Sister Cities of Duluth, Minnesota, Home of NSR — The North Star Reports – by Marin Ekstrom. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
[Photo 1: Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge, by author]
Everyone has a connection to a certain city or community. Whether people have strong hometown roots or live a bit more nomadically, they often find some way to develop a sense of home and/or strong familiarity based on place. Furthermore, some people may feel deeply associated with a city or town that they do not reside in due to family and friend connections, vacations, media, etc. —even if they have not even visited it before! This sense of both individual identity and sense of community based on location fuels the mission of sister cities across the world. Sister cities strive to make global connections while cultivating their own sense of uniqueness, which fosters warmer international relations on a grassroots level while making the home community a more vibrant place that is more attractive to both locals and visitors.
[Photo 2: Signs, by author]
First and foremost: what exactly is a sister city? According to the official website of Sister Cities International, it is defined as “a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries.” Although the concept has centuries’ worth of precedents, the modern-day version (at least in terms of creating the official Sister Cities International organization) was officially established in 1956 by then-U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He believed in the power of citizen diplomacy, a concept that advocates for everyday people to forge bonds with other communities throughout the world. By forming these relations, Eisenhower “ reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts”, as quoted from the “Mission and History” section of Sister Cities International’s website. This mentality had particularly poignant relevance given its historical context, as the prejudice and devastation of World War II was still fresh on people’s mind. The earliest sister city relationships particularly focused on Germany/ Western Europe and Japan, as they offered a means to establish human connections with the so-called (former) “enemy.” In turn, developing these friendships would work to heal the scars and take preventative measures from falling into such atrocious wars and human catastrophes again. Throughout the years, Sister Cities International has continued to evolve into a vibrant, groundbreaking organization that promotes the establishment of international ties based on student exchanges, professorial interactions, economic development, humanitarian interests, etc.— the sky is truly the limit.
[Photo 3: Rania children, from DSCI]
[Photo 4: Japanese temple, from DSCI]
Our hometown community of Duluth, Minnesota, USA has the wonderful fortune of having a truly outstanding and internationally respected sister cities organization. Duluth Sister Cities International (DSCI) has been officially operating since 1986 (though it established its first sister relationship in 1980) and today has five sister cities consisting of Thunder Bay, Canada; Petrozavodsk, Russia; Växjö, Sweden; Ohara-Isumi City, Japan; and Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan. Each sister city relationship is characterized by their intriguing historical back-stories and wide array of projects and exchanges that they pursue. For example, there have been legal and human rights committees associated with Thunder Bay, social work and public health delegations with Petrozavodsk, choir concerts with Växjö, a middle school student exchange with Ohara-Isumi City, and planting a tulip garden in honor of Rania. DSCI also engages in annual concerts, dinners, holiday tree displays, and other festivities to perpetually draw attention to the organization’s work. DSCI has allowed our city to make deep bonds of friendship with Canadian, Russian, Swedish, Japanese, and Kurdish compatriots and in turn has enriched our own home community in the process. Perhaps DSCI says it best with the following quote on its website:
“Once you understand how we’re different, you see how we’re the same. True understanding between people and nations begins with individual involvement…
We [Duluth and the world] have greater opportunities than ever for global understanding, because Duluth Sister Cities International helps bridge the oceans by bringing many of the world’s traditions, cultures and languages right to us, and by taking us to their countries.”
Sister Cities International has paved the way for championing ground level “citizen diplomacy,” with Duluth being an exceptionally successful offshoot of this organization. Both Duluthians and our counterparts abroad have grown and bettered from the wonderful work of DSCI, making it a truly marvelous asset to our community and beyond.
[Photo 5: Thunderbay, from DSCI]
If you are interested in learning more about Duluth Sister International and would like to get more involved, please visit the website at http://www.duluthmnsistercities.org/, and/or “Like” their Facebook page “Duluth Sister Cities International!”
[Photo 6: Petro Cannons, from DSCI]
Marin Ekstrom currently teaches in southern China, and serves as an assistant editor for The North Star Reports. Sincere thanks to DSCI for permission to adapt this piece and the photos for publication.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu