Tucked away in Seattle’s International District, you’ll find the Kobe Terrace park. With its pine and cherry trees and stone lantern, the park offers a quiet respite in the city, compliments of the citizens of Kobe, Japan. Seattle and Kobe are sister cities—Seattle has twenty-one sister cities—and they’ve shared a bond since Sister Cities International (SCI) was launched in 1956.
Sister Cities International recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and given the current political climate and various conflicts around the globe, its mission is as relevant today as it was in 1956. Seeing people as individuals who are a sum of their parts, not just a religion or a political party, would go a long way to humanizing and de-escalating the acrimony of the times.
Created as a bi-partisan nonprofit by President Eisenhower, the organization’s mission was to foster peace and prosperity between citizens of foreign countries. Started not long after the end of World War II, the birth of SCI was seen as an optimistic and bold move. One of the earliest partnerships was between Seattle and Tokyo—largely for trade purposes—but a surprising alliance given the deep wounds of the war. A speech by President Eisenhower at the time, identified the unique and vital role that individuals could play in bringing peace to the world:
If we are going to take advantage of the assumption that all people want peace, then the problem is for people to get together and to leap governments—if necessary to evade governments—to work out not one method but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other.
It’s no surprise that Seattle has a sisterly relationship with cities in Asia, given the city’s location and business relationships. Nor was I surprised that Bergen, Norway is also on the list; Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood was traditionally a destination for Norwegian immigrants and still cherishes that part of its history. But other sister cities like Gdynia, Poland and Sihanoukville, Cambodia have less obvious connections. And the relationship isn’t always smooth sailing. During the Amanda Knox murder case, relations were strained between Seattle and its Italian sister city, Perugia.
If I were to choose a sister city for myself, which city would I chose? A spin of the globe landed on Essaouira, a seaside town in Morocco. Its location on the ocean holds great appeal, and the art, architecture, and textiles of the region are spectacular. A city so different from any place I’ve lived would undoubtedly provide rich opportunities for learning about another culture and other religions. I’m not the only one who’s drawn to Essaouira, however; it’s already a sister city with La Rochelle, France.
If you have had to choose a sister city for yourself (we’re just brainstorming, so it’s allowed) or your town or city, where would you choose? And why?
And congrats to Celia in Colorado! She won the signed copy of "Burning Bright" from Nick Petrie!