Ambassador Kennedy Speaks at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Good Morning. I am so glad to be here on this beautiful Spring Day to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. I want to thank President Medbury, Vice Chair Diane Steinberg, Ambassador Takahashi and my friend Liz Moynihan – an authority on gardens, ambassadors, and New York – for making this day possible.

Since the sakura blossoms are blooming in Japan, and the flowering trees have exploded this week in New York, I want to begin with a haiku poem by the 18th century master Kobayashi Issa.

Under the cherry blossoms
None are
Utter Strangers

One of the greatest gifts I have received as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan is to learn a new way to look at nature. Art, poetry, and the rhythm of daily life are deeply connected to the seasons. The Japanese garden is one of Japan’s great contributions to world civilization.

Our alliance with Japan has never been stronger or more complex. It includes vibrant partnerships in business, science and security sushi and student exchange, medicine, martial arts, meditation and manga. Yet it is perhaps best known for the reciprocal gifts of our most beloved natural citizens.

The Japanese gift of 1,000 flowering cherry trees in 1912 has become the symbol of our nation’s capital. And in return the U.S. first sent 60 dogwood trees to Japan in 1915. In 2012, to commemorate the centennial of the Cherry Blossoms, the U.S. sent 3,000 dogwoods to be planted across Japan. Last year, I participated in the planting of 26 of these dogwoods at Engei High School, where the last surviving 1915 dogwood has been lovingly cared for by generations of students.

So much has happened between our two countries in the past 100 years. Yet when I saw the giant dogwood, and I stand here this morning, I realize that we are here because 100 years ago, people believed in the power of nature to teach us about faith, hope, and commitment to one another. They wanted us to understand that we share our environment with people on the other side of the world. Now it is our turn to care for the gifts we have been given and take actions that will make this world a better place 100 years from now.

I would like to close with an excerpt from a poem by Robert Frost called “A Prayer in Spring.”

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Thank you.