WASHINGTON (August 9, 2011) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday met with Japan Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki; Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., 16 Japanese youth baseball and softball players, and four coaches participating in the U.S. Department of State’s first international sports exchange with Japan.
During the meeting in the State Department’s Treaty Room, Secretary Clinton reiterated U.S. support for Japan as the country recovers and rebuilds following the March 2011 natural disasters. The Secretary also highlighted the role of sports to empower young people worldwide and how international sports exchange programs provide an opportunity for participating youth and the Americans they meet to share and learn how sports can play an important role in overcoming adversity.
Clinton said that the baseball trip was also a way to continue the strong support and solidarity that Americans feel for the Japanese people as they rebuild from the disasters. The Japanese people have shown great resilience, she said, and sports whether the Japanese women soccer team that beat the U.S. to win Women’s World Cup, or youth baseball, is a way to pull together to and support each other during this time.
Ambassador Fujisaki added that he was moved by Clinton, Ripken, the youth and all Americans for the graciousness they showed after Japan’s miraculous victory. “We in Japan are also very much grateful for you doing this for these students from the affected areas.”
Clinton added that she was delighted to welcome the ambassador and also Cal Ripken, Jr., to celebrate the Japanese sports visitor program
“It’s particularly meaningful to us now as we reach out to the Japanese people and show our support for them,” said Clinton. “And as I was saying to the young people and to the ambassador and to Cal, we love Japan for many reasons, but one of them is because they love baseball. So this is an extra special treat for us. And we’re very proud that Cal Ripken, Jr., who’s such an icon of the sport all over the world, is one of our public diplomacy envoys.”
Secretary Clinton and Cal Ripken, Jr. discussed his upcoming trip to Japan as a Public Diplomacy Envoy and the strong relationship between the people of the United States and Japan.
“I am excited and honored to continue my work as a Public Diplomacy Envoy for the State Department,” said Cal Ripken, Jr., who has served as a Public Diplomacy Envoy since 2007. “I have very much enjoyed the people to people exchanges with China and Nicaragua and I am looking forward to my visit to Japan.
“I have visited Japan in the past and it is a wonderful nation that loves baseball,” Ripken continued. “They have endured so much in the last year and I look forward to spending some time with their young ballplayers both here and in Japan.”
Ripken said he was “just an old player who loves baseball and loves to spread the good word about baseball.” He said sport helps people-to-people relations way in many different cultures across the world. “I had a chance to do it China. I had a chance to do it in Nicaragua. Really looking forward to going to Japan. Been there three times, love it, and just can’t wait to go.”
Partnering with the Cal Ripken World Series, the Little League World Series and Ripken Baseball, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office is conducting an international exchange August 8-23 with 16 Japanese youth, ages 14-17 that play baseball and softball. These young people will participate in clinics and teambuilding exercises with their American counterparts.
Cal Ripken, Jr. will also meet with the Japanese delegation and lead a clinic with them on August 17 during the annual Cal Ripken World Series at the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy in Aberdeen, Maryland. In addition, they are slated to attend the 65th Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. While in Williamsport, the Japanese youth will participate in the Opening Day parade and throw out the first pitch for Japan’s game on August 18.
In November, Cal Ripken, Jr. will travel to Japan to meet with youth from the affected prefectures in Japan, including Tokyo. As a Public Diplomacy Envoy, Ripken will lead baseball and softball clinics as well as teambuilding exercises. More information regarding Ripken’s travel to Japan will be forthcoming. This will be Ripken’s third trip as a Public Diplomacy Envoy. In 2007 he traveled to China and in 2008 he visited Nicaragua.
Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary Clinton’s vision of “smart power” diplomacy. It embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools, including sports, to bring people together for greater understanding.
Sports Visitors are youth and coaches who travel to the United States for an exchange. Sports Visitor programs give young people an opportunity to discover how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom. Public diplomacy envoys travel overseas to conduct drills and team building activities, as well as engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of education, positive health practices and respect for diversity.