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In Pursuit of Peace, a Letter from CEO Steve Bloom

Another view of the Peace Lantern in Portland Japanese Garden. Photo by Chris Ruggles.

In light of the war in Ukraine, Portland Japanese Garden CEO Steve Bloom wrote this letter, which was originally shared in our weekly newsletter.

Dear Portland Japanese Garden community,

Since the founding of the Garden in 1963, from time to time, we as an institution have taken a step back to ask ourselves, “Why do we exist?” The answer to that important question is what we call our “mission.” Re-examining our mission is an important exercise to engage in, because over time the world around us changes. To continue to serve the needs of our communities we must always question our relevance in that ever-changing world.

Over the past year, on the heels of the Pandemic, upon the launch of the Japan Institute, and on the verge of our 60th anniversary in 2023, we as an organization once again took time to re-evaluate not only the mission of Portland Japanese Garden, but to establish a mission for the Japan Institute as well.  The result of this important soul-searching was first, the realization that the Garden and the Institute could and will share a mission, and second, that mission could be distilled down to four simple, but powerful words:  Inspiring Harmony and Peace.

The events of the past two weeks in Ukraine have only helped to confirm and magnify the relevance of this mission and the work of both the Garden and the Institute. We have all watched in horror as war unfolded before our very eyes.  A war that no one thought even possible in today’s world, and yet here we are. Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine. Each of us as global citizens need to continue to do all we can to bring peace in ways both big and small. In this moment, we must all stand with the Ukrainian people and each do what we can to ease their suffering and encourage a lasting peace. 

I have just spent the past week in London meeting with the U.S. and Japanese Embassies to the United Kingdom, along with the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, and the City of London. We are working together to convene a peace symposium in December in London, which will focus on the importance of organizations and venues such as Portland Japanese Garden and the Japan Institute in achieving meaningful and mutual understanding between peoples. Our hope is to engage communities in dialogue about how, at the intersection of culture, art, and nature we can help to bring both internal and external peace.

What became clear to all of us collaborating on this symposium, through hours of meetings while watching images of war raging on in Ukraine, is that from Portland to Tokyo, London to Kyiv, we must move forward together with hope, because the work we do has never been more relevant and more needed… the work of our mission: Inspiring Harmony and Peace.

With gratitude,
Steve Bloom
CEO, Portland Japanese Garden