Table Speech

Initiation Speech

September 10, 2008

Mr. Masami Yagi,
Mr. Shigenobu Ueoka 

Initiation Speech
“Make a Wish of Japan”

Mr. Masami Yagi,
Senior Corporate Executive Officer of The Gibraltar Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

In the United States there is a custom that, when cutting a birthday cake at a birthday party, you blow out the candles and “make a wish”. The “Make a Wish of Japan” foundation, which took its name from the American birthday custom, is an international volunteer organization with the objective of making the dreams of children battling life threatening illnesses come true. Such illnesses are ones for which even under modern medical technology there are no known cures, such as childhood cancer and leukemia.
In 1980, a 7-year old boy battling leukemia had a dream of “someday becoming a police officer”. Upon hearing this, the boy’s local area police precinct appointed him as a policeman for a day and gave him a real police notebook and badge. The 7-year old boy, named Chris, rode in a helicopter and a police car and patrolled the streets for speeding and parking violations. After several days, Chris took a trip to heaven. The local police handled this just the same way that they would handle any death of a policeman in the line of duty and held a memorial service for Chris, with an official funeral and a parade.
The scene was televised, and not only did it raise a great emotional response, it raised support for this event. “Make a Wish” activities became widely known and the foundation spread throughout the United States and all over the world. Now there have been some 165 thousand children in 28 countries who have had their dreams fulfilled.
In Japan, a “Make a Wish” branch was established in 1992. Since then, it has supported 150 children annually, and has worked to fulfill the dreams of a total of 1,200 children in Japan.
The expenses for “Make a Wish” activities are covered by individual donations. In the United States, there is no one who does not know of “Make a Wish” but, sadly its recognition is still low in Japan.
In Japan, disclosure of the name of the illness or remaining life expectancy of a sick person has not progressed. In particular, in the case of children disclosure is never made.
However, children sense their illnesses and appear to be aware of them. They continue to battle hard so that they are not a burden to their families. We take going to a hot spring together with the family or to amusement parks for granted, but for children who spend all their time in a hospital, these activities are priceless dreams.
“Make a Wish of Japan” (MWJ) continues to work hard and provide support to realize these children’s precious dreams with all of our hearts.

Initiation Speech
“Things that I Learned from Interpreting”

Mr. Shigenobu Ueoka,
President of Friends Life Care at Home Japan Inc.

In providing interpreting services, there are many things that one learns from the foreigners with whom one comes into contact.
In the year of the Osaka World Exposition, there was an incident at a hotel in Kyoto of an aged couple having lost their passports. The couple, in spite of the time having been past midnight, telephoned their consulate and demanded the home telephone number of the consul. The night duty officer responded that he could only give out that information in case of an emergency. The couple said, “Our passports are missing. We will leave tomorrow for Hong Kong. This is an emergency. We have paid taxes during normal times just for these situations”. They finally obtained the consul’s home telephone number.
This incident drilled into me the meaning of paying taxes, and that sovereignty lies with a nation’s citizens.
As a member of a post office automation study group, I visited the Milan Central Post Office, the most automated post office overseas. Several hundred letters and postcards were scattered on the floor where their own prized sorting machines lay. I asked what they were going to do with those letters and postcards and they responded that they would gather them up and throw them away. I understood why letters I sent from Italy were never delivered. I also understood the advice that if it is important, you should send it first class.
In France, meetings always begin with defining the terminology to be used, in order to avoid misunderstandings and ambiguous interpretations. This is said to be due to the French having a small vocabulary. I thought that it was natural that they would pride themselves in being a country of culture.
Public welfare programs for senior citizens in Northern Europe are said to be well-known for being high burden and high welfare, but Japan cannot imitate them. The burden rate of 70% is not because of saving for the weak, but is a system of nothing more than all the people saving money for life in the future. The difference in Japan is that the money accumulated does not decrease or disappear. The way of thinking is to maintain a medium lifestyle level for all people. Also, the national character that the transparency of politics consistently fits into the top three countries in the world is understandable.