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May 27, 2016

Historic Presidential Visit to Hiroshima

President Obama became the first sitting United States president to visit Hiroshima, Japan, seven decades after the U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb on the city. Have your students learn more about this historic visit by watching videos and researching images of the Hiroshima bombing then and now.


Social studies, civics, government

Estimated Time

One 50-minute class

Grade Level



President Obama calling for an end to nuclear weapons as he paid tribute to the victims of the Hiroshima bombing. Click at the 20min:30sec mark to hear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak.

  • Obama calls for a “world without nuclear weapons.” Ask students if they think this is a realistic goal. What would it take to make this goal a reality?

Activity: What is the U.S. government’s position on using nuclear weapons 71 years after Hiroshima?

In addition to the modern-day use of nuclear weapons, much discussion before President Obama’s visit centered on whether or not the U.S. should apologize for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Watch the PBS NewsHour video below. Ask students why the U.S. government will not apologize for using nuclear weapons. Do students agree with President Obama’s decision to not apologize? Why or why not?

NOTE: In researching Hiroshima, students may come across graphic images related to the bombings and their aftermath.

Activity: How much can a picture really tell us?

  • Take a look at these two images at the time of President Obama’s visit:



  • What are the men doing in these pictures? Where do you think they are? What building is in the background? How could you find out? How are the two pictures similar? How are they different?
  • Captions (show to students after they answer the questions above):
    • The caption of the first picture reads: “A man prays in front of the cenotaph for the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing, at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan May 26, 2016 a day before U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrive in the city.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai.”
    • The caption of the second picture reads: “Japanese demonstrators protest against President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting Hiroshima, in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan on May 26, 2016, a day before the leaders arrive in the city. Photo by Toru Hanai/Reuters”
  • Using Getty Images, have students find one image related to the Hiroshima bombing they would like to analyze and present to the class. Why did they choose this image? What feelings does the picture conjure up? What questions does the image raise? How might the image add to the historical understanding of Hiroshima and World War II?

Extension Activities

  • Check out these “Then and Now”  images marking the 70th anniversary in 2015 of the Hiroshima bombing. Do some of the images in the article match some of the images students used in the activity above? Why do certain pictures leave a significant impact on us decades later?
  • Watch Grave of the Fireflies (1988), a Japanese animated film about two orphaned children who struggle to survive in the Japanese countryside at the end of World War II. Check out the trailer here.
  • Read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Puffin Modern Classic, 1977) a historical fiction children’s book written by Eleanor Coerr. Sadako Sasaki was a child in Hiroshima in 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped. Sasaki’s death 10 years later sparked a paper crane-folding tradition that continues to this day.
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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

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