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Taking Policy to the World: Nicki Kurokawa

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was sworn into office, she handed out global maps to her press corps.  It foreshadowed just how much Secretary Rice was going to be on the move and she has indeed kept up a furious travel schedule.

Nicki Kurokawa, a second-year Pepperdine School of Public Policy graduate student, doesn’t yet have a press corps or a State Department motorcade to get her from place to place. But, she has engaged the world with Rice-like fervor and has notched nearly the same number of passport stamps as the secretary.

The idea of free-market policy and promotion of limited government on a worldwide scale motivates Kurokawa. It has since her high school days.  The bright and bubbly Chicago native graduated from the University of Illinois in 2002 and after essentially drawing straws for a graduate school direction, decided to pursue international relations at a school of public policy.Nicki Kurokawa

She now finds herself soaking in the beauty of Pepperdine, and praising the applicability of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy curriculum. “Pepperdine offers an international relations program which is practical,” says Kurokawa. “Teachers practice both theory and real-world research.”  That’s an important distinction to Kurokawa, who can’t stand the seeming disconnect between ivory tower-like think tanks and hands-on grass-roots work.

On Monday of finals week last April, she received a call asking if she was interested in campaigning for British Conservative Party Shadow Home Secretary David Davis in England for several weeks.  Immediately after handing in her final exam on Friday of the same week, Kurokawa was on a plane bound for London and spent the next four weeks, “Literally walking the pavement and campaigning with the ideologically devoted, little old ladies,” she recalls, playing a part in research and advocacy, leading to the campaign’s ultimate success.

Kurokawa, the eldest of three born to an Irish Catholic mother and a Japanese Buddhist father, doubtless has her family to thank for her appreciation for diversity, international politics, and philosophical pursuits.  “My mom is a Euro-phile and my dad is a staunch Republican,” she explains.  Some of her earliest lessons in conservatism were learned from her family’s outings.

“I remember being in Mexico with my family when I was little and seeing poor people beg on the streets,” Kurokawa recalls.  I was very upset because my dad wasn’t giving them any money.  Almost in tears, I asked him, ‘Why not?’  He said, ‘We don’t give a handout.  We give a hand-up.’ That stuck with me.  As I grew up, I saw the logic of this conservative thinking and just kept going right.” Politically right, that is. “Being liberal doesn’t make sense,” Kurokawa declares simply. “With fiscal principles of free-market thinking, everyone is better off.”

With her Conservative Party candidate well on his way to defeating the Liberal Party opposition, in July, 2005, Kurokawa focused her energies at Chicago’s noted libertarian think tank, Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  This time, instead of pounding pavement, Kurokawa put her fast-break research skills to the test as she undertook the challenging task of assisting ALG’s senior fellows with top-priority political matters, including the issues of eminent domain and taxpayers’ bill of rights.

After a few minutes with Kurokawa, it’s pretty clear that not only can she talk politics and the superior fiscal principles of conservatism, but she’s prepared to do something with it.  It’s a fact which has already created for her tremendous opportunities.

Now an esteemed School of Public Policy Forstmann Scholar, Kurokawa is spending her final year in Malibu researching the impositions world banking places on American fiscal growth under School of Public Policy professor and former Pepperdine president, David Davenport.  It is a spin-off of the international banking project she worked on last year when researching under the direction of School of Public Policy professor Angela Hawken and her mentor, Dr. Richard Rahn, founder of the Novecon companies.  To say her professors consider her competent is an understatement.

“How anyone can do everything she does with such high quality, and a smile, is beyond human understanding,” says Davenport.  “I look forward to hearing what she is doing in five or ten years—nothing would surprise me.”

Kurokawa, who began traveling at a young age, can now claim to having visited some 20 countries and mastering French and, oddly enough, Czech.  “I learned Czech by immersion,” Kurokawa states easily.

Looking beyond adding a great many more stamps in her passport, Kurokawa noted, “I want to advance free-market mentality in Europe,” she says.  Likening the European Union to “the giant blob,” Kurokawa is eager to work with active organizations doing research and laying plans for her kind of advocacy. 

She has a standing offer in London to conduct research for the British Parliament.  And, even though her first experience in Prague was somewhat negative, she has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to study the economic knowledge of journalists in the Czech Republic.  She is also considering other offers from major think tanks to join their research ranks. 

Whichever way she goes, she is sure of one thing, it won’t be in Condi’s shoes, with the U.S. Department of State.  “The State Department is ‘corporate times a million.’ I have no interest in never-ending political wrangling in that giant political machine.”

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