The Blossoms!

The Blossoms!

Photo credit: Janet Donovan

“I did want to take a minute to talk about the cherry blossoms…..the history……talk about what it means,” said Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta on the occasion of the 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival celebration hosted by The Ambassador-designate of Japan and Mrs. Shinsuke J. Sugiyama at their residence. “And so I wanted to paint a picture and the picture is that of my family from just a few days ago. There were literally thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans walking the Tidal Basin enjoying the blossoms and my family and I were among them. I’m blessed to have two little girls who quite literally thought they could catch the blossoms but as they would start to fall the wind would catch them, they’d move in unpredictable directions and they never quite caught them. But for about half an hour, they kept trying and trying and trying. We should treasure out time with friends whether it be nations or whether it be family. And I treasured that time with my own family, much as we treasure our friendships among our nations. And so Ambassador, I want to thank you again for hosting  this evening, and I’d like to offer a toast.”

Secretary of Labor

Secretary Acosta was preceded by the Ambassador who introduced his wife Yoko and his daughter Reyna. He was so thrilled to now be living so close to Reyna he said:  “I will do her laundry by myself.”

“I was thinking the other day,” he added after getting back to the blossoms, “what is the key to the cherry blossoms festivities – their special characters and meanings? It’s [the] friendship between Japan and the United States of America. It is connection that we feel, it is shared values, it is mutual respect about fundamental trust in each other. In some ways, it is those roots we are celebrating as much as the blossoms. The feeling of these festivities simply would not be the same if Japan had not given the trees; instead, the trees were given by some other country. On behalf of my country – beautiful Japan – our heartfelt support to everything that you did, you have done and will be doing with us, ever. And thank you for your friendship, God bless you, God bless US Japan, God bless Cherry Blossom festivities, thank you, thank you very much indeed, thank you.”

Ambassador-designate Sugiyama

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, a frequent guest on the party circuit, gave us a bit of history of the cherry trees:  “As you know, we’re celebrating the National Cherry Blossom Festival which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the City of Washington. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between our two countries. It signifies a continued close relationship between them. After First Lady Helen Taft decided to beautify the Tidal Basin in 1909, the then Mayor of Tokyo Yukio Ozaki volunteered a gift of 3000 trees to our nation’s capital. The first shipment, sadly, had to be destroyed because of concerns with regard to the health of the trees. But Ozaki didn’t give up. He asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce to grow new trees in specialty sterilized bins. They did so and in 1912 the newly healthy trees reached our nation’s capital. The durability of Ozaki’s contribution and commitment to this gift can be compared to our relationship. We do encounter occasionally problems, but we will always seek to overcome those troubles because of the bonds that bind us together. The cherry trees are, right at this moment, at their peak blossom. It doesn’t happen very often that the festival coincides with the peak bloom, so we are very lucky. Those of you who are old-timers here know this is quite a rare occasion. I attribute it as the first big success of the new ambassador. Ambassador Sugiyama, I wish you the best of luck in your new post and I look forward to our continued collaboration.”

Secretary Ross

The Embassy was adorned with lots of Cherry Blossom Princesses.  Because we wanted to know how you get to be one, we spoke to Eliza Cowie from New Hampshire. “I work on the hill for a Congresswoman from New Hampshire, Ann McLane Kuster. I’m her staff assistant and so another staff  person who had done this previously told me about the wonderful opportunities. She told me about this experience and being able to meet girls my age. I’m new to DC, so meeting other people has been really nice as well as the networking opportunities and just the experiences,” she told Hollywood on the Potomac.  “So there’s a written application. You basically explain your connection to the state, whether you are from there or you have family there or you spent all your time there. You explain why it’s important to you and what you would like to gain from this experience.”

Connie Morella, Cherry Blossom Princesses from Maryland and New Hampshire, Pamela Kessler and Ron Kessler

A look back at the opening ceremonies in 2015: The very talented jazz pianist Manami Morita