8.9%! What do you imagine this number is? This is the number of people between the ages of 20 and 59 in Japan who are called "LGBT". Now, have you ever heard of LGBT? It stands for "Lesbian," "Gay," "Bisexual," and "Transgender." They are labeled as a "Sexual Minority." Recently, among the so-called "SNS generation" who can easily access updated global information, LGBT has now gained much publicity.
In November of 2015, same gender partnerships were legally approved for the first time in Japan, in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Nine other wards soon followed. This was an epoch-making change. However, according to a survey by the LGBT Research Laboratory, there are still serious issues of bullying against LGBT at school and working places. The fact is the number of suicides among LGBT is 6 times higher than that of hetero-sexual people. In March 2017, a protection law for students of LGBT was added in response to bullying at school, but it has so far been in vain. Why bullying? Why suicide? I feel the answer is barriers, barriers of bias in the minds of the majority against the "minority."
I lived in Washington D.C. with my family until I turned three years old. At the daycare center, I had teachers and friends of different races, religions and cultures, and at the local school, my sister had a teacher who was gay. When there seemed a climate of prejudice against Asian students at that time, he was always supportive of my sister. That, I think, is because he was also a "minority" and knew what it felt like to be discriminated against. One day at school, my sister was very surprised to find a picture book at the school library about a new kind of family. On the cover of the book was a picture of two fathers and their son, hand in hand, smiling happily. These were the moments when my sister and I truly felt America, the nation of "DIVERSITY".
In the upcoming campaign of the 2020 United States presidential election, one of the candidates of the Democratic Party has attracted a lot of public attention. His name is Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend in the State of Indiana. As part of a new generation of progressive politicians, he is running as the first openly gay candidate and has gained widespread support. He announced that he is gay in 2015 and made public his same gender marriage in 2018. His personal life, as well as his policies, reflect reform and innovation. If he should be elected President, he would be the first President ever in history to be joined in the White House by the First "Gentleman!"
Now we have arrived at a new era in Japan, REIWA. What can we change in order to catch up with the leading nation of diversity? I know that laws protecting the human rights for LGBT definitely need to be revised or newly established, but I think, more importantly, we should take early educational measures to improve awareness of LGBT in the mind of children. Children need opportunities to learn about and embrace the individuality and uniqueness in people. Furthermore, I would encourage those in the public eye to become positive influencers to help increase support by appealing through the media or SNS to expand recognition and understanding of LGBT. I would also encourage writers to write novels, TV dramas, and movies that feature LGBT.
As Prime Minister Abe said, let us welcome REIWA as an opportunity for all individuals to help make a great, beautiful flower bloom, and in this time of DIVERSITY, let us step forward together, abandon our fixed ideas and bias, and respect individuality and uniqueness in the same way we respect humanity as a whole. We all have the right to live freely as who and what we truly are. The future is close when all individualities will meet in harmony, each pursuing their own happiness. Let us blossom all together in the world of DIVERSITY!
When I was in Junior High, I saw an incredible video that was shared by a friend on Facebook. In the video, a man named Robert Mahar succeeded in creating a new hybrid fruit called Baniwi. He did this by putting together a cut section of banana and half of a kiwi and planting it in a pot. The outer part of it looked just like a banana, but inside it looked like a kiwi. Mr. Mahar claimed that "The taste is a delicate balance of the two."
How amazing! As soon as I saw that video, I shared it with my friends. I also bought the ingredients and tools to do the experiment and almost tried it myself. When I finally watched the original version on YouTube however, I found out it was fake. In the unedited video, Mr. Mahar revealed that it was actually an April Fool's joke. However, in the first video I saw on Facebook the information about it being a joke had been deleted. From this experience, I realized the importance of checking the original source of information before accepting something as true. I also learned the value of being able to discern the intention of the person sending the information. No one was harmed by Mr. Mahar's April Fool's Day joke, but unfortunately that isn't always the case.
At an official TED conference in 2017, a journalist named Stephanie Busari told this story. In 2014, the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Around the world, the crime became represented by the slogan #BringBackOurGirls. But in Nigeria, government officials called the crime a deception, which confused and delayed efforts to rescue these girls. In her talk, Mrs. Busari points to the Chibok tragedy to explain the deadly dangers of fake news, and what we can do to stop it. She said, "I think everybody here -- you and I -- we have a role to play in that. We are the ones who share the stories online. In this day and age, we're all publishers, and we have responsibility. ... What if we stop to think about the consequence of the information that we pass on, and its potential to incite violence or hatred? What if we stop to think about the real-life consequences of the information that we share?"
According to an article that I read in the Yomiuri Newspaper, some elementary and junior high schools in the US have started teaching students how to deal with the flood of information gained through the Internet. Classes have been designed to help students acquire the skills needed to identify fake news. I believe that students in Japan could also benefit from learning how to distinguish fake news from the truth. Even sharing fake news unintentionally can deprive people of their freedom. Many times, it destroys someone's reputation or business. Like the girls from Chibok, people can be held captive by fake news.
How can we keep from being part of such a tragedy? First, each of us who use the Internet should learn how to deal with various types of information properly. Some articles are factual, some are for entertainment, and others are propaganda. Although the Internet is very useful, it is easy to be deceived by the false information. Second, we should try to search for the original sources, even when things are shared by a friend. There are some fact checking websites, such as Snopes or Fact Checker. Research from MIT shows that lies spread farther and faster than truth online. We should be careful not to assist in spreading lies. The next time you find an interesting article on the Internet, I challenge you to stop and consider whether the information comes from a trustworthy source before sharing it with your friends. This one little step may help to change the world. Truth matters. Truth can set us free.
Sharing. What is it? When do you share? Please think about sharing and about the last time you shared something with someone. What was it? A shared meal, a snack or a possession? It might have been a shared smile at a joke, or simply a shared moment of your time. Or was it shared knowledge, understanding, respect or maybe love? An article I read recently stated that, "Sharing is fundamental to the development of all human relationships." I firmly agree. Without sharing our feelings, experiences, ideas and our unique personalities, it is almost impossible to build long lasting relationships. I believe that sharing could be the answer to many of my simple problems and furthermore the world's bigger problems.
The act of sharing is present in my everyday life. I am currently the student council president and, among my many responsibilities, I have many opportunities to share with my friends and peers. It doesn't always have to be a grand gesture for sharing to be appreciated. We share our interests, ideas, concerns, problems and motivation. I think that sharing is not only an act of physically dividing something, but also creating something of value and giving something meaning.
Do you know Aikasa? It's a new Japanese company I saw on TV. This company installs and manages umbrella lending spots in order to solve the issue of plastic umbrellas that have become a problem in Japan. Through sharing, Aikasa avoids waste, so sharing is directly caring for the environment. I realized the possibilities of sharing through this company.
If you expand your view to the world, there are as many problems as there are stars. Today around the world people are dying and the natural environment is being destroyed. For example, the Afghanistan conflict where about 2 million people have died and the Syrian civil war are taking place now. Last year, I went to an event called "Global Festa" where various international corporations and groups gathered to learn about the current state of poverty in the world. I strongly felt the need to do something to help in any small way I could. What are the causes of some global problems now? One is restricting or taking things away, for example territories, or depriving others of basic freedoms. How can we solve these problems? My idea is through sharing. By sharing, things such as ideas, resources and technology, we can directly help save and improve countless lives.
Seth Gordon says, "Sharing an idea you care about is a generous way to change your world for the better." We have seen numerous examples of this around the world. In 2018, when Ebola broke out in the Republic of the Congo, Japanese companies provided motorcycles, generators, Ebola virus diagnostic kits and medical equipment to fight the outbreak. Sharing is a way to solve global problems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals advocated by the United Nations.
My goal is to get people to understand the importance of sharing and to share from small things. Sharing also helps us to realize the importance of taking care of others and can inspire us to grow together. Through sharing we are able to develop empathy for others. That empathy allows us to see things from another perspective, to sympathize and understand. I am able to walk in another's footsteps. It also compels me to take action or do something to help. All people have unique talents, unique skills. What is that talent that only you have that only you can share? It's never too late. Sharing: a way to begin to address poverty, war and protect the environment. Sharing: a simple way to tackle small and large problems, on a local and global scale.
48.8. Do you know what this number means? This indicates the percentage of eligible Japanese voters who voted in the most recent Upper House elections. It was a record breaking number because for the first time in 24 years at the national elections less than half of all people who could vote voted. In fact, Japan is said to have the worst voting rate amongst the developed countries. Now, why do you think Japanese people don't go vote? 48.8 is such a terrifying number. This says that more than half of our nation's electors don't feel the necessity to vote. I believe most Japanese people consider politics irrelevant to their lives. Here today, I would like to examine the problem in Japanese people that led to this loss of interest in politics and present you with ideas for how we can make this situation better.
When I lived in America, I constantly talked about politics and the latest news with my friends. During the presidential election of 2016, everyone at school was talking about which candidates and policies they liked. Looking back further to when I was in kindergarten, it was the midst of the presidential elections of 2008 when the first African American was elected President of the United States. But more than anything else, what surprises me until this day is that even kindergarteners knew that it was an important day. It's amazing that even toddlers know what is happening in their nation.
However, when I came back to Japan at the age of 14, I was surprised about how little Japanese students knew about politics and the news in general. One time, I remember talking to my friends in middle school, about when Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor. When I told them how important this was for keeping a good relationship between Japan and the U.S, they said "Wait, what's Pearl Harbor?" This shows that Japanese students tend to not have an interest in political affairs. American children, however, learn these kinds of history from a young age. Also, if you say your opinion about some news, your classmates will tease you saying things like, "Why are you acting so smart all of a sudden?" I was confused by the difference in perspective on politics and history between people in Japan and the U.S.
Why do you think there are such differences? My answer is that there are too few adults in Japan that talk about politics and world affairs. Are parents taking time to have deep conversations with their children about politics? Parents teach their children how to build a good relationship with others, but they should also encourage their children to become responsible citizens. At school, of course, teachers teach their subjects to students, but are they teaching them anything beyond that? Few teachers have taught me what good citizens act like because they are prevented from influencing the political views of students. I strongly believe one of a teacher's roles is to educate students about how to be involved in society.
Now, to talk about something more recent, protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months. Hong Kong citizens are afraid that their rights will be restricted and that they might lose their culture. Young adults, who are mostly 20 to 29 years old, are at the core of these protests and there are even some high schoolers who are participating. It's impressive that hundreds of thousands of people are getting together to protect their rights in Hong Kong. It touches my heart that there are people, the same age as I am, that are willing to risk their lives in order to maintain their freedom. Would you be willing to fight for your freedom?
As I see it, Japanese people should talk more about politics. Parents should teach their children about what is happening in their country. Teachers should encourage students to contribute to society. We young people should keep ourselves informed about news and the world and bring politics into our daily conversations. These little steps will lead to the increase of voting rates. I am going to become a voter next April. In the future I will talk about politics with my family, discuss current events with my friends, and stay informed about what is happening in Japan and the world. This is how I will be a responsible citizen. How will you?