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Friday, June 21, 2024
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cherry blossom queen feature

AU student crowned the 2024 US cherry blossom queen

Alessandra Evangelista will explore her interest in diplomacy as the U.S. cherry blossom queen

For D.C. residents, cherry blossoms have long symbolized the arrival of spring. In 1912 Yukio Ozaki, the then-mayor of Tokyo City, had 3,000 cherry trees planted in the District as a gift to the United States. One spring tradition that also has grown from the international relationship between the U.S. and Japan is the Cherry Blossom Princess Program, which this year selected American University student Alessandra Evangelista to be its queen.

Founded in 1948, the educational and cultural exchange program allows distinguished young women to explore professional and cultural opportunities. It is aimed towards accomplished women between the ages of 19 and 24 who have shown interest in areas like world affairs and community service.

The program, sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies, consists of cherry blossom delegates who represent their state or territory. Each year, one delegate is crowned the United States cherry blossom queen. The cherry blossom queen will head to Japan on June 1 for a goodwill tour of the country where they will meet the Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other Japanese leaders.

On April 12, Evangelista, a junior in the School of International Service, was crowned the 2024 United States cherry blossom queen at the NCSS United States & Territories Celebration Gala. At the Capitol Hilton event, a large wheel of fortune was spun to select the runner up and then the queen.

Evangelista, a native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was selected by the Virgin Islands Association DC to represent the territory in the Cherry Blossom Princess Program. Evangelista said that she is happy to represent her home as the cherry blossom queen.

“It's something that really is special to me, especially coming from a territory,” Evangelista said. “We don’t have a lot of representation on the national stage and it was really special for me to represent my home, here in Washington last week. And it was also very special because I'm the first delegate from the Virgin Islands to be crowned the cherry blossom queen.”

Evangelista said she appreciates the Cherry Blossom Princess Program’s focus on diplomacy because that’s where she wants to take her career long term.

“Throughout the week, we were able to visit several embassies,” Evangelista said. “My favorite part of the week was visiting the State Department and seeing the new exhibit on the history of American diplomacy.”

Evangelista is an executive board member of the Sisterhood for International Engagement, an AU club focused on global affairs. In fall 2024, Evangelista will be doing research for the U.S. Department of State as part of the Diplomacy Lab.

From April 7 to April 14, the cherry blossom delegates met with influential figures in the District and attended public and private events. The program's schedule included trips to the Japanese Embassy, the Lithuanian Embassy and the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum

Evangelista said that she enjoyed meeting Yuko Kishida, the first lady of Japan, and connecting with the other delegates during the program. 

“I would say, overall, the week was full of educational opportunities, cultural exchange, even learning from princesses from the United States,” Evangelista said. “It was very interesting to see what makes up the fabric of America, and how unique we all are. But we all have a core common purpose of serving our community and our interest in international affairs.”

On April 13, Evangelista participated in the 2024 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, where she stood on a float with other cherry blossom delegates. As cherry blossom queen, Evangelista also appeared at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival on the same day.

With the conclusion of the week-long program, Evangelista is looking forward to visiting Japan in June. In preparation for the trip, the cherry blossom queen will be given a tutor to teach her Japanese. Evangelista is excited to meet Japanese leaders and learn more about the country.

“I have a meeting set up with the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Kishida, the House Speaker of Japan, the governors of Tokyo,” Evangelista said. “So personally, I'm really excited to engage in diplomacy and cultural exchange as an international studies major. My focus is in foreign policy, so this is all up my alley.”

Editor’s Note: Alessandra Evangelista was Editor-in-Chief Abigail Turner’s roommate during the 2021-22 academic year. Turner was not involved in the pitching, writing or reporting of this story. 

This article was edited by Samantha Skolnick, Tyler Davis and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Isabelle Kravis. 

features@theeagleonline.com 


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