Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer: Statement on his Arrival in Japan

Narita Airport
April 8, 2005

(As prepared for delivery)

Arigato gozaimasu. Kon nichi-wa.

Susanne and I are delighted to be in Japan. We look forward to representing the United States in your beautiful and prosperous country. Japan is a fascinating place, steeped in history, sophisticated in outlook and determined to make a positive contribution to the peace of the world. It will be the highest honor for me to speak for my country here in Japan, especially given the fact that Presidents of the United States have seen fit to send such distinguished representatives here in the past.

It is a humbling thought to think that I will follow in the footsteps of such giants as Ambassador Howard Baker, Tom Foley, Walter Mondale, Mike Armacost and Mike Mansfield. When the President first talked to me about coming to Japan, I told him of my concern in following such great and wise men. He said he understood that concern, but he wanted an Ambassador here who knew him and knew his views on the world and Japan. After all, he said, Japan is the linchpin of our whole security in the Pacific. I was touched by his confidence and I will work hard every day to merit it.

Last week shortly after I was sworn in, the President called to emphasize again how much our relationship with Japan meant to him and to the peace of the world. He asked me to convey to you, the people of Japan and to Prime Minister Koizumi his deep appreciation for your friendship and understanding. The President believes that there is much good that we can do together in the world.

Four years ago when the President first talked to me about serving abroad, the world was a very different place. It was so different in fact that it is sometimes, hard to remember.

There is no doubt that we live in dangerous, difficult times but there is also no doubt that these can be times of great opportunity. Sixty years ago, World War II was ending and the world realized that a new era was beginning. In my judgment, September 11th was the last day of that old era and the first day of something new.

I am convinced that we are in another one of those formative periods when what we do now will have consequences forty, fifty or sixty years down the road.

Joseph Grew was the longest serving American Ambassador to Japan until Mike Mansfield came along. He was a recognized expert on Japanese affairs. He served for ten years in Tokyo, was interned at the outbreak of the War and was repatriated to the United States before the War ended.

Joseph Grew returned to our State Department to argue strenuously that democracy would never work in Japan. It was just too alien to the Japanese culture. Fortunately, not many Americans or Japanese paid much attention to Grew's argument. Joseph Grew was wrong because he failed to realize how ennobling to the human spirit freedom can be. When people are able to choose their own government, when they can say what they want to about it, when they demand that it protect the few as well as the many, when they allow all to worship according to the needs of their own soul, then something magical happens. Governments start serving people instead of people serving government.

Today, the United States and Japan stand together as two great democracies that have embraced the same values - not American values - but universal values; values that can make a difference in people's lives and the lives of their communities.

Our languages and our cultures are very different but our friendship is very real. We face the dangers of this changing world together because we know that freedom gives us strength not weakness.

I said earlier that this was the beginning of a new era. Right now it has no name. Some may think it will be called the age of terrorism. Hopefully, the work we do together as free men and women, as Americans and Japanese will cause it to be known as the age of democracy and freedom.

May we all do our best.