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Building partnerships and promoting Seattle’s interests Nick Harper, Acting Director
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About Seattle Sister Cities
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Office of Intergovernmental Relations
600 Fourth Avenue, 5th Floor
P.O. Box 94746
Seattle, WA   98124-4746
(206) 684-0213

Greetings from Seattle’s Sister Cities Association (SSCA) and the Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR)!

Why do Sister City relationships matter? The Seattle Sister Cities program opens doors to establishing meaningful and lasting global friendships, partnerships, and connections. As Nelson Mandela stated during his address to the UN General Assembly, “the reality can no longer be ignored that we live in an interdependent world which is bound together to a common destiny.” People-to-people relationships not only enhance our lives, but represent our best hope for peace and prosperity in the future. Sister Cities programs raise awareness of global issues, promote greater participation in international dialogue and exchange and, by doing so, build and strengthen bridges of mutual understanding and respect.

The quarterly newsletter will help facilitate the Sister City mission by connecting, informing, and engaging existing members and those who are yet to join. Stay tuned!

Note: This issue of the newsletter features Seattle’s Sister City of Reykjavik, Iceland, and a recent successful mission led to the Icelandic capital by City of Seattle’s Councilmembers and other elected officials.

  On the set of Lazy Town

Top: Mayor of Everett Ray Stephanson
Front (left to right): City of Seattle Councilmembers Jan Drago and Tom Rasmussen, and Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers on the set of “Lazy Town” an Icelandic children’s television program that airs in the U.S. on Nickelodeon

"Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower


A Brief History of Sister Cities Relationship

In 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower created the people-to-people exchange program between Americans and citizens of other countries. President Eisenhower’s intention was to involve people and organized groups at all levels of society in personal citizen diplomacy with the hope that people-to-people relationships, fostered through sister city affiliations, would lessen the chance of future world conflicts.
Seattle is proud to have been one of the innovators in promoting and developing sister city relationships. In 1957 Seattle and Kobe, Japan, formed one of the first sister city relationships. Seattle and Tashkent, Uzbekistan (former USSR) also embarked on uncharted waters when they established the first U.S.-Soviet sister city affiliation in 1973.

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What Sister Cities Do?

Through sister city programs, grassroots citizen groups and local governments work together to promote international understanding and goodwill.

The program:

  • Creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities
  • Facilitates global cooperation at the municipal level
  • Promotes cultural understanding
  • Stimulates economic development

Out of the exchange of ideas and shared experiences, true friendships have developed. Each experience results in increased understanding - living proof that language is no barrier to communication.

Trade and tourism, benefiting all cities and countries, have become increasingly important segments of the sister city links. Exchanges and activities are conducted in the following categories:

Education | Language | Art | Song and Dance | Cuisine | Social Issues | Youth | Trade | Sports | Health | Medicine | Science | Technology | Wildlife | Plants | Environment | Government |

2008 Seattle Sister Cities Reception

Thank you ALL for your invaluable contributions to this year's successful 2008 Seattle Sister Cities Awards Reception!

The success of the event was reflected in the vibrant atmosphere, colorful performances, number of people attending and the amount of funds raised, all thanks to the dedication and hard work from your sister city association volunteers, generous support of sponsors, and the Greater Seattle community.

Entertainment organized by the four focus sister cities featured lively music and graceful dancers of the Filipiniana Dance Company (Cebu), martial arts performance from Viet Nam (Haiphong), a selection from an Italian opera (Perugia) and traditional Uzbek dancing and singing (Tashkent)

The Reception raised around $12,000 net. Largest bid on an Auction item was $1,800 for roundtrip tickets to Beijing. There were more than 20 volunteers helping during the event. The attendance count was about 300 people.

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Brenda Handley and Gobo Enterprises

Gobo Enterprises Logo

Seattle Sister Cities Association would like to thank 2008 Reception Co-Chair, Brenda Handley, President, Gobo Enterprises for her generous support and role in making this annual celebration so successful!

Ms. Handley founded Gobo Enterprises to bring her creativity, energy and business savvy to support clients who seek new business opportunities and relationships, both in the U.S. and abroad. Gobo Enterprises provides strategic business planning, sales and marketing consulting, Pacific Rim trade expertise, and leadership and team coaching. Gobo is a proven leader in identifying opportunities and connecting focused, passionate people with the resources necessary to take their organizations to the next level.


Prior to Gobo, Ms. Handley was CEO of Northwest Suites (now Aboda) which was recognized as the largest privately owned temporary housing company in the world. A believer in giving back to the community, Ms. Handley serves on the boards of vital Seattle-area cultural organizations and major medical institutions. Her community involvement includes chairing the development committee of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, serving as a director of the Japan America Society of the State of Washington, and co-chairing (with Mayor Greg Nickels and City Council President Richard Conlin) the Annual Sister Cities Awards Ceremony in 2008. Brenda was a finalist for a Nellie Cashman Award for Women Business Owners in 2002. Her tireless work on behalf of her community and culture has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including Washington CEO Magazine’s 2005 Best Companies to Work For. Ms. Handley’s motto is bringing passion to every endeavor.

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One of the highlights of the sister cities reception each year is the presentation of awards for "Best Overall Program" and "Best Single Project."  All the entrants were terrific and, according to the judges, the selection was very difficult. The award includes a $500 check for each winner.


  • This year the "Best Overall Program" award went to the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association for its remarkably successful 50th Anniversary celebration.  The Seattle program included the "Japan Envisions the West" exhibit at SAM, tree-planting ceremonies, a giant kimono, a Kobe Choir Concert at City Hall and the Kobe Jazz Queen performance at Jazz Alley, not to mention an outstanding week-long celebration in Kobe earlier in the year.
  • The "Best Single Project" award this year went to the Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association for its Seattle Perugia Calendar. The calendar, which pairs cityscape photos of Seattle and Perugia for each month of the year, was a popular product that we hope will become an annual project for Seattle-Perugia association.
This year's two honorable mention certificates were awarded to:
  • The Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association for their Overall Program that included an annual Polish Film Festival, activities to support the Polish Ambassador's visit to Seattle and a high school exchange program
  • The Seattle Nantes Sister CityAssociation for their Honorable Mention Best Project, a "Seattle-Nantes Dollars for Scholars" fundraising project that helps local students learn French. The sister city association has established a $10,000 endowment which will fund a $1,000 scholarship biannually, in addition to scholarships funded by current donations.
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2007 Student visitors from Sister City Pecs, Andrea Kamu and David Szécsei

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Szechenyi Square, Pecs, Hungary

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Seattle’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade - March, 2008. Parade Grand Marshal and EU Ambassador John Bruton with Seattle Galway Association Secretary John Keane, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and Irish Government Minister John McGuinness, TD.

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Seattle Sister City delegation with the President of Iceland

Sister City Visit to Reykjavik

Councilmembers Jan Drago and Tom Rasmussen led a mission to Reykjavik that was the first in the sister city's 22-year history to include elected officials.  The 18 member delegation also included Ray Stephanson (mayor of Everett, whose parents are from Iceland), Dave Somers (Snohomish County Council) and Jon Marvin Jonsson (consul for Iceland in Seattle), along with other members of the Seattle sister city association. 

Highlights of the mission included a welcome reception featuring Washington state wines (provided at reduced cost by Chateau Ste Michelle and shipped at no cost by Cargolux), a briefing by the Deputy Head of Mission of the US Embassy (who co-sponsored the welcoming reception), a one-hour meeting with the President of Iceland (who spent 6 months in Seattle in 1997 during his wife's ultimately unsuccessful fight against leukemia) and a dinner with the Mayor of Reykjavik and the US Ambassador to Iceland.

Seattle Councilmbembers with the Mayor of Reykjavik

Seattle Councilmbembers with the Mayor of Reykjavik


The sister city association worked hard to include meetings that could lead to greater cooperation between Seattle and Reykjavik, particularly in the areas of innovation and research.  

Seattle-Reykjavik Sister City Association representatives with the President of Iceland
Seattle-Reykjavik Sister City Association representatives with the President of Iceland

The itinerary included visits to/meetings with the following Reykjavik organizations:  Hellisheidi Geo-thermal power plant;  Marel Food Systems (producer of high-tech equipment for cutting, weighing and packaging fish and meats, which has an office in Edmonds); the Iceland Chamber of Commerce and Trade Council of Iceland; deCODE Genetics (a global leader in gene discovery that has a research facility on Bainbridge Island); Lazy Town Studios (producers of a children's TV program about exercise and healthy eating habits that has been shown on Nickelodeon and other TV programs around the world); and Ossur, a world leader in prosthetics, braces and supports.

In each meeting discussions touched upon opportunities to expand ties with relevant organizations and companies in the Seattle area. Reykjavik Mayor Olafur Magnusson is planning to lead a delegation to Seattle in the near future.


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Reykjavik: Eco-Friendly Metropolis

Iceland was first populated in the 9th century by settlers mainly from Norway, a number of whom took Celtic slaves and wives from Ireland and Scotland. In 850 the Viking sailor Naddoðr got lost on his way from Norway and drifted to the east coast of Iceland. He named the discovered land the Snaeland (Snowland). The first Scandinavian who deliberately sailed to this land was Hrafna-Floki. He is the one who gave the island its current name.

Map of Iceland

Map of Iceland

The language that was spoken during the Viking Age was the North-Germanic Old Norse. The 13th and 14th centuries brought much change to Icelandic pronunciation and written Icelandic. The roots of Icelandic literature can be traced back to the ancient Viking heritage of the early 12th century featuring Nordic mythology and ancient heroic legends. One of the most notable Icelandic writers of present time is Halldór Laxness (1902-1998) who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature “for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.”

Sinking House - one of the exhibits at the Reykjavik’s Art Festival

"Sinking House" – one of the exhibits at the Reykjavik’s Art Festival, May 2008

Iceland may look like a tiny spot on the map, but it has an incredibly diverse landscape, myriad of glaciers and mountains, highlands, river valleys, geysers, volcanoes, and lava fields. It is renowned for its natural beauty. Reykjavik is well known for its dedication to healthy living. Fossil fuels are used only for transportation, while hydropower is the main source of electricity, allowing Icelanders to enjoy clean, pollution free environment. One of the greatest ways to experience Reykjavik is to visit one of the many thermal pools and spas that will rejuvenate your body and soul. The city also offers many outdoor activities. It is investing in tourism and culture which generates new projects and facilities.

The delegation’s rejuvenating experience at Reykjavik’s Blue Lagoon

The delegation’s rejuvenating experience at Reykjavik’s Blue Lagoon

Did You Know?

  • The Global Peace Index for 2008, released in May, ranks Iceland as the world’s most peaceful nation.
  • The first European to set foot on the continent of North America was Leifur Heppni whose exploration dated to the year 1000.
  • The Icelandic horse’s color palette is unique; it is so wide that any color found in horses around the world can also be found in the Icelandic horse.
  • Iceland (Reykjavik) gets more daylight than most places in the world and about 2 hours more than Miami, Florida. The summer average is 14.9 hours of daylight each day!
  • More than 90% of Icelandic homes are heated by geothermal power (energy from volcanoes and lava fields)
  • Reykjavik has the highest literacy rate in the world (so Icelanders claim) with more books published per capita than any other country.

"Iceland is a living geologocal masterpiece, a peerless volcanic land of dramatic skies, bubbling earth, thundering waterfalls and thermal lagoons. If you want an insight into how the planet was sculpted by the forces of Mother Nature, exploring the Golden Circle will provide many answers."- Clare Jones (professional travel writer and photographer, co-author of the "Unforgettable Things To Do Before You Die."

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  Calendar of Events

June 2008

Saturday, June 28
Africa Matters – educational and informational event about economic dev-t and social projects in Africa – Seattle-Limbe and Seattle-Mombasa SCAs (for more information contact Millie Russell at

Monday, June 30
Seattle-Pecs Sister City Association Annual Meeting and Dinner Barbeque  (for more information contact Debra Market for details at

July 2008

Friday, July 4 (in Paris)
Seattle-Nantes SCA will be highlighted at the annual July 4 reception hosted by the US Ambassador in Paris. The delegation will also exhibit items from Seattle and Washington State at the event.

Friday, July 11 – Saturday, July 13 (in Perugia)
Dedication of Bronze Totem "Sister Orca," created by Seattle Native American Artist Marvin Oliver, to Perugia – Seattle-Perugia SCA

Thursday, July 12 & Friday, July 13
Seattle Bastille Day and Bal des Pompiers – Seattle-Nantes SCA

Wednesday, July 16
The 48th Annual Japan-America Society Charity Golf Tournament – Seattle-Kobe SCA

Sunday, July 20
Irish Community Picnic – Seattle-Galway SCA

Thursday, July 24
Japan-America Society 85th Anniversary Celebration – Seattle-Kobe SCA

August 2008

Sunday, August 10 -  Monday, August 25
Exchange Students from Pecs are in Seattle to learn about the city and Washington State

Thursday, August 21
Irish Heritage Night at the Mariners - Seattle-Galway SCA

November 2008

Saturday, November 1
Washington State Sister City Conference

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Join Seattle Sister Cities Association! Become a Citizen Diplomat and Contribute to a Better World!

Membership with Seattle Sister Cities Association is the best way to establish meaningful and lasting global connections. Become a part of any Sister City Association and open doors to the world, enhancing quality of life through educational exchanges, business development opportunities, and information sharing on a diversity of issues.

Ways to Get Involved:

  • Become a member of a Seattle Sister Cities Association
  • Volunteer at events
  • Become a candidate for Seattle Sister Cities Council
  • Provide ideas and assistance for upcoming projects
  • Become a member of a delegation visiting a Sister City abroad
  • Help with fundraising and business development
  • Assist with mailings, newsletters, communications, and outreach strategy
  • Help with Translation/interpretation
  • Become a home hospitality host
  • Help plan and organize exchanges
  • Facilitate membership recruitment and public relations
  • Aid with coordination of receptions

Benefits of joining the Seattle Sister Cities Association:

  • Learn about different culture(s), people, traditions, etc.
  • Work with a team of Seattle’s prominent community/business leaders
  • Benefit from networking opportunities with international visitors
  • Develop new skills and enrich experiences
  • Experience leadership opportunities
  • Travel abroad
  • Practice language skills
  • Build international friendships
  • Receive Sister Cities’ publications and announcements
  • Contribute to international cooperation and understanding

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