In 1956, post World War II and colonialism, the world was changing. Then U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called an historic White House conference on citizen diplomacy to build greater bonds among the people and institutions of different nations.
During the Eisenhower years, American wealth was the greatest in the world. Today, although we still have the biggest economy, 95 percent of consumers lie outside our borders. We buy internationally, too: 98 percent of clothing in the United States was manufactured abroad, and 90 percent of coffee is imported. And those are just a few examples.
Students in school today have at least a one-in-five chance of working in international trade in just a few years' time. And yet, most students don't have the opportunity to participate in international exchanges in their formative years.
One of the ideas that resulted from that Eisenhower conference was Sisters Cities International, an organization dedicated to promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.
A local chapter of Sister Cities can help students open up to the world. Today, the United States has nearly 2,000 sister-city relationships worldwide: Louisville, Kentucky, for example, has nine and Seattle, Washington has 21. What about your local community? These relationships often have economic and cultural underpinnings.
There are many opportunities that exist to give students access to the world. Your local Sister Cities branch is one way to reach out and explore international educational partnerships and to help your students along on their path to better citizen diplomacy.
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