Past Commencement Speakers
Koko Tanimoto Kondo
Atomic Bomb Survivor and Internationally Recognized Peace Advocate
Koko Tanimoto Kondo is one of the youngest and most well-known survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. She was eight months old when the first atomic bomb was dropped 1.1 kilometers 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 the horrific consequences of it all. Her father, Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, one of the six survivors featured in John Hersey’s Hiroshima, was instrumental in rebuilding the city and promoting its message of peace by creating two initiatives to aid victims of the bombing. He created 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.” On May 11, 1955, she 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. Kondo attributes this meeting to a life-changing, transformative learning experience. From that experience she learned to embrace the enormous contradictions and paradoxes of her hibakusha experiences and now exudes an affirmative energy and compassion that inspires young and old alike.
Kondo has traveled the world, including Russia and Iraq, discussing her experiences
growing up in Hiroshima and telling her remarkable story of transformative learning
for personal and global peace. She has shared her story with thousands of
students in Japan and North America, including Webster University classes. Her audiences are touched and empowered by Kondo’s humility and courage in making meaning of the multi-faceted tragedies and triumphs in her life experience. Kondo’s life story personifies Webster University’s mission priority of life-long transformative learning for true global citizenship and individual excellence.