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Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Reflects on First Year in Office as Ambassador to Japan – NBC Chicago

One year has passed since former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took on a new role as the United States Ambassador to Japan.

With the next mayoral election just six weeks away, Emanuel had hoped to cast his vote early during his quick visit to the city. Since voting has not yet started, he will instead vote by absentee.

Emanuel says he is supporting Chicago, but won’t disclose which candidate he plans to vote for.

“I’m biting my tongue in a rare moment of self-discipline,” Emanuel told NBC 5 Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern during a one-on-one interview.

On Martin Luther King weekend, he noted how participating in civil rights protests as a teenager helped shape his life in public service.

“My parents taught us you are fortunate,” he said. “You are not taking being in America for granted. You give something of your life to this great country.”

Emanuel was exposed to civil rights marches as a teenager when his mother, Marsha Emanuel, who ran the CORE office, the Congress of Racial Equality, routinely took her three sons to protests.

“My mother’s, both her work, as you know, our dinner conversation was all about politics, culture, social issues,” stated the former mayor. “You couldn’t go to the table as a two year old without having an opinion about a subject.”

Soaking all of that in propelled Emanuel from the Clinton White House, to congressman, to former President Obama’s chief of staff, to Chicago mayor.

Now he’s winning over naysayers who doubted the man known for his combative style could be diplomatic.

“I would not have been ready for this 30 years ago,” he said. “Japan would not have been ready for Rahm Emanuel 30 years ago. All the experiences add up and are valuable.”

As mayor, Emanuel initiated the Safe Passage Program to protect students to and from school. He’s amazed how young Japanese children are able to take public transportation alone.

“A parent can kiss a kid goodbye,” he explained. “Five, six years old. Six, seven blocks. Get on a train, not a worry in the world. It’s magical.”

Emanuel would not commit to never running for elected office again, but did say there are many ways to participate in public service.

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