Motivating change – a lesson from 2 train rides

I recently took a course on storytelling. It was an eye-opening experience to learn techniques and skills involved in the art of storytelling to encourage change. How stories can motivate and mobilize people are often ignored, perhaps because storytelling is considered a “soft” skill. But I realize that it is usually not the facts, numbers or data that compell me to act. Of course those are important; but what moves me beyond my inaction is the power of people’s stories, like those told by the survivors of atomic bombings.
In the course we were encouraged to take note of stories as we think of. So here is one!

Continue reading

An Open Letter to Nikki Haley

20170316_112620Dear Ambassador Haley,

I was at the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, which started on March 27.  I find it intriguing that those of us “activists” were inside the room, participating in the international law making process, while you and some other government leaders decided to boycott and protest it outside the room.

While we were celebrating the beginning of this historic process, with the determination to make the 72-year-old goal of abolishing nuclear weapons a reality, you held a press conference.

You said:

“As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?

…. in this day and time we would love to have a ban on nuclear weapons but in this day and time we can’t honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.”

To me, it is beyond my intellectual comprehension to say that we need nuclear weapons in order to protect our families, communities, cities, and countries, when those very weapons can not only destroy everything in an instant, but also have long-lasting, devastating impacts on health and environment for generations to come.

I am also a mother.  My son recently turned 16 months.  At the conference we heard a testimony of Mr. Toshiki Fujimori, who was 16-month-old when the atomic bomb was detonated in Hiroshima.  He lost his sister in the attack.  He recalled:

“Every year, on August 6th, my mother would gather all of us children and would talk to us about her experience in tears. I once asked my mother why she would speak about it if recalling the experience makes her suffer. ‘I can’t make you go through the same experience.’ That was her answer.

Her tears were her heartfelt appeal. She called, as a mother, for a world with no more hell on earth.”

Imagining the sadness of his mother for losing her child to the senseless attack, I’m at loss of words.  But one thing is certain: I, too, want no nuclear weapons on this planet, so that no person will have to ever suffer the same hell they experienced.  Nuclear weapons do not provide us with security; they make it possible that, their intentional or accidental use can cause tremendous suffering to countless people.

I know that, when my son grows up, he will be proud of me for being part of this movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons.  He will understand that there is no better way to make this world safe, than removing the very causes of danger.

As a mother, I fight for nuclear abolition.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Ikeda

3 Things I Can Immediately Do to Fight Sexism

Happy Women’s History Month!  Since I wasn’t great at updating this blog last year, my goal is to write at least 2 posts this month related to activism and my identity as a woman.  This one is the first in series.

When I lived in New Jersey, my place was about a 5-minute walk from a train station.  I’d walk the busy path almost everyday, along with many people coming home from New York.  Occasionally, I’d get a cat call – from men driving by.  By the time I realize that it was directed at me, they’d been long gone. Continue reading

Can I Have It All? (a mommy version)


“Women who can have it all can do so, because they have help,” said a friend recently. We both are relatively new moms, trying to figure out what it means to take on the new, at times daunting, responsibility (Yes, my son was born November last year!). Her words made me think.

I’ve read articles by other women about the challenge of “having it all,” but now that I have a child, it has a whole new meaning. I’m no longer able to just pick up my stuff and go out, or stay up late to finish 500 pages of readings for next week. My priority is the baby – but can I succeed with my school (I’m a full-time PhD student), work, and household chores, without driving myself crazy? Continue reading

On Living Unapologetically

IMG_20150322_163323One day it hit me. I’ve been living my life apologetically.

Like many people, I have multiple responsibilities in life, perhaps more than what you would think a person should take on.  I’m a full-time student, and I work 3 days a week. I have a leadership responsibility in my Buddhist community, while I sit on two boards of directors. I’m a wife, daughter, sister, friend… and the list goes on. Continue reading

When “Action” = Quit

IMG_20141229_230228Happy Holidays!  It’s been a while since my last post, and I wanted to write one more before the end of 2014.

This year was definitely one of the turning points for me.  In May, I left my previous job, after working there for five years.  I grew so much through the work experience, learned ins and outs of nonprofit programming and management, and met many wonderful people, some of whom I still keep in touch.  But the last few years I had found myself in a highly-contentious, stressful environment, while also procrastinating on my dream of (again) going back to school and pursuing something I love. Continue reading

How Gandhi Inspires Me to Transform My Life

GandhiHappy International Day of Nonviolence, commemorating Gandhi’s 145th birthday (aka “‘Spinning Wheel’ (charkha) Birthday”)!  The UN designates this day as an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”.

On this occasion I wanted to share five of my favorite quotes from Gandhi that keeps encouraging me, to strive for my dreams and live true to my values: Continue reading

On Being a Responsible Donor

donateOne day, I was walking by the Union Square in New York, when a young man approached me with a tablet in his hand. He said he worked for a nonprofit organization and wanted to share his story. Because I was not in a hurry, I stopped and listened.

Around us were several other young people, similar to his age, all engaging in conversation with passerby about their work. He explained to me about the organization’s work, why the cause they support is so important, and how much he loves working for them. In fact, because they care about their work so much that they step out of the office sometimes and talk to other people to raise awareness, he said.

I truly enjoyed our conversation and told him that I, too, worked for nonprofits. So when the time came for him to  do the “ask,” and I said no, he seemed to be very surprised.  Continue reading