Sister Cities Organization Celebrates 50th Anniversary

In addition to remembering the events of September 11th yesterday, city leaders also honored the 50th anniversary of the Sister Cities Organization. Sister Cities was formed on September 11th of 1956 as a citizen diplomacy network. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower urged the nation to forge connections with other communities and peoples around the world. Today, Sister Cities International is the product of that presidential request. Ellen Goldberg is the president of the Houston chapter. She says Houston has 16 sister cities, the first was formed in 1963 with Taipei, Taiwan.

"President Eisenhower's goal was to involved individuals from all levels of society in personal diplomacy in the hope that these people-to-people relationships would lessen the chance of world conflicts. The Sister Cities movement was launched with those goals in mind."

Sister Cities is a volunteer organization in which the volunteers coordinate community projects between the cities. Houston Mayor Bill White says Sister Cities helps people from different cultures and backgrounds understand one another.

"If there's one thing that the people who seek to divide us try to do, it is always to try to divide humanity into group vs. group, stereotype vs. stereotype and distract us from what we have in common and focus instead on differences."

The government officials of each city vote to form the partnerships. City council and the mayor must agree on creating ties with sister cities. Councilmember MJ Khan serves as the liason between council and the Houston chapter of the organization.

"Let's make this city the city of peace. Let's make this city the city which everybody else in the world needs to follow as to how different communities can come together and live as one human family."

The volunteers coordinate commercial, cultural, educational and humanitarian exchanges between the sister cities. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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