May 15, 2022
Your Majesty, Prime Minister Kishida, Governor Tamaki, distinguished guests, and the people of Okinawa. It is an honor to be here with you today to commemorate this historic event.
The United States and Japan have come a long way together. Once fierce adversaries on the battlefield, we are now the closest of allies in promoting peace.
Fifty years ago, our two nations were at an inflection point. As global democracies unified to prevent the spread of Communism, Okinawa returned to Japan. The reversion supported national sovereignty and the democratic process. In the ensuing years, our friendship and our Alliance grew stronger — thanks to the contributions of the people of Okinawa.
Today, the world again is unified in the face of a common threat: nations seeking to dominate through coercion and the exercise of raw power. Look no further than Russia’s unlawful, unwarranted, and unjustified war in Ukraine. We must remain vigilant to protect that which we hold most dear.
Our shared values and principles cannot protect themselves; we have to protect them. Freedom is not free. Every generation pays its price to preserve and strengthen the foundation of freedom. Like our forebearers, our generation too must protect and promote what we believe in. I am proud of how the United States and Japan are standing strong for our principles and values.
And Okinawan voices have been among the most vocal in Japan standing up for the Ukrainian people and condemning Russia’s war.
Together, our two nations ensure the defense of our two peoples and the Indo-Pacific region by deterring aggression and promoting peace, stability, and the law.
When I was in Okinawa last month, I visited the Peace Memorial Museum and the park, where I was reminded of the stark reality of the terrible cost of war. That is why our two countries and our citizens must protect peace at all costs. We all have a responsibility in that human endeavor.
The United States and Japan also have a shared interest in being good neighbors and partners in Okinawa. As part of building a better future, we are investing in our people, through educational and environmental partnerships.
As a down payment on this future, today, I am pleased to announce that this year, U.S. Mission Japan will launch a two-year English language scholarship program for high school students in Okinawa.
Why are we supporting young Okinawans? During my recent trip to Okinawa, I met with high school students who received scholarships from us to study in the United States. Their energy, enthusiasm, and optimism made an incredible impression on me. They were excited about a future full of promise and possibility.
While we talk about the Alliance in formal terms, interacting with those students demonstrated to me the Alliance isn’t about a treaty, alone, but a friendship between people. This is why we support young Okinawans: for their personal futures, and for our shared destiny.
On this historic occasion, U.S. President Joe Biden has sent a personal message to the people of Okinawa. The President and the American people look forward to further deepening our friendship across Japan and to contributing to Okinawa’s prosperity with an eye to the next 50 years.