The main academic component of the conference is the "Roundtable". Each Roundtable consists of four Japanese delegates and four American delegates, and is lead by a Japanese Roundtable coordinator and an American Roundtable coordinator. Delegates are a part of a Roundtable the entire conference that focuses on a specific topic within the context of U.S.-Japan relations.
Approaching the City from a Multidimensional Perspective
Cities are one of the most dense and dynamic areas both in the contemporary U.S. and Japan. While manifold cultural, economic, and political activities occur in these hubs, new issues and problems appear as well. What can we do as ordinary citizens, college students, entrepreneurs, researchers and policy-makers to develop current cities into more vibrant, resilient, and sustainable living spaces?
Even though each city has its distinctive features, attractions, and modes of life, urban areas share similar issues: How can we build a more environmentally-friendly city, when we are generating problems such as energy waste and urban pollution in everyday economic activities? How can we initiate and invigorate civic activities to solidify our community, when tensions sometimes arise between different cultures and social groups? How can different sectors of society confront and overcome public emergencies and natural disasters -- for instance, earthquakes in Japan and hurricanes in the U.S. -- together?
How can we, as citizens possessing rich talents and passions in different fields, each play a unique role in collaboratively solving social issues in densely populated cities? This roundtable aims at inviting delegates from diverse personal and academic backgrounds to pinpoint problems existing in both American and Japanese cities and analyze current situations from various angles. Through rigorous yet vigorous discussions, we seek multi-layer solutions drawing upon a variety of perspectives for crafting the blueprint of a better city.
Roundtable Leader: Danyi Zeng
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Governance and Diplomacy in an International Context: Terrorism in the 21st Century
Advancing toward the third decade of the new century, extant and emerging security issues in the international political discourse have become characterized foremost by one prevailing element: uncertainty.
The effects of terror tactics on regional security concerns are pronounced, ranging from those of transnational non-state or pseudo-state actors like ISIS in the Middle East and Europe to state actors like North Korea in the Asia-Pacific. Increasingly, questions of regional security are becoming questions of global security.
In this light, how should we define terrorism? How do we grapple with the range of political mentalities which underlie it? Is it remotely possible to amalgamate an authentic conception of justice out of such sharply incongruous moral spheres and polities? How should Japan, the United States, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region formulate and implement policy regimes to pursue mutual cooperation in addressing these and other related issues? How do these countries arrive at a consensus in terms of the way they conceive of their roles and their aims? Is it possible to arrive at meaningful common definitions of stability and security from a multilateral perspective?
With these kinds of questions in mind, this roundtable aims to tackle the uncertainty characterizing global and regional security paradigms by crafting innovative models for good governance and comprehensive diplomacy in the twenty-first century.
Roundtable Leader: Jon Foissotte
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Health: Roles and Responsibilities within Society
What exactly does it mean to be healthy? The WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In this light, what does it mean to have the right to a healthy life? To which institutions should the responsibility fall, and to what extent should each institution bear the responsibility for the preservation of a healthy society? In the United States, sharp political divides hinder consensus over the provision of healthcare and food education. Meanwhile in Japan, the demands of an aging population have added pressures on the healthcare system as well as the economy.
Amidst these existing issues, emerging societal challenges have prompted a convergence of interest areas between these two countries. Rising suicide rates and mass shootings have urged for increased accessibility to mental health care. Technological advances have ushered in a new wave of pressing ethical questions involving topics like abortion, prenatal DNA testing, and designer babies. On the international level, crises involving infectious diseases and environmental pollution confront dozens of countries amid growing concerns about the future of global health. How should governments, organizations, and individuals respond to this vastitude of complications? What actions do we need to take to fulfill our responsibility as a member of society? This roundtable aims to reexamine the roles of various actors in maintaining a healthy society and determine the responsibility individuals hold in preserving health across the world.
Roundtable Leader: Kaede Yoshioka
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Modern Ideologies: Analyzing the Actions of Individuals and Communities
What do you value most in your life? Throughout human history, philosophers and laypersons alike have advocated for a variety of political, religious, philosophical, economic, and scientific ideologies. Despite modern globalization, most people believe there are problems within a society, but may not know how to solve them because the world is so complex. To explore this topic, this roundtable focuses on various values held by people and societies, especially those of the United States and Japan. Delegates will examine how the relationship between Japan and the United States, despite ideological differences, remains the longest-lasting alliance in modern history. Possible research topics and discussion questions include: Collectivism and Individualism—Should individuals and/or communities support what is best for the society as a whole (i.e. Confucianist principles) or what is best for individuals within the society (i.e. U.S. liberty)? Deep Ecology and Environmentalism—Do plants and/or animals have inherent worth regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs? Logical Positivism—Are statements that cannot be verified by empirical science cognitively meaningful? Risk Assessment—How should a society decide which risks are acceptable, such as nuclear power generation? In probing the confluence of competing ideological systems, this roundtable aims to inspire students to consider the complex reasoning behind their own actions as well as the actions of others and to recognize the impact of ideologies on individuals and communities.
Roundtable Leader: Eric Mueller
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Media, Morality, and the Governance of the Press
The rise of digital media, including social media, leads to an increase in human connectivity. Increased accessibility of information breaks down previously erected geographical barriers.
This incredible day-by-day progress, however, brings up a number of ethical and privacy concerns. Take the Internet, where guidelines on ethics and censorship fight to catch up to technology, and the lines are blurred between advertisements and legitimate content. What standards should news companies like CNN and Asahi Shinbun adhere to? With social media tools like Twitter, who should be the gatekeepers of its users? What role does social media play within digital media as a whole - and who should be its governors?
This roundtable aims to compare the ethical standards in mass media in both the US and Japan in order to come up with a common action plan that both countries can utilize to ensure ethical journalism. Furthermore, this roundtable will analyze the current status of press freedom in the US and Japan, identify remaining roadblocks to a truly free press, and suggest solutions. Through vigorous and collaborative discussions, this roundtable will engage with various perspectives surrounding the media and will grapple with these questions both within the US-Japan context and in our ever-connected world.
Roundtable Leader: Jennifer Lim
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Reexamining Minorities and Realizing Ideal Society
Historically, grassroots organizing and movements have made strides in both protecting and advancing human rights, especially those of minority groups. Challenges faced by minorities in terms of race, religion, sexuality, and gender identity in both Japan and the United States run parallel, and there is much to be gained from discussing their successes and failures. Unfortunately, there is still much to be done in both democracies to encourage government action to preserve the human rights of all citizens.
As we continue our efforts towards realizing an ideal society, it is important to remember that each social group consists of a vibrant and varied collection of individuals. In some cases, individuals within a given group may not want to take part in social movements, or may even actively oppose the group’s overall goals. How can individual interests be balanced with group interests? How do we think about intersectionality, or work to solve conflict when inter-group discrimination arises? On the national level, what happens when two groups within a state have conflicting interests—or the interests of one group conflicts with the human rights of another? What really is an ideal society, and how can we achieve it?
This roundtable aims to examine discrimination against minorities, the needs and rights of the individual and the group, what defines minority groups and an ideal society, and how minority groups influence law. We hope to examine how Japan and the United States can forge global strategies for addressing the needs of minority populations.
Roundtable Leader: Erin Norris
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Understanding Cultural Significance and Identity
Culture is integral to our daily lives, affecting beliefs and traditions, while simultaneously influencing the greater community and human interaction overall. But what is culture? The all encompassing definition is a unique collection of characteristics and knowledge of a people, defined by language, values, arts etc. Culture is central to identity configuration of a person and a people at a profound level, and functions to coalesce people under a unifying trait.
One interesting concept that surfaces is authentic culture and modified culture. In these increasingly globalized times, a wave of pluralism permeates once homogenous nations like Japan. With work and lifestyles becoming more westernized, many traditional cultural ideals are being modified or even disregarded in favor of the more contemporary. The lines between being Japanese and Western are slowly dissipating, as cultures become intertwined to the point of near-inseparability. While many see these changes as pragmatic and unavoidable, a growing number view this as a loss of culture and uniqueness. In some cases, the amalgamation of Japanese and Western culture is seen as a bastardization or cultural appropriation. Similarly, America’s history of immigration and diversity has seen many American values modified or replaced by foreign ones. The transformation of culture taking place in each country begs the question; who defines culture? Can culture be preserved?
Through analysis and discussion, this RT hopes to share perspectives, and ascertain the significance of culture in relation to the individual and the international system, and evaluate how these cultural alterations affect issues on a larger scale.
Roundtable Leader: Ehenneden Idehen-Amadasun
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