To Mayor Murray and Director Chris Gregorich, of Seattle’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations:
Since 1957, our city has built sister city relationships with international communities around the world with the number now standing at 21.
From Galway, Ireland and Haiphong, Vietnam, to Kobe, Japan and Cebu, Philippines, we’ve created affiliations with other communities to learn, trade, and in the case of Be’er Sheva, Israel, to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.”
Although few of us know the specific outcomes of these sister city relationships, we’ll assume on common sense grounds that they build cooperation and commerce that is helpful to both communities.
As we look at the results of this week’s presidential election and the massive disparity in opportunity that divides our country, I suggest it is time to pause international sister city expansion in favor of testing a new, domestic sister city program — one focused on building understanding and hopefully stimulating economic development with those who did not benefit from the recovery over the last eight years to the extent that we did.
What might be accomplished with this new effort? While it’s hard to say, we can start by galvanizing the talent, creativity and passion in our community to reach out to those who feel left behind by an economic recovery that passed them by. Perhaps there are opportunities to leverage our academic and business leaders to help them develop STEM education or entrepreneurship strategies. We can’t know for sure, but perhaps there is an opportunity to create a workforce connection that would benefit both cities. Until we try, there’s no telling what progress can be made. One thing is relatively certain — at a minimum, this effort would build deeper appreciation of our respective experiences as Americans.
If there was ever a time to promote “peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation” it is now, and within our own communities. Whether it be Steubenville, Ohio, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Augusta, Maine or any of dozens of cities who could use a caring sibling, now more than ever we need to reach out to learn and help where we can.
We have been uniquely blessed with opportunity in our city and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to recall the expression — “to those to whom much has been given, much is expected”.
It’s time for everyone to step up in the country to heal the divide. Perhaps it’s time for testing a new City of Seattle Domestic Sister Cities Program.
I’ll pay my own way.