You have heard me talk about how a foreign consul in our midst can be a great start-off point for the establishment of a new Sister City in the country he represents. But sometimes the reverse happens: a Sister City relationship becomes the first seed for a new consulate in the community.
Before I explain what I mean, let’s take a look at the main purpose of this international program that so aptly evokes an image of familial ties (sister-to-sister, so to say):
I begin by quoting from the website http://www.sister-cities.org/what-sister-city. “A sister city, county, or state relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries…. , with community involvement ranging from half a dozen to hundreds of volunteers.”
Since it was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956, the Sister City program has enjoyed an enviable reputation for being a reputable and distinguished tool for international partnerships on a micro-level basis that often involves local consuls. Still, I believe many communities don’t understand the value of a consular presence when it comes to the successes of a Sister City program.
I remember years ago when, as a consul myself, I made the initial contact between a municipality in South Florida and a small Finnish town. So, you see, I know from personal experience that the beginnings of a new exchange can start with a local consul.
But let’s get back to the original question, when we pondered the reverse: can an already-existing Sister City group be the impetus for the establishment of a new foreign consulate?
We won’t need to look any further than Fresno, California. This is where, for many years, a city official worked on getting an Armenian consulate in the community. His motivation? He had already been part of the group that established a Sister City with a town in Armenia. Obviously, he saw the value of an Armenian consulate in Fresno and acted on that realization.
See the void and fill it, as they say. And the foreign consuls among us fill many voids when they go about their consular functions, one of which is to promote cultural exchange through groups like Sister City programs.
As I say in my book, when we understand the role of a foreign consul in our communities we can then become empowered to be citizen diplomats for the benefit of everyone.