Changing the world one student at a time
By Robin Scott
People to People is an organization whose mission is to send out ordinary people around the world to promote cultural understanding and world peace. The organization began when President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw a need to heal relationships with the Japanese after World War II. He recognized that the military occupation only served to threaten and inhibit people, but by asking American civilian citizens to spend time in Japan, the two cultures could discover their similarities and work toward a lasting peaceful relationship.
The ambassadors for People to People are students, professionals, educators and citizens who have a desire to travel to any of all seven continents and experience the culture of others in a foreign country. Through cultural understanding and acceptance, People to People strives to bring about world peace. Waylon Bucher, a seventh grader at Dalhart Junior High School was one such ambassador this past July when he made the trip to Japan with 40 other delegates.
On Monday evening, November 9th, Waylon spoke to the members of Las Viajeras Study Club about his experiences while in Japan. He prepared a Power Point presentation of photographs taken during his 14-dayjourney with other student ambassadors. He was immediately introduced to the cultural difference between the Japanese and Americans each time he ate. He noted, “We ate rice at every meal, and we also ate shrimp just about as much as rice.” Waylon put aside his own Americanized preferences and tried the various foods, including sushi, sushi pizza and corn pizza. He added, “I would go back again just for the sushi pizza, but I didn’t like the corn pizza. I don’t even like to eat corn when I’m at home. It is a great honor to be taken out to dinner in Japan, so I did eat everything.”
The maturity to try different unusual foods and to leave mom and dad behind for two weeks is a quality that made Waylon an excellent candidate as an ambassador. Whether staying in a nice hotel in Tokyo or a Japanese version of a bed and breakfast, he embraced each and every experience, not something generally expected of a 12-year-old. Waylon commented about his favorite experiences while in Japan, stating, “I liked going to Mount Fuji the most, even though it was so foggy that we could not hike down into the mountain, only up.”
Waylon also gained an appreciation for Japanese architecture. He created a visual project of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium whose design is functional and an aesthetic masterpiece. Waylon’s project also included items that he brought back home from his trip across the ocean, including Japanese coins, chopsticks, art and literature.
While most 12-year-olds were spending their July vacation swimming, playing games, watching TV or maybe on a family trip, Waylon put aside all apprehension and traveled to a country where the only thing he could speak when he first arrived was, “Where is the bathroom?” The language barrier didn’t detour young Waylon, who recognized the value of the People to People program and experience. He stated, “Next year the delegates are traveling to Ireland, but I’m not going to be able to go on that trip. I really want to make the Antarctica trip though!”
Waylon’s parents have made immeasurable sacrifices to enable him to accept an ambassadorship, and they continue to do so in hopes that Waylon will again travel to a foreign destination to learn about the culture of an otherwise unknown and mysterious nation. Through his ambassadorship, Waylon is breaking down the “walls” that divide people through the innocence of his youth, the sincerity of his eagerness to embrace others and his belief that learning about others will change the world.