Sue DiCicco was one of Disney's first female animators, and is a sculptor, prolific author and illustrator of children's books, including Adventures in Asian Art, Origami Peace Cranes and the upcoming The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Paper Cranes. As part of her desire to creatively connect students from all parts of the world, she founded the Peace Crane Project in 2012.
Sue is the first in our ongoing interview series with women in publishing for Women's History Month.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Peace Crane Project and how it got started?
Shortly after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook in 2012, I was so disheartened, wondering when “they” were going to fix things, and create a safer and more peaceful world for our children. At a dinner party one night, I expressed my grief, ultimately vowing to explore ways I could make a difference myself.
A few weeks later, I launched an invitation to every child in the world to fold an origami peace crane, write a message of peace on its wings, and exchange it with another child somewhere in the world. I set up an online database and started posting everywhere on the Internet. I thought I might get traction. After a few years, much to my surprise, millions of students from more than 100 countries had participated.
What advice do you have for someone who cares deeply about an issue and wants to make a difference, but doesn’t know where to start?
Each of us is unique and has skills and interests that can lead us to our own path. Sometimes, it may be easiest to be on the support team of a group that is doing work you admire at first. Talking to friends is also helpful, bouncing off ideas, and collaborating with those that share your interest. I find it is easier to stay inspired if I surround myself with inspiring people. The main ingredient, though, is tenacity and not letting moments of defeat deter you.
How can people get involved in the Peace Crane Project?
What do you think is the biggest thing we can learn from Sadako and her resilience and courage?
Sadako took to heart the importance of “omoiyari-no-kokoro.” Roughly translated, this means showing consideration of others, no matter life’s consequences. The Japanese teach this philosophy at an early age and value this quality in others. Even when most everything was taken from Sadako, she still had optimism and concern for the fate of others. This brought her some measure of joy through the worst of times. And it left the rest of the world with hope for the future. If this was the focused goal of all humans, imagine the world we would live in!
What is something that you learned about Sadako during the process of writing this book that you think more people should know?
Sadako just wanted to be with her family, play with her friends, and enjoy all the wonderful things life offers. She was, in many ways, just like you and me, and almost everyone in all corners of the world. Often, governments and other circumstances beyond our control take our lives in unwanted directions. Her ability to embrace her fate has given me a new perspective on life and how best to live it.
What’s been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
When I started my career in animation many years ago, it was difficult to navigate as a woman. It was a daily challenge to find a path forward. The obstacles were often part of our culture that encouraged certain behaviors and expectations. It was a daily struggle for me and for every woman, no matter where we worked or lived.
How about the most inspiring moment?
The most joyous thing in my career has been the rise of women and the freedom from those past limitations we placed on women and others. We have some ways to go yet, but we’ve made tremendous strides these past few years. Sadako would love that.