FOUNDED by United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International (SCI) is a non-profit national membership organization for sister cities, counties and states. SCI relationships connect communities in different countries to advance peace and prosperity through cultural, educational, humanitarian and economic development exchange, uniting tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers through programs in 140 countries on six continents.
From July 31 to August 2, 2014, Sister Cities International hosted its 58th annual con- ference in San Jose, California. According to SCI President Mary Kane, “Our 2014 annual conference was very special for two reasons: our location – Silicon Valley, and the increase of high school students attending our Youth Leadership Summit. The theme of our conference was the power of digital diplomacy. The use of social media and technology has made our organization stronger by keeping people in touch. Over 100 high school students from across the United States and five other countries came together in San Jose to discuss water as a shared commodity.” Over 500 delegates from 26 different countries were in attendance. Legendary singer Dionne Warwick entertained attendees with her hits including “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and was awarded SCI’s Global Ambassador Award for her humanitarian achievements.
Sister Cities pioneer Thelma Press, who co-founded the Sister Cities International Southern California Chapter in 1974 with Santa Fe Springs Mayor Betty Wilson, said,
The San Jose conference was exciting for young people because we had the heads of high-tech companies speaking about the power of technology and digital diplomacy. It was also important to note that this conference had sessions related to the Asia Pacific region as so many of our sister cities are from that area of the world.
According to SCI President Mary Kane, two presentations drew great attention. One was Cisco Systems Director Gordon Fellers’s presentation on the Internet of Everything, which helped to demonstrate how digital diplomacy can be brought about by integrating people-to-people relationships and people-to-machine relationships. The other was U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez’ speech about immigration, the workforce, and the importance of understanding international backgrounds in sister city relationships.
When asked about the value of the people-to-people activities of SCI, Los Angeles City Councilmember, Chairman of Sister Cities of Los Angeles and former SCI Board Member Tom LaBonge said,
President Eisenhower ... was a warrior! He was a general. He saw the ravages of war in the darkest parts of Germany in World War II but then to come up with the idea of the people-to-people program ... he knew it wasn’t necessarily the capitals of the world that could bring about peace as much as the cities of the world–people-to-people. He truly was a visionary.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti concurred; “It’s not just about a couple of officials visiting, which is always great, but how you get an ongoing exchange of students and culture that I think is really ultimately special.”
SCI President Mary Kane provided Tokyo Journal with a glimpse into SCI’s 2015 annual conference and plans for the future.
TJ: Tell us about the July 16–18, 2015 conference in Minneapolis.
KANE: The theme for the 59th Annual Sister Cities International Conference in Minneapolis is bridging generations for peace. Members of the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Diplomatic Corps will be joining us to share their perspectives on a range of topics including diaspora populations and exchanges. There will be tailored sessions on topics including: young professional and youth engagement; nonprofit and event fundraising; programming for economic development and sports diplomacy. There will be a specialized regional track focusing on African partnerships and the very first Somalian sister city in the United States will be showcased.
TJ: What are SCI’s plans for the future?
KANE: Sister Cities International will be focusing on increasing the number of global members. We will also be looking to increase our partnerships in Latin America and the Middle East. Of course, we intend to provide even more benefits for our long-term members like the 185 relationships with our friends in Japan.
TJ: Is there any other news you would like to share with us?
KANE: We will be holding a diplomatic gala in Washington, DC on March 10, 2015. Currently we have 24 members of Congress and 19 ambassadors who have agreed to serve on our Honorary Host Committee, including Kenichiro Sasae, the ambassador from Japan. tj
For more information on Sister Cities International, please visit www.sistercities.org
The original article can be found in Issue #276 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.