Mitsuya Goto can tell any aspiring student how to learn English. “You really have to want to,” he might say, and “you must use any tool available to you.”
In his case, when he was still a high-school student his family was bombed out of their home in Nagoya. “I determined that I would grab the first opportunity to go to the United States.
“I told myself that I would learn the language first. I did so after the end of the war by listening to the American Armed Forces radio, and reading The Japan Times. During the day I worked on my father’s farm; at night I studied English.”
During the war, as a young, “shy and inward-looking” boy, Goto went from his Nagoya primary school to board at Jiyu Gakuen in Tokyo. He absorbed the motto of this famed establishment: “learn by doing.” It served him well. Once he began English, it took him about 18 months before he felt “reasonably proficient” in it.
Then he went to work for the U.S. military government in Nagoya. He made friends there with an American civilian employee, who tragically fell ill and died. Goto sent a condolence letter and his friend’s photograph to his friend’s mother in Indiana. She was instrumental in paving the way for Goto to be offered a scholarship to Wabash College. “My life changed dramatically,” he said.
As a speech major at Wabash, Ind., Goto forged ahead. With soaring popularity, as a member of Wabash Speakers’ Bureau he gave more than 200 speeches within four years. He was vice president of his senior class, a cartoonist and writer.
“Above all,” he said, “I learned the importance of getting to know people, remembering their names, maintaining dialogue with them, and getting involved with community affairs.” He was baptized a Christian, and two years ago, on the 50th anniversary of his baptism, returned to give a sermon at the church.
Graduated from Wabash in 1955, he was named one of two commencement speakers. His speech professor wrote to him, that, in 28 years of student commencement addresses, Goto’s was the best.
Another 28 years on, Goto was back on the commencement platform. The honorary degree of Doctor of Law was conferred on him then. He received the Alumni Award of Merit in 1995, and the following year was the college’s first foreigner to be named trustee.
Goto gave his devotion to his graduate institute of learning, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. A long-serving dean’s advisory councilor, an adviser on East Asian studies and president of Princeton Club of Japan, he received the Alumni Council Award for his service.
As European representative of the Japan Federation of Employers’ Association, he moved to Geneva. Then came a long term in the international division of Nissan Motors Company, followed by his being in charge of Nissan Europe.
He “moved forward through a series of increasingly important and sensitive assignments,” living in Brussels and London, meeting international dignitaries, finding himself in the midst of trade friction.
Goto’s energies and attainments go on and on. He was managing director for the Japan Center for International Exchange, and executive secretary of the Ushiba Memorial Foundation. He is associated with a dozen corporate boards and many nonprofit institutions and . . . maintains a reference of over 120,000 business cards.
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