The economies of Washington state and the Puget Sound region are supported by ties with peoples and institutions throughout the world. These business, government, educational, and nonprofit organizations generate our customers, students, investors, and tourists.
We are blessed with a location where immigrants from Europe meet immigrants from Asia, Africa, and South America as well as today’s Native Americans, who had crossed the land bridge from Asia in ancient times. This has generated the rich diversity of cultures and languages that provide our global perspective. Our more recent citizens bring with them their relationships. Such relationships are an asset that must be continuously maintained.
Our challenge is to continue to be a region in which talented people want to live. Related is the need to educate our children to understand the importance of our international ties.
The Seattle region has many institutions that build our bridges around the world. Universities bring talented students, many of whom stay and contribute to our region. Our companies do business on every continent. Our marine port complex and international airport are an important international gateway. We have investors owning local companies and buildings. We attract international tourists. Our economy is integrated with the global economy. Our nonprofit organizations, many of whom are focused on global health, have extensive ties to the developing world. We are very fortunate and all these factors show up in our innovation and economic success.
A happy result is that a hallmark of the Puget Sound community is fostering peace and cultural understanding by providing assistance with exchanges around the worldy. There are many organizations, such as the over 300 nonprofits identified by Global Washington and the Washington Health Care Alliance that are working with developing countries. In many Puget Sound communities, two organizations with multiple local chapters and committees build bridges at the grassroots level. These are Rotary International and Sister Cities. Because they are comprised of small organizations, their importance is not noticed. But their whole far exceeds the sum of the parts
I was recently asked to speak at the District Rotary Convention where almost 800 members from district 5030 with 53 clubs in King and Southern Snohomish gathered to share ideas and learn best practices. I am not a member and was not aware of Rotary’s extensive international program. I was more aware of the local contribution. I was amazed at the breadth and depth of the work of our Rotary clubs and how the commitment to assist was a part of even a committee in neighborhood clubs.
I also have chaired the Seattle Sister City oversight committee since the mid '90s and served on the board of the national organization, Sister Cities International. I have a good understanding of the work of sister city committees in our region and our state.
Each organization can attribute its birth to a single individual, Paul P. Harris for Rotary and Dwight D. Eisenhower for Sister Cities. President Eisenhower hosted a conference at the White House in 1956. This was called after a meeting with Russia and the purpose was “to help build the road to an enduring peace.” Eisenhower advocated people-to-people relationships as a grassroots approach to bypassing governments. Sister cities were born at the conference.
Paul Harris was living in Chicago and missed his small town roots. In 1905 he formed a professional club that rotated its meetings amongst the offices of friends. Today this service organization has grown to 34,000 clubs with 1.2 million members in every country. (Seattle was one of the first five chapters organized in 1909.) It became Rotary International in 1921. The worldwide organization took on the eradication of polio in 1985. Every club has an international committee and participates in international projects.
Sister cities are spread throughout Washington state. There are over 25 cities with close to 100 relationships that cover the world. Our state has relationships with Cambodia, China, Japan, and Korea among many Asian relationships. We have bridges to Morocco, Limbe, and Mombasa on the African continent,. European ties range from Helsinki in the North to Galway in the West, Pecs in the south to Gdynia in Poland. Around the state, partnerships include Croatia, Australia, Mexico, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, and Uzbekistan.
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