U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen Margaret O’Meara to serve as goodwill ambassador to Japan

Margaret O’Meara

As they wait for the National Cherry Blossom Parade to begin, Margaret O’Meara, right, and Risako Takenaka, the 2018 Japan Cherry Blossom Queen, strike a playful pose on their float. (Photo by Jeffrey Malet)

With just a spin of a roulette-style wheel, Margaret O’Meara has been selected to represent the United States on a goodwill trip to Japan.

The junior, a communication studies major from Alexandria, Virginia, will leave this month for a two-week visit to Tokyo, where she will participate in meetings with high-ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. She will also meet with members of the Japanese royal family.

In February, the Society of Virginia named O’Meara the state’s 2018 Cherry Blossom Princess based on her leadership, academic achievements, and interest in social, civic, community, and world affairs.

As princess, O’Meara represented Virginia at congressional receptions and visits with international dignitaries, engaged in cultural and educational activities, attended the Cherry Blossom Grand Ball, and participated in the National Cherry Blossom Parade.

It was at the grand ball on April 13 that O’Meara was chosen, by a twirl of the wheel, to be crowned U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen.

“With Virginia toward the end of the alphabet, I was in the back row and so couldn’t see the wheel onstage,” O’Meara said. “Click, click, click, and the flipper landed on Virginia. But I was too far back to see. It wasn’t until one of the other princesses said, ‘Margaret, it’s you!’ that I looked over to the table where my family and friends were sitting. They were just erupting. That’s when I realized: Oh, my goodness, how is this possible, it’s me!”

The next day, O’Meara found herself riding on a parade float alongside the Japan Cherry Blossom Queen.

“I love parades, and I’ve wanted to be in one since I was a kid,” she said. “But I had always imagined myself as a balloon holder!”

At Virginia Tech, O’Meara holds several leadership positions, including vice president of the Virginia Tech Union, peer mentor to first-year majors in communication studies, and ambassador for the Fraternal Leaders Institute.

O’Meara, who is minoring in art history, has also served on the Chapter Executive Board of Sigma Kappa Sorority and as a Panhellenic delegate. As an English conversation leader, she holds weekly conversation groups to help international students and faculty improve their proficiency in English.

A two-time recipient of the Steve and Renie Guback Communications Scholarship, O’Meara was named the 2016 winner of the J. Brooke Rand Up-and-Coming Leader Award by the Virginia Tech Union.

Upon her return from Japan next month, O’Meara will undertake a summer internship in event planning at the Smithsonian Institution.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Princess Program, which celebrates the friendship between the United States and Japan. The program is not a beauty pageant, but a leadership development and cultural exchange initiative for women aged 19 through 24. Managed by the National Conference of State Societies, the program offers a series of educational and professional development opportunities during the final week of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

Past participants have met with such leaders as U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito, both Cherry Blossom Princess Program alumnae; former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Meara will be the first U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen from Virginia in over a decade.

“It was wonderful being surrounded by so many strong and accomplished women,” O’Meara said of her week spent in the nation’s capital. “The queen is chosen by chance, so there’s no sense of competition. It just felt like a sisterhood of friendship.”

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