Serving as the United States Ambassador to our closest friend and ally has been the greatest privilege of my life.
I want to thank the people of Japan for taking me and my family into their hearts – right from the beginning. I was nervous when I presented my credentials to His Majesty the Emperor but there were so many people waving and smiling at me that I knew it was going to be wonderful.
I want to thank all the people who told me that they memorized President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and that they admired my mother. I want to thank everyone who helped me find Matsumoto san, who sent a set of Hina Dolls to me in the White House and sparked my love of Japan. And as we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of the War, it was an honor to meet Hanami san, whose husband captained the Japanese destroyer which collided with my father’s boat.
It made me feel that I was helping to fulfill his wish that our two great democracies would work together to build a more peaceful world.
I want to thank Prime Minister Abe and the members of his government for working to strengthen our “alliance of hope,” and for sharing President Obama’s belief in the “power of reconciliation.” I want to thank the Prime Minister for strongly supporting the U.S.-Japan alliance and for the many landmark achievements of the past three years.
Most of all, I want to thank him, and Foreign Minister Kishida, for welcoming President Obama to Hiroshima and for visiting Pearl Harbor just last month.
I want to thank the women of Japan for inspiring me to believe even more strongly that when women succeed, nations succeed.
A great change is taking place and I have total confidence in the ability of Japanese women to lead this country. I want to thank the teachers, business leaders and family members who are supporting and mentoring them – and who realize that they are too talented to sit on the sidelines.
I am grateful to the people of Tohoku for welcoming me and for inspiring the world with your courage and resilience. I was deeply moved to meet students who are staying in the region to work on revitalization, local officials who put their communities first despite great personal loss, and to see the progress being made over the past three years to rebuild lives and communities.
I am grateful to the people of Okinawa for helping me to better understand their struggle and our shared history. I am proud that our governments were able to conclude the largest land return in 30 years, and I hope we continue to work together to achieve our common goals.
Most of all, I want to thank the students in the schools and universities I visited all over Japan. You taught me a new way of looking at the world, and brought great energy and joy to our encounters. You are the best ambassadors Japan could ever want and I hope you will all come visit the United States. The future of our alliance depends on you!
So even though I will be leaving, I don’t have to say goodbye. I will be taking all these gifts, these lessons and these memories home with me – and I hope to come back and visit.