Alaksan carries on Cherry Blossom Princess tradition

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - For nearly 70 years, the Cherry Blossom Princess program has brought together women from across America and countries around the world. The program is meant to honor the tradition of friendship between the United States and Japan.

The week-long program includes trips to learn about government, business and the arts. The women have the chance to meet with important U.S. officials, including the Ambassador to Japan and members of their congressional delegation. Since its inception, more than 3,000 women have had the chance to travel to D.C. for the event.

Twenty year old Cornell student Caitlin Sweeney is representing Alaska this year. "It’s a cool opportunity not only to learn about D.C. and the Cherry Blossom Festival but to be a representative for Alaska," she says.

Sweeney was nominated by Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan to continue the tradition. The delegation takes turns choosing the princess every year.

Senator Lisa Murkowski was a Cherry Blossom Princess herself while a student at Georgetown.

"[The program likes] to talk about our alumni network and they always bring up Senator Murkowski," Sweeney said.

Murkowski's trip was in 1980, but she still remembers it vividly. "We’d stand in line and I’d be in between American Samoa and Alabama and they’d wanna know all about Alaska," the senator said. "It was the first time I felt like I was an ambassador for Alaska."

Murkowski hopes the program continues to pass along those feelings of empowerment to people like Sweeney.