Saturday, March 1, 2014

Citizen Diplomacy

Long ago, I came across a mission statement, and I have never forgotten it.
It has stuck in my mind and I have shared it with many. Once in a while you come across a powerful statement and you feel like you own it. What do you think it’s about? Here it is:

In a democracy, the ultimate responsibility for a nation’s actions rests with its citizens. The top rung of government – the entity with the ultimate power of governance – is the asserted will of the people. Therefore, in any democracy, it is essential that its citizens be fully and accurately informed.

In the United States, currently the most powerful nation on earth, it is even more essential that its citizens receive complete and undistorted information on topics of importance, so that they may wield their extraordinary power with wisdom and intelligence.
Unfortunately, such information is not always forthcoming.
The mission of If Americans Knew is to inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media.

It is our belief that when Americans know the facts on a subject, they will, in the nal analysis, act in accordance with morality, justice, and the best interests of their nation, and of the world. With insufcient information, or distorted information, they may do the precise opposite.

Several years ago I was fortunate to be introduced to two Jewish attorneys from Gainesville that had a broad history with Sister City International and the twinning process. They had paired 100 U.S. and Russian cities together. I have heard one of them say, “we are not going to take credit for ending the Cold War, but soon after it ended, President Reagan came on national TV and said we need to have more sister city relationships.”
Incidentally, they also have a trilateral city relationship between Gainesville
- Qalqilya, Palestine and - Kfar Saba, Israel. This leads me to Sister Cities
What is Sister Cities International?
Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956
White House conference on citizen diplomacy, where he envisioned an organization that could be a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conicts. Since its inception Sister Cities International has played a key role in renewing and strengthening important global relationships.

I have shared all of this with you, to share a recent visit our city had from a delegate from Ramallah, Palestine. Ramallah is a small city (population, approximately 57,000) in the Palestinian Territories, located within the West Bank region, approximately 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Ramallah is known for its relaxed atmosphere with many cafes along its main streets.

Ramallah is considered the cultural capital of the West Bank, with a highly educated and fashionable population. This young gentleman, Wajdy Hussain, was a wonderful ambassador and won the hearts of all who met him. When asked what he thought about Ocala, he replied with “America is a wonderful place and there are many, many nice people that are going to like you if you share with them a real smile".  

“I went into north central Florida, in a region known as "horse country,"
Ocala, what a beautiful city!  Everything attracted me, from the oak trees and dangling trellises of Spanish moss, to the rolling hills. And I had the opportunity to explore miles of unblemished nature.”

“I visited the beautiful Rainbow Springs, but missed the opportunity to canoe on that day.”

“And last but not least, the people in Ocala. I mean all the people I met in my visit, they are so kind and great people. All what you need there just a smile and you will nd yourself between many people respecting you.”

I believe his expression captured it well. Ocala, a city well-known for its warm-hospitality, philanthropy and natural beauty. May we all embrace citizen diplomacy and make this a better universe.

See you next time on a Moment with Manal.