UMBC historian says President Obama’s visit to Japan could have a lasting impact on his legacy

Published: Jun 2, 2016

A man with a beard and mustache wearing dark rimmed glasses and a blue suit and striped tie smiles at the camera, there are green trees in the backgound
(Image: Constantine Vaporis. Photo by Marlayna Demond '11 for UMBC.)

As President Obama prepared for his historic trip to Japan and Vietnam, Constantine Vaporis wrote a powerful op-ed for The Conversation, calling the trip “a key opportunity to showcase the power of remembrance and reconciliation.”

In the article “A trip to be remembered: Obama in Japan and Vietnam,” Vaporis, a professor of history and director of Asian studies, wrote that the president’s trip to Hiroshima presented a significant opportunity given his policies and the United States’ standing in the world.

“Given his history as Nobel Peace Prize winner and as a major advocate for nuclear nonproliferation, the president’s trip should be seen as an act of commemoration for all who died in the Pacific War,” wrote Vaporis. “As the leader of the only country in the world to use nuclear weapons, Obama’s presence and any remarks of remembrance and acknowledgment of the terrible human toll of war will be powerful acts of reconciliation.”

Vaporis provided important context for President Obama’s trip by recounting the history of U.S./Japan differences on the Pacific War, including plans for a joint 50th anniversary commemoration of the war’s end that fell apart.

“Differing national perspectives on the Pacific War will likely persist. Yet, by expressing his remorse at the great loss of life on both sides in the Pacific War and advocating again for the end of nuclear proliferation, President Obama will demonstrate to Japan and our other allies that we too can confront history,” Vaporis explained.

Read the full article, including Vaporis’s thoughts on the president’s Vietnam trip, in The Conversation and the Associated Press.

Image: Constantine Vaporis. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC. 

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