Nippon Foundation visits Gallaudet
During President Alan Hurwitz's welcome address to the campus community in front of a packed Field House on September 8, he introduced a guest from the NIppon Foundation and mentioned the scholarships awarded by the philanthropic organization to 200 students from more than 50 countries.
Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa then took the podium and shared some comments in which he called upon scholarship recipients to consider the Foundation as a partner in pursuing goals of leadership within their home communities.
"I hope you will continue to work hard to accomplish all that you have set forward," said Sasakawa, translated from Japanese. "I would hope you understand that there are many young deaf people who cannot attend a school such as you are. And I look to you to become the leaders to show these young deaf people what they can achieve if they have a dream."
After the President's address, Sasakawa met with students during a luncheon. Students found he was able to relate to their experiences with his own.
Gabriel Soje, a student who, with the support of a Sasakawa International Scholarship was able to travel to Nigeria to gather data for his dissertation. "I heartily thank Mr. Sasakawa for his unique generousity... While in Nigeria, I was [also] able to stage a series of seminars and training for 20 administrators of deaf schools and mainstreamed programs and 55 teachers of the same institutions, with resounding success, all thanks to Mr. Sasakawa identifying with us."
Similar sentiments were expressed by Arjun Shresta of Nepal, who is a World Deaf Leadership Scholarship recipient. Shresta is currently studying for his bachelor's degree and plans to complete his master's degree as well before returning to Nepal to establish and manage a better system of deaf education there.
In response, Sasakawa noted he has been to Nigeria multiple times and enjoys a 25-year long friendship with the Nigerian president. He has also visited Nepal several times for a project aimed at eliminating disease among impoverished communities and commented on the beauty of Nepal and hopes to visit again. Scholarship recipients from China, Malaysia, Fiji, and other countries were also present at the luncheon.
"It is a golden opportunity to have won the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship," said Vee Chee Wong of Malaysia. Wong is pursuing a graduate degree in Deaf Studies with a concentration in Language and Human Rights. "I will be able to fulfill my dream of [helping] the Malaysian education system go through some appropriate changes for the deaf," added Wong.
President Hurwitz described Sasakawa as having beneficial ties to Gallaudet University lasting nearly 20 years and being known worldwide for his international aid activities. Those activities include some that parallel the scholarship recipients' goals.
Sasakawa noted in his comments the legal recognition of sign language in Japan as well as his efforts to establish similar legal frameworks in Vietname and other Southeast Asian countries. It's a sentiment that colors the gesture Sasakawa made by picking up his hands to sign before he began his spoken comments. He signed, "The world is one family, all mankind are brothers and sisters," which is a guiding principal Sasakawa uses at the Nippon Foundation.
The Nippon Foundation was founded in 1962 and is active both in Japan and abroad. The World Deaf Leadership Scholarship, one of two scholarship programs the foundation established at Gallaudet, provides full tuition support for deaf exchange students from developing countries.
The Nippon Foundation's aim is described in part on the organization website as the "realization of a peaceful and prosperous global society, in which none need struggle to secure their basic human rights."