The 5 awardees are commended for upholding Eleanor Roosevelt's legacy to provide human rights and dignity to those in need


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VIDEO: Val-Kill Medal recipients continue legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt


Yoshiomi Tamai was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Award

Yoshiomi Tamai, President of Ashinaga Japan, Board Member of Ashinaga, Inc. and founder of the worldwide Ashinaga movement, was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Award at a ceremony in Hyde Park, New York, on October 18.

In presenting the award to President Tamai, Catharine “Cappy” Hill, the President of Vassar College, said, “From the time we first met him, it was clear to us that Tamai-san is nothing less than a force of nature, and that goes a long way toward explaining the success of Ashinaga.


Catharine “Cappy” Hill, the President of Vassar College

Catharine “Cappy” Hill, the President of Vassar College

I can’t help but think that Eleanor Roosevelt, as a dedicated internationalist, would be pleased that an award named for her should be presented to a philanthropist from the other side of the globe who has made such an amazing difference in so many lives, in Japan and all over the world.”


Giving his response after a standing ovation, President Tamai charmed the audience by departing from his prepared speech and speaking off the cuff about the evolution of the Ashinaga movement, saying, “For the past 50 years, I have been try
ing to emulate Eleanor Roosevelt’s philosophies on the other side of the world.”


The medal is given to individuals whose work reflects the ideals of Mrs. Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, who was beloved as a humanitarian and served as the first Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. President Tamai is the first Japanese man to be presented with the award.



Friends, families and colleagues gathered to celebrate the award ceremony

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent flowers to the ceremony, and Ambassadors Toshiro Ozawa and Yoshifumi Okamura, who serve respectively as Special Assistant to Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and as Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, were present, as was former Minister of Education Hakubun Shimomura, an Ashinaga alumnus. The occasion was covered by Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, NHK.


President Tamai was one of five winners of this year’s Val-Kill Awards. The medals have been presented for 29 years; past winners include many well-known figures ranging from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to actor-singer Harry Belafonte.


In concluding her tribute to President Tamai, President Hill quoted former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson saying of Eleanor Roosevelt, “She would rather light candles than curse the darkness,” and then referenced the number of orphaned children that Ashinaga has helped over the years as she said: “Yoshiomi Tamai, too, would rather light candles – 95,000 of them, and still counting.”