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The G-8 Summit – a Pride Rarely Seen Before

By: Ashley Covarrubias

Date Posted: 2000-07-31

There were endless flags flying around Okinawa, showing the people’s excitement. The G-8 summit was coming! There were road and tunnel constructions just about everywhere, on base and off base, no one seemed able to escape the blasting and drilling of the workers! There were summit T-shirts and other merchandise for sale and Okinawa even made it on the worldwide news, but what has this meant for Okinawa?

Lock down the military! A lock down came into effect on all military installations, into housing facilities by midnight, no alcohol consumption, and the ever-enjoyable ID checks! It had many military members in a ruffle but at least for the time being it has cut down on most of the military mischief. However it leaves most to wonder will this become permanent now that the summit is over?

Even speeding one click over the speed limit wasn’t tolerated, with 20,000 new police on Okinawa the advice to drivers was “ Speeder beware.” In fact the best advice to drivers’ was don’t drive anywhere unless you absolutely have to until after the summit!

On the funny side, were on the entrances to the expressway, scrolling marquees saying, “ Welcome to Okinawa”, as if we didn’t know where we were! Another shocker for Americans was when pulling up to pay on the expressway, the men wore flowered shirts and even spoke to you in English. Well it only took ten years!

As if all of these rules and construction didn’t put enough strain on the Okinawan population, there were thousands of protestors flocking not only from Japan and Okinawa, but even Korea, protesting about such issues as; Military toxic dumping, military member’s morality and anti-war issues. So what will come of the mania and mayhem of the G-8 summit?

The day before the summit thousands of protestors came out to the “Hands around Kadena” protest. This got many military members the day off and most flocked to see the movie Chicken Run and those who didn’t flock to the movie were just glad for a day of R&R. Of course we can’t say that for all, groups of base and local cops stood outside, set up barriers and flagged in drivers, watching and waiting, for any signs of trouble! The protest was rather peaceful, some tied balloons with writing onto the Gate 1 area and a few shouted through mikes set up under a tent, while most just stood and listened, boy wasn’t it hot out there? Indeed it was!

The next day saw President Clinton at Peace Prayer Park, Okinawa, Japan, where he gave a speech to the world media. This came after his saving the peace talks at Camp David early this morning. He and the other seven leaders arrived in high spirits and stayed at various resort hotels. One lucky family from each branch of the service was to meet Clinton personally after his speaking engagement on Sunday.

On the Saturday I had a chance meeting with a White House official, Marilyn Jacanin, who was with the White House photo office. She went on to state that they were very well treated at her resort hotel, she loved the tropical atmosphere and the host nation. She also went to say that the humidity was going to take getting some used to. Also she informed me that the President was sorry he had to switch his speaking engagement to that night, but he felt he just had to get back to Camp David and finish the peace talks. However he wanted to make sure he got out to see the troops.

I arrived at the grounds where President Clinton would be speaking with my family at seven and we got front row seats. We ate food, drank and waited. Three hours we waited, a band played and we were shined on with light after light. Soon it was apparent we’d be waiting for a little while longer. Water became a precious resource and I almost thought fights would start for it, but I am happy to say none ever did. Finally at eleven we saw the shoes, and soon, yes the president of the United States, Bill Clinton. He gave a heart felt speech that was met with the Marine corps grunt among other yells of happiness and after fifteen minutes he came down to shake the troops’ and families’ hands. I felt the crowded area get more so as I was pushed into the barricade. Finally he got to where I was standing and he shook my hand and asked me how I was, I answered and soon he was on his way. I thought despite everything that had gone on in the past seven and a half-years, That I never had felt more pride as an American than at that moment. Then came Chelsea Clinton and I felt my pride beaming more so. I did not shake her hand but she was very kind and asked everyone how he or she was, their name if she could and shook hands.

It ended in a matter of minutes, what took months of planning and some restrictions, but to me it was worth it as soon as the President came out to give his speech and as he left all smiles.

So what about the G-8 summit? I say that through everything it was a success and worth everyone’s while no matter what country they were from. Okinawan, Italian, French, Canadian, Russian, American, Japanese, I think everyone felt a pride rarely seen before. I know I was truly honored, what about you?

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