Peace activist Koko Tanimoto Kondo will give the keynote address at COA graduation.Peace activist Koko Tanimoto Kondo will give the keynote address at COA graduation. Credit: Ian C. Bates/The Athens NewsKondo 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 “Hiroshima” (Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), 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 ever since has been telling the world the story of the hibakusha, 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 learning experience. She learned to embrace the enormous contradictions and paradoxes of her hibakusha experiences, and now exudes an inspiring, affirmative energy and compassion.

Koko Kondo holds up the manuscript written by her father, Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, that inspired John Hersey's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Hiroshima."Koko Kondo holds up the manuscript written by her father, Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, that inspired John Hersey's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Hiroshima."

“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 ’19. “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.”

COA graduation is set for June 8 at 2 p.m.  Kondo will receive an honorary Master of Philosophy degree in human ecology, as will recently retired Acadia National Park wildlife biologist Bruce Connery.

College of the Atlantic believes that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enabling students to actively shape the future. COA is a leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship, and is the Princeton Review’s #1 Green College 2016-2018. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members was founded in 1969 and offers Bachelor of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees. Learn more at coa.edu.