Honoring the past & celebrating the present

Seattle and Bergen mark 50 years of friendship with Sister City Golden Jubilee

Photo: Kim Carson Photography / courtesy of SBSCA
Jennie Eisenhower, American actor, singer and great-granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, founder of Sister Cites International, will be the honored guest at the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association Founders’ Gala at the Seattle Yacht Club, Saturday, April 1.

Special Release
Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association

On September 11, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower convened his White House Conference on citizen diplomacy with the dream of forging relationships in which “people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.” This was the genesis of Sister Cities International, today a worldwide organization that spans six continents with 2,300 partnerships in 150 countries, encompassing tens of thousands of volunteers, all with one common goal: world peace. To fulfill their mission, sister cities around the globe have built up exchange programs in community development, youth and education, arts and culture, and business and trade.

Community service is the life force of the Sister Cities movement, whose global volunteers receive no monetary compensation for their work. “Stepping up to serve is in my blood,” remarks Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association (SBSCA) President Lori Ann Reinhall, “something very special and perhaps unique about being an American.” Reinhall is extremely proud of her father, who served in Europe during WWII, as well as her mother, who volunteered in her community her entire life. “They were part of Eisenhower’s great generation, and I want to carry on their legacy,” she adds. “My own generation was inspired by President Kennedy’s motto, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.’ These words still resonate strongly today, and Sister Cities has given us the opportunity to make a difference in a very meaningful way.”

With the 50-year jubilee of the SBSCA, Reinhall and her committee have risen to the occasion to do just that. For their golden anniversary year, the group has planned a flurry of activities, including lectures, concerts, master classes, book readings, film series, art exhibits, and travel exchanges. The year of celebration kicks off on Saturday, April 1, at the Seattle Yacht Club with their Founder’s Gala. While the association has been on an upswing during recent years, this event will focus on those who laid the earlier groundwork for its success. Mayor Ed Murray will be there to welcome everyone to an evening of festivities that includes a full-course gourmet meal, a Nordic-themed silent auction, and live entertainment from some of the Seattle Nordic community’s favorite performers: pianists Aaron Otheim and Angelo Rondello, violinist Allion Salvador, and soprano Laura Loge. The president and CEO of Sister Cities International, Mary D. Kane, will deliver the keynote address. But the highlight of the evening will be when guest of honor Jennie Eisenhower, actor, singer, and great-granddaughter of President Eisenhower, reads from Ike’s famous 1956 White House speech that started it all. The gala will be an opportunity for all of the 21 Seattle Sister Cities to gather, as well as representatives from Washington State’s other Norwegian sister cities: Tacoma-Ålesund, Kent-Sunnfjord, and Issaquah-Sunndal. The celebration is open to the public, with tickets available at www.eventbrite.com.

The SBSCA has been engaged in a campaign of “March madness” with a membership drive, gala preparations, and overall planning for their “Year of Bergen.” This spring Reinhall is traveling to Norway for pianist Angelo Rondello’s performance of Seattle composers at the Grieg Academy on May 2, as part of the Seattle Music Exchange Project. While there, she will be meeting with officials from the City of Bergen and doing research to lay the groundwork for an October trip with a Seattle delegation. The group will spend three days in their sister city and then travel up the Norwegian coast on the Hurtigruten cruise line. For information about the trip or the Year of Bergen, email seattlebergensistercities@gmail.com or join the SBSCA’s 656 followers at www.facebook.com/seattlebergensistercities.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that life’s most urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” Dr. King understood that to serve, all anyone needs is, “a heart full of grace” and “a soul full of love.” The Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association has taken heed of these words during their 2017 jubilee celebration, as they work to strengthen their friendship with their sister city and give back to their community at home. The organization is open to everyone: all that is needed is an interest in Norwegian-American exchange and the core values of citizen diplomacy at the heart of Sister Cities International’s mission.

This article originally appeared in the March 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American.

Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.