Atomic Bomb Survivor Koko Kondo Named 2014 Commencement Speaker

Koko Tanimoto Kondo, one of the youngest Hiroshima A-bomb survivors and an internationally recognized peace advocate, will be Webster University’s 2014 Commencement speaker. 

ST. LOUIS, February 6, 2014 – Koko Kando Koko Tanimoto Kondo, one of the youngest Hiroshima A-bomb survivors and an internationally recognized peace advocate, will be Webster University’s 2014 Commencement speaker. During the May 10 event, Kondo also will receive an honorary doctorate from the University.

“Koko Kondo has honored the Webster University worldwide community by agreeing to speak to our graduates in the 2014 commencement ceremonies,” said Webster University President Elizabeth “Beth” Stroble. “As nominator Webster University Professor Roy Tamashiro notes, Ms. Kondo’s life message of peace and reconciliation provides ‘a powerful and inspiring message about bringing healing to one’s self and to the world.’”

Kondo was born Koko Tanimoto in November 1944. At the moment the bomb was dropped at 8:16 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, she was an 8-month-old infant at home less than one mile away from the hypocenter of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the first of two atomic bombs used during World War II. The second bomb was detonated Aug. 9, 1945, on Nagasaki, Japan.  While she was too young to remember the bombing, she grew up amid the destruction of her town as well as seeing the long-lasting effects that radiation poisoning had on its citizens.

As a child, Kondo was heavily influenced by her father, the Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto. He was instrumental in helping re-build the city and promoting a message of peace. He created the Hiroshima Maiden Project, which assisted young girls who had become disfigured from the attack, and he worked with the Moral Adoption Project, which raised funds in the U.S. to build orphanages in Hiroshima for war orphans.

On May 11, 1955, Kondo and her father appeared on the popular television program “This is Your Life,” where they met Capt. Robert A. Lewis, the co-pilot of Enola Gay, the B-29 aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Kondo graduated from American University in 1969. Since then, she has devoted her life to sharing the stories of those who were affected by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people known as “hibakusha,” which roughly translates to “explosion-affected people.” She has traveled the world, including visiting Russia and Iraq, discussing her experiences growing up in Hiroshima. During an annual study tour on the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, she shares her stories and inspires students with her energy and compassion. She has touched the lives of Webster University students and faculty on this study tour, and was a guest speaker to a Webster class that traveled to Japan in 2009.

“Koko Kondo represents what Webster University is all about, said Webster University Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Schuster. “Her life-long dedication to building a sense of tolerance and acceptance is consistent with Webster’s commitment to building cross-cultural connections and promoting world citizenship. Ms. Kondo is a living monument to resilience, tolerance and devotion to causes that defy political opportunism, narrow-mindedness and historical blindness.”

Webster’s home campus Commencement ceremony draws Webster University graduates and families from around the world. It will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 10 at The Muny in Forest Park. For more information about Commencement, visit http://www.webster.edu/commencement/.

With its home campus in St. Louis, Webster University (www.webster.edu) is the only Tier 1, private, non-profit U.S.-based university providing a network of international residential campuses and a robust online learning program. Founded in 1915, Webster University’s campus network today includes metropolitan, military and corporate locations around the world, as well as traditional campuses in Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. The university is committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.