The Sumitomo Group Public Affairs Committee was a special sponsor of the 85th National Speech Contest for Students of Schools for the Blind and Visually Impaired (organized by The Mainichi Newspapers, The Braille Mainichi, etc.) held on October 7, 2016 at Osaka Minami Prefectural Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired.
The speech contest, which has a long, distinguished history going all the way back to its inception in 1928, marked its 85th anniversary this year. In their excellent speeches, the nine contestants, selected from seven regions covering Japan, discussed their concerns, challenges and aspirations, as well as what motivates them in their quest to fulfill their great potential as valued members of society.
Ms. Erika Matsuda won the first prize in this year’s contest. She is in her third year at Fukui Prefectural School for the Visually Impaired, a high school, where she is studying manual therapy. Her speech was intriguingly titled “I am a Migratory Fish.” Using an extended metaphor, she described how she used to feel as if she were a salmon longing to return to its native stream but doomed to a hopeless existence in alien waters. This situation oppressed her, causing her acute distress as she endeavored not to be a burden on her family because of her disability. One day, her mother told her: “When you smile, I immediately feel happy. And when you are in low spirits, I feel depressed. I guess you are my heroine!” These timely, tender words were a revelation to Ms. Matsuda: she realized that her mother was always there to support her, regardless of the twists and turns of life, and resolved to devote herself to education of the disabled. Ms. Matsuda delivered her persuasive and illuminating speech with evident conviction, captivating the audience.
This year was the fourteenth time the Sumitomo Group Public Affairs Committee has supported the Speech Contest of the Schools for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an annual competition that is an eloquent practical expression of our group message—"Handing aspirational values from people to people". We relish the opportunity to contribute to the success of this contest in bringing the words and example of these life-affirming inspirational individuals to the attention of the wide audience they so richly deserve.