Japan and Egypt Praise U.S. Leadership in Crises Special to the Diplomatic Pouch by Julie Poucher Harbin During an early spring heat wave in D.C., a handful of foreign ambassadors, various politicos and members of the area’s philanthropic, business and media circles got together in the tony Kalorama neighborhood, over spicy chili and cool cocktails, to talk about two of the biggest global developments of the day: the Arab spring and the Japanese disaster. The April 4 discussion was hosted by the Institute for Education (IFE) as part of its IFE/INFO Public Policy Roundtable featuring Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations; Commerce; Science and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; Indian Affairs; and Rules and Administration. The Institute for Education, founded by coach Kathy Kemper 20 years ago to promote political civility and international understanding, regularly holds high-level, invitation-only forums, which over the years have featured more than 200 speakers – including a vice president, lawmakers, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, CEOs, journalists, professional athletes and even a Miss America. The venue for this most recent roundtable was the home of Esther Coopersmith, a UNESCO goodwill ambassador and former U.S. representative to the United Nations. Ambassadors from Afghanistan, Monaco, Norway, Cyprus, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Egypt and Japan mingled with guests for the informal gathering to talk politics and policy. Sen. Udall, who was joined by his wife, attorney Jill Cooper, devoted the bulk of his comments to the need for the United States to become a world leader in adopting alternative sources of energy to combat climate change, lamenting the absence of a national plan to tackle it, before turning over the floor to the Japanese ambassador. “All of us feel deeply in our hearts what you are going through in Japan. We talked tonight about how 50 of the nation’s top nuclear radiation scientists are over in your country working with you on what’s happening there,” said Udall, introducing Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki. “Our hearts go out to you.” Three weeks after the triple whammy of catastrophes hit Japan – the 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant crisis – Fujisaki expressed his gratitude to America, especially for sending 20,000 troops who were working day and night providing basic human needs as well as those 50 nuclear experts giving critical advice to their Japanese counterparts. “I was telling Sen. Udall that up until now, very frankly, I was underestimating the strength of the United States, I have to say, I didn’t know that,” Fujisaki said. “Because I was thinking that in the last 30 years after Three Mile [Island nuclear meltdown], the U.S. has made no new nuclear power plants. We have made 29 – number one in the world. So, very frankly, it’s a little presumptuous, but I didn’t think that we had so much to learn from America, but you have such a huge experience in disposing of the waste materials … so much equipment and also expertise, so we’re learning every day from Americans.” He added: “The American people are really extending so much goodwill and contributions and I’m always saying that we will recover one day. We will because of the resilience of our people, but we are so grateful that American people are standing with us in such a difficult moment. And the Japanese will never forget this.” Across the room, Ambassador of Egypt Sameh Shoukry then spoke about the “transformational” and “trying” period his country was facing following the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. “This is certainly a very important and a very dynamic development,” he said. “It’s a transformational period, a period where we embark upon a new, more inclusive way of government, a greater democracy, protection of human rights, and an opportunity to really reach our potential that Egypt has in a regional and global context.” Shoukry assured that while “there is anxiousness on the part of people trying to get this right,” Egypt does have a roadmap that will lead to free and fair elections “where we hope we will proceed to solidify the movement toward democracy and a greater representative government.” He pointed out that every day there are two or three new political parties that are being established in Egypt. “Now totally free, anybody can establish political parties without approval, just an application, and there is a great effort to bring in line many of the legislative aspects of this new Egypt,” he said. While he said Egypt was committed to the course of reform, he warned that the economy was suffering a dramatic loss of revenue as a result of the massive protests – “people are anxious to obtain better opportunities” – and “for a government that is under strain, it is difficult to meet all the expectations and expectations that are rising every day.” Like the Japanese ambassador, Shoukry had praise for the leadership of the United States in this time of crisis. “We do rely on our friends. Primarily in the United States, this strategic partnership has been in place now for over 30 years,” he said. “What happens and what transpires in Egypt will have a far-reaching impact and an impact that directly affects the national security of the United States. We are keen also to demonstrate at this important time, the symbolism of that relationship where the U.S. should take the leadership. As the ambassador of Japan says, we recognize the capabilities and the potential of the United States.” Sen. Udall thanked the ambassador. “I know that there was a great discourse going on between our people and your people while all of this is unfolding and I’m sure it’s going to continue.” Read article in the The Washington Diplomat’s May 2011 Diplomatic Pouch section.