Hamline News

May 06, 2011

In the wake of Japan's tragedy, a Hamline professor unites people through art and words

paper cranes full

Hamline School of Education professor Dr. Walter Enloe has always had a special place in his heart for Japan. Now, following the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, Enloe is redoubling his previous efforts to unite people with that country. With the upcoming release of his book 2020 Vision: Citizens of the Paper Crane, a revision of Birds of Peace: Citizens of the Paper Crane, Enloe hopes to inform as well as inspire readers with the story behind the symbolic red paper crane, in order to promote peace and understanding during Japan’s time of need.

2020 Vision: Citizens of the Paper Crane
is an adaptation of a story that has been translated numerous times over the course of nearly two decades. It tells of a young girl named Sadako who falls ill to “A-bomb’s Disease,” ten years after the city and people of Hiroshima were changed forever by the atomic bomb attack at the end of World War II.

In the story, Sadako begins to fold paper cranes believing that the hope for her survival lies within the creases of those folded little birds. This tale of uniting to find courage and strength in the face of tragedy was originally told by the young girl’s classmates under the guidance of their teacher.

“As a teacher of children, I decided I was going to dedicate my life to the idea of creating a culture of peace,” Enloe said. “I wanted to retell the story of Sadako and her classmates because if you let the story get out of the hands of kids, then it loses its power. It has to be about the kids.”

As a teenager, Enloe attended high school in Japan, living in and learning about the culture he has come to love so much. He later returned there to teach, and encouraged one middle school class to retell Sadako’s story through drawings, photographs, and creative inserts, including instructions on how to fold a paper crane.

Today the story of Sadako has been told around the world, leading people to fold their own paper cranes in remembrance of the people of Japan and the historical disasters they have faced. These birds have become a symbol of unity. It’s now a common Japanese belief that folding even one paper crane can inspire hope and bring comfort to those who share a love and passion for the people of Japan.

This love and support is evident in the vast array of colorful paper cranes that drape the walls of Enloe’s Hamline office, thousands of which were sent to him personally from the mayor of Hiroshima. Enloe hopes that the book will inspire people as much as the resilient people of Japan have inspired him.

“I’m a teacher, I’m doing what I have to do,” Enloe said. “I think that’s what teaching is…helping other people.”

As Japan struggles with clean up after the devastating tsunami and the on-going concern at its nuclear facilities, Enloe hopes people will unite to help the country, just as Sadako and her classmates came together in the darkest of times.

All proceeds from 2020 Vision: Citizens of the Paper Crane and another book Enloe wrote on the paper cranes, Ground Zeros, will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross to help the victims of the tsunami and the earthquake.