Commencement exercises at College of the Atlantic this year are set for June 8. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Peace activist Koko Kondo is COA commencement speaker



BAR HARBOR — Peace activist and prominent atomic bomb survivor Koko Tanimoto Kondo will give the keynote speech at College of the Atlantic’s commencement on Saturday, June 8 at 2 p.m.

Kondo was eight months old in 1945 when the first atomic bomb was dropped just a half-mile from her home in Hiroshima, burying her mother and herself under their home. Too young to remember details of the event, Kondo grew up witnessing its horrific consequences. Her father, Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, one of the six survivors featured in John Hersey’s book “Hiroshima” was instrumental in rebuilding the city and promoting a message of peace through the Hiroshima Maiden Project, which assisted young girls who had been disfigured from the attack, and the Moral Adoption Project, which supported war orphans.

Kondo received her undergraduate degree from American University in 1969 and since then has told the world the story of the hibakwha, which means “explosion-affected people.” She fosters peace through the Children as the Peacemakers organization, the American University Nuclear Studies Institute, and the Tanimoto Peace Foundation.

“I am delighted that Koko Kondo will be sharing her inspirational message with the COA graduating class and their friends and family,” said College of the Atlantic provost Ken Hill. “As an atomic bomb survivor, she is able to speak with authority about the horror of war, the need for resilience, the imperative of world peace, and the power of forgiveness. Simply put, she is one of the most influential speakers I have witnessed in my lifetime.”

In 1955, Kondo and her father appeared on the popular television program “This is Your Life,” where they met Captain Robert A. Lewis, co-pilot of Enola Gay, the B-29 which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. For Kondo, the meeting was a life-changing, transformative experience. She learned to embrace the enormous contradictions and paradoxes of her hibakusha experiences, and now exudes an inspiring, affirmative energy and compassion.

“Koko is one of the most kind, warm, and captivating people I have ever met. Her story is a testament to peace I believe every person should hear,” said COA student Devyn Adams. “It has been 74 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and there will soon be a time when survivors are no longer here to tell their stories. Now is the time to listen, and to carry these stories with us into the future.”

Kondo will receive an honorary Master of Philosophy degree in human ecology, as will recently retired Acadia National Park wildlife biologist Bruce Connery.

Contact 801-5623.

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