top of page
  • Writer's pictureGCI

GCI Summit and Seminar 2019 Inspirational Speakers

We are honored to share our 16 Inspirational Speakers who will join us to add color and depth to our upcoming Summit and Seminar!

In less than two weeks, our Fellows and Seminar Educators will join us in Tokyo, Japan for the 6th Annual GCI Summit and the 2nd GCI Professional Development Seminar. Each day will feature inspirational speakers to complement the day’s discussions and activities and serve to motivate, encourage, provide reflection, compel action and stimulate creative ideas. Topics covered will include design thinking, social entrepreneurship, leading innovation, storytelling and the importance of finding your passion. In addition, Fellows and Educators will hear from a GCI Ambassador on his own personal journey as a global citizen.

Continue reading to learn more about each Inspirational Speaker and to read their bios.


Dr. David Leheny


Waseda University

David Leheny is Professor in the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda University. Before moving to Waseda, he was the Henry Wendt III ’55 Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, and before that, assistant and associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of many articles and chapters, as well as of three books published by Cornell University Press: Empire of Hope: The Sentimental Politics of Japanese Decline (2018), Think Global, Fear Local: Sex, Violence, and Anxiety in Contemporary Japan (2006), and The Rules of Play: National Identity and the Shaping of Japanese Leisure (2003).

Ernest Higa

Chairman, President and CEO

Higa Industries Co., Ltd

Mr. Higa is the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Higa lndustries Co., Ltd., and is a Director of JC Comsa Corporation and Shinsei Bank. He is a member of Keizai Doyukai, the Board of Councilors of USJC, and the Board of Overseers of the Columbia Business SchooI. In 1990, he was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the New Business Conference. In 1998, he received an award from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture for “innovation in the food industry,” and was recognized by Toyo Keizai as one of the top 50 entrepreneurs in Japan. He earned his MBA from Columbia Business School and his B.S. from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania.

Keiko Ono

Director and Co-Founder

Social Innovation Japan

Ms. Ono is a Japanese - Papua New Guinean graduate in Politics and Development Studies from SOAS, the University of London, with a background in development and education. Following graduation, she founded a non-profit based in Hawaii supporting young leaders from small island communities around the world. After returning to Japan, she was fortunate to have received the opportunity to volunteer for an NPO while circumnavigating the southern hemisphere by boat promoting the SDGs. As an advocate for diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, Ms. Ono currently works at Google in People Operations, where she collates data to inform strategic decisions around hiring that align with Google’s mission, values and corporate culture. Having worked in various organizations ranging in size and sector, she is very passionate about breaking silos between industries, interest groups and demographic backgrounds to foster individual agency and leverage the power of collaboration to create innovative solutions that address contemporary challenges. To do this, she co-founded a platform called Social Innovation Japan. Their goal is to be a social incubator for positive change-makers and movements.

Kyoko Takano

Co-Director of the Japan Center

The American School in Japan

A graduate of Takarazuka Music School and a former actress of the Takarazuka Revue Company, Kyoko Takano is now the Co-Director of the Japan Center at The American School in Japan where she provides authentic Japanese cultural experiences for the entire community. Most notably, she is responsible for supplementing all of the students’ classrooms with experiences such as Japanese tea ceremony, Japanese calligraphy, as well as traditional Japanese dance. She is also involved in supporting the next generation of Japanese youth in a wide range of educational settings such as serving as a TOEIC and English Language Instructor at Japan Times Academy and volunteering with the Working Youth’s Society in Japan. She is also a active member of the College Womens Association of Japan (CWAJ).