed the article, Climate Change Could Turn the Tokyo Olympics Into a Disaster, by Eric Margolis from Slate, that discussed the growing concerns surrounding climate change, the effects it had in Japan, and new worries of how it would affect the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. I decided to use the photos to write my letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

A part of my letter stated that, “While this publication had no opinions presented, it can offer some insight to both culture and the environment which could greatly influence us in America by bringing up these topics of the worsening climate, while also reflecting on the differences in cultures and ideals that would be beneficial to adopt into our own society.” My main idea was to make comparisons to the damages of the earthquake and typhoon in Tohoku on March 11th, 2011, Typhoon Ida of 1958, and World War II, but also the unity of the rebuilding process. It is important to improve the environment and rethink pulling from the Paris Agreement, but it is just as significant to analyze the morals of Japanese society, which would greatly better America if we were to adopt a similar mindset of working for the community to reach common goals.

I was very passionate about my letter and I hoped to get a good grade because so far, my teacher was very impressed by how much I knew about the topic. She explained to me that being in Japanese Plus is an excellent way to become a better global citizen. From what she saw, many students had trouble fully grasping their topics, because they didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge. This made me feel very proud of my work, but also made me wonder if I wanted to explore more into political sciences and consider becoming a diplomat or ambassador after college.

I’ve always found it exciting to learn about other countries and the issues, commonalities, and differences we all share. For example, an organization I have been a participant in was LINKS Inc., which is a group of African-American women who meet with students in order to discuss international trends and is devoted to education and advocacy and volunteering in African-American communities. I’ve been a part of this program since 6th grade and on this past Tuesday, I met the Haitian Ambassador, His Excellency, Hervé Denis. This was one of the many experiences that made me really wonder if this was something I wanted to work on later in life. Being in both Japanese Plus as well as LINKS and taking part in the mini U.N for a couple years, while also writing the letter for the Pulitzer Center assignment, really inspired me to use my interests in history and culture to help me get a better idea at what I want to be when I grow up. I found these connections very intriguing and it is likely going to be an enlightening experience I will always remember.

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