Top 10 Moments from Sister Cities International’s 60th Anniversary Celebration

1. Kickoff Reception at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence

Gardens at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence.

Hosted by Japan’s Ambassador to the U.S., the Honorable Kenichirō Sasae and Mrs. Nobuko Sasae, the evening reception started the 60th Anniversary Celebration off right as delegates enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Ambassador’s residence. Welcome remarks were made by Ambassador Sasae, Sister Cities International’s President and CEO Mary D. Kane, and Courtney Beale, Senior Director for Global Engagement and Special Assistant to the President, National Security Council, the White House.

Mary D. Kane, Ambassador Sasae, Mrs. Sasae, and Courtney Beale.

The speakers reflected on how far the U.S. and Japan have come since World War II, with 206 official U.S.-Japan sister city relationships representing the most robust in the Sister Cities International network. Guests then enjoyed networking and delicious Japanese cuisine.

2. Sister Cities International Day

H. Res. 775: Designating July 15, 2016 as Sister Cities International Day.

With a bipartisan Congressional resolution introduced by Congressmen Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Ron DeSantis (FL-06) and Mayoral proclamations from nearly 50 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, July 15, 2016 was officially announced as Sister Cities International day!

3. Opening Ceremony and Parade of Flags

Students and girl scouts act as flag bearers during the Parade of Flags.

The first day of the Annual Conference began with an annual tradition: the Opening Ceremony and Parade of Flags. Over 130 community flags were paraded by girl scouts from the Nation’s Capital Chapter, youth involved in the Department of Parks and Recreation’s summer programs, as well as high school students from the 2016 Youth Leadership Summit. The flags from communities within the sister city network acted as a reminder of the many diverse communities in the network, from small southern farm towns to booming metropolitan cities across the world that unite to promote peace through people.

Mary D. Kane, Lauren Vaughan, A/S Evan Ryan, and Bill Boerum make remarks during the Opening Ceremony.

The Opening Ceremony continued with remarks from Mary D. Kane, Washington, DC Secretary of State Lauren Vaughan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan, and Sister Cities International Board Chairman Bill Boerum.

4. City Welcome Reception

Cutting Sister Cities International’s 60th Anniversary cake!

Hosted by the city of Washington, DC and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Sister Cities International celebrated its 60th Birthday during the City Welcome Reception. With remarks provided by Mary D. Kane; Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser; Washington, DC Secretary of State Lauren Vaughan; U.S. State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Outreach Karen Richardson; and Minister Li Kexin from the Embassy.

Guests were entertained by local Washington, DC musical performances as well as a traditional Chinese dance act, followed by delicious Chinese cuisine.

5. Keynote Speeches

Conference delegates attend the Breakfast Keynote: Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel.

The Annual Conference boasted three keynotes including a speech by Admiral Thad Allen, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton and 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard; a breakfast keynote Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel with H.E. Ambassador Pierre Clive Agius, Embassy of the Republic of Malta; H.E. Ambassador Grigor Hovhannissian, Embassy of the Republic of Armenia; H.E. Ambassador Djerdj Matkovic, Embassy of the Republic of Serbia; and an introduction by 60th Anniversary Celebration Honorary Co-Chair Hans Vielberth and a keynote conversation with 60th Anniversary Celebration Honorary Co-Chair Norm Mineta, President and CEO of Mineta and Associates, LLC and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Admiral Thad Allen.

Admiral Allen discussed his experiences working in response and recovery in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast region. He touched on the key themes of the importance of person-to-person community relationships and city resilience in times of crisis.

Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel: Frances Holuba, H.E. Ambassador Djerdj Matkovic, H.E. Ambassador Grigor Hovhannissian, and H.E. Ambassador Pierre Clive Agius.

The Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel included a panel of Ambassadors moderated by Politico’s Director of Social Enterprise, Frances Holuba, on the importance of sister city relationships and subnational diplomacy for their respective country’s bilateral ties with the U.S. The Ambassadors discussed opportunities for a future of strong, impactful sister city relationships.

Secretary Norm Mineta and Kathleen Matthews.

Moderated by journalist, corporate communications executive, and public affairs advocate Kathleen Matthews, the keynote conversation with Norm Mineta touched audience members as he told the story of his experience in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, among his other experiences as a politician, Secretary of Commerce, and Secretary of Transportation during September 11, highlighting his life as a true citizen diplomat.

6. Conference Sessions

Food, Culture, Music, and Sports: Diplomacy through Unique Platforms panel with David Beame, Event Director, Global Citizen; Jane Chu, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts; Arthur Espinoza, Jr., Executive Director, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Government of the District of Columbia; Donté Lamar Stallworth, Former Professional Football Player; Mary Beth Albright, Food Attorney, Food Writer and Food Network Star Finalist.

This year’s Conference sessions featured dozens of inspiring experts from the fields of diplomacy, cities, international affairs, and more. Attendees had an opportunity to attend 11 engaging sessions and workshops on the topics of smart and resilient cities, peace and security, tourism, cultural diplomacy, young professional engagement, city brand management, digital communications, international protocol, the economic benefits of sister cities, tax benefits of charitable donations, and grant writing.

Sarah Heck, Director of Global Engagement, National Security Council, White House; Mayor Farhad Niyaesh, Herat, Afghanistan; Somaia Ramish, Herat Delegation; Barbara Slavin, Acting Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council and Washington Correspondent for Al-Monitor.com; and Sheldon Himelfarb, President and CEO, PeaceTech Lab.

Each session’s dynamic speakers covered the major conference themes of people through people and the importance of citizen-level involvement in diplomacy. Workshops covered practical ways in which sister city programs as well as others working in the field of citizen diplomacy can grow and improve their programs and local engagement.

Click here to download workshop presentations.

7. New Board of Directors, Board Chairman, and Board Vice Chairman

New Board of Directors Magdalena Carrasco, Teri Simmons, Lorna Johnson, Willow Darsie, Cindy Elliott, Lee Guio, Peter Svarzbein, Raveen Arora, Carol Robertson Lopez, and Larry Uebner. Board Chairman Tim Quigley, Board Chair Emeritus Bill Boerum, and Mary Kane [Missing: Vice Chairman Ron Nirenberg].

The Sister Cities International network of members elected 10 new board members during the 2016 Annual Business Meeting. Tim Quigley of San Jose, California assumed his position as Board Chairman after serving two years as Vice Chairman and Ron Nirenberg, City Council Member of San Antonio, Texas, was elected as Vice Chairman by the Board of Directors.

The newly elected at-large Board of Directors members are Raveen Arora of Tempe, Arizona; Magdalena Carrasco of San Jose, California; Willow Darsie of Washington, DC; Cindy Elliott of Hays, Kansas; Lee Guio of Union City, California; Lorna Johnson of East Orange, New Jersey; Carol Robertson Lopez of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Teri Simmons of Atlanta, Georgia; and Peter Svarzbein of El Paso, Texas. Quigley appointed two at-large Board members, Ruther Cotter of Sunnyvale, California and Jim Moran of Alexandria, Virginia. Lawrence Uebner of Omaha, Nebraska was re-elected as an at-large Board member and the Board’s Treasurer. Carol Robertson Lopez was elected as Secretary.

Click here to learn more about Sister Cities International’s new Board.

8. The Culmination of 60 Days of Impact: A Blog Post by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Speaking with students at Indiana University in Bloomington on October 15, 2015. [State Department photo]

After 60 days of engaging content curated from sister city members, Mayors, Ambassadors, experts from the fields of cities, diplomacy, climate, youth, and the Sister Cities International archives for Sister Cities International’s 60 Days of Impact campaign, Sister Cities International received a fascinating blog post from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. His post “Engage America: Peace Happens through People” discusses the importance of citizen diplomacy to discover interests that people share that transcend boundaries and lead to lasting peace.

9. The 2016 Youth Leadership Summit

Youth Leadership Summit delegates discuss nuclear crises during the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s diplomatic simulation.

The 2016 Youth Leadership Summit marked a record in attendance with 115 youth travelling to Washington, DC from across the U.S. and globe. The Summit helped mark Sister Cities International’s 60th year through a specialized diplomatic simulation on nuclear non-proliferation moderated by the U.S. Diplomacy Center, speaker sessions, peer collaboration, visits to national monuments, a Nationals baseball game, and more.

The whole group poses for a photo after the Final Simulation read-out.

Over the course of four days, students learned how different national interests drive international cooperation on critical issues and gained effective problem solving strategies, leadership skills, and insights into international affairs.

Click here to read the full Youth Leadership Summit recap.

10. The 2016 Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Ceremony and Dinner

The 2016 Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Ceremony and Dinner.

To conclude the 60th celebration, the 2016 Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Ceremony and Dinner featured a beautiful cocktail reception and Annual Awards Ceremony and Dinner. The ceremony began with a video in honor of Sister Cities International’s history and anniversary.

Mary D. Kane (R) presents the 2016 Diplomatic Leadership Award to Ambassador Barbara Barrett (L).

The 2016 Diplomatic Leadership Award was given to Ambassador Barbara Barrett for her active role in advancing people-to-people dialogue through aviation, tourism, trade, commerce, sister city exchanges, and diplomatic activities. Sister city programs from across the U.S. were then awarded for their excellent 2015 initiatives in the categories of Volunteer of the Year, Best Overall, and Innovation (Arts & Culture, Economic Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and Youth & Education). Click here to view a list of all 2016 Annual Awards winners.

Students from the Youth Leadership Summit start getting the dance floor moving at the end of the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, attendees bid on nearly 100 items in the 60th Anniversary online auction to support Sister Cities International while eating delicious gelato, and students from the Youth Leadership Summit took over the dance floor for their last evening together.


Click here to view all official photos from #SCI60years.