Wednesday, March 6, 2013

President Halbert's Remarks at the Gala

50th Anniversary Commemoration

Sarasota, on Florida's Cultural Coast is home to the greatest concentration of natural beauty, art museums and galleries; an abundance of theaters; performing halls featuring orchestra, opera, choruses; film production, and educational centers that make this remarkable city an important venue of creativity. The wealth of cultural resources and creativity in Sarasota match well with the diversity of our sister cities relationships that began in 1963 in response to President Dwight Eisenhower’s vision to enhance worldwide understanding one handshake at a time. Sarasota’s citizen diplomats are involved daily in sister city outreach building bridges toward world peace.

As we are honoring and educator – citizen diplomat this evening and an innovative citizen diplomacy initiative by an entire school, I will begin with informing of your homework following this 50th anniversary commemoration.  You are charged with checking out the Sarasota Sister Cities Pinterest site.  As background for those who don’t have a digital native – Pinterest is an electronic refrigerator door where your cherished photos can be displayed.  
Our Pinterest site has more than 1,000 timely and historical photos in 29 albums which give life to our 50th anniversary.  The next photos to be in our Pinterest site will be of you and this event.  You probably won’t remember the address – but you can goggle it easily.  For those who understand URLs – just go to: 

To get where we are today, go back 50 years to where Sarasota jumped on the Sister City bandwagon early on. Local community leaders, headed by Dallas Dort founded the Sarasota Sister City Association in 1963, strongly supported by Mayor’s Marshall Marable, John Binns, and the Sarasota City Commission.  The twinning had a robust beginning. Unfortunately, a military coup adversely affected the relationship for many years.

Wells Purmort accepted the presidency in 1976 spurring activities that incorporated baseball tournaments involving Sarasota, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and Santo Domingo. Other exchanges during these period involved Scout organizations, Rotary, Kiwanis, aid to Santo Domingo after a devastating hurricane, and introductions to business people. Santo Domingo population explosion eventually resulted in a charge to emeritus status in 2002, and today Santa Domingo enjoys a fruitful Sister City relationship with Miami and New York City.  

In 1990 Sarasota twinned with Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to encourage more visitors to Sarasota and to build good will with our neighbors to the North.  Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow was instrumental in initiating the twinning. Mayor Mollie Cardamone and Sarasota Sister Cities President Hope Byrnes were the drivers for Sarasota

Hamilton boasts a diversity that combines education, culture and sightseeing attractions with business and commerce, especially steel manufacturing.  Over the years we have exchanged American Legion baseball teams, TV news anchors, student video camps, arts, cultural, plus historical, horticulture and facilitated marine interests through Spanish Point, Selby Gardens and Mote Marine. Hamilton is home to world class McMaster University, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Nautical Institute and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

In 1994 Sarasota twinned with Perpignan, France.  The official signing in Sarasota was by Sarasota Mayor Nora Patterson and the Vice Mayor of Perpignan, Dominique Schemia.  On September 7, 1995 an official signing was held in Perpignan Mayor Jean-Paul Alduly, and Sarasota Mayor David Merrill. The tie was initiated by Alain Taulere who had a home in Perpignan and Sarasota and owned the Cafe of the Arts in Sarasota.  He was very prominent in organizing the French Film Festival in Sarasota, which evolved into the prestigious Sarasota Film Festival.

Perpignan and Sarasota High schools are the catalyst for our major 50th anniversary yet to come in Nov 13-15, 2013.  We will host a 3-day Sustainability Through Renewable Energy  & Aquaculture conference at the University of South Florida which will bring together participants from the University of Perpignan; Carnegie College of Dunfermline, Scotland; the Autonomous University of the Yucatan, Mexico; the Interdisciplinary Center of Tel Mond, Israel; the University of Padua, Italy; Jimei University, Xiamen, China; most regional universities, the US Department of Agriculture, Mote Marine and the National Oceanographic & Atmosphere Administration -  along with local and sister city college and high school students

In l994 Sarasota twinned with Vladimir, Russia.  The initiative was championed by Michael Pender, Sr., who was striving to create a Rotary Club and Carl Weinrich who was working to establish a YMCA in Vladimir. SSCA President Hope Byrnes was very excited as well and the sisterly adoption steps began.  This expansion was the beginning of our growing sister relationships.  A shout out to table 8 – a gathering of those to who we owe so much for the active program we have today. On October 29, 1994, City of Sarasota Mayor Nora Patterson led a delegation to Vladimir for the first official signing of the partnership agreement 1995 due to continuing pressure from Byrnes and Mayors Gene Pillot and Nora Patterson.

Students from Dunfermline come to Sarasota nearly every year as winners of the Florida Studio Young Playwrights competition, as result of an initiative involving Mayor Lou Ann Palmer for Kate Alexander and Adam Ratner to go to Vladimir to teach teachers who to have students write plays.  .

In 1999 Tel Mond, Israel became a new Sarasota sister city. Many interested people in Sarasota jumped on board, including philanthropist Betty Schoenbaum, who donated a library to Tel Mond. The agreement was signed by Mayor Shlomo Ratzabi and Sarasota Mayor Molly Cardamone. The official signing in Tel Mond was by Sarasota Mayor Gene Pilot and Mayor Ratzabi.
A 10th anniversary ceremony was conducted in Tel Mond with a delegation visit led by Mayor Lou Ann Palmer and Commissioner Ken Shelin.  Sarasota has had a long history of intense interaction with Tel Mond through many prominent Sarasota citizens and the Sarasota Manatee Jewish Federation who have helped in the development of this vibrant city.  Just last December our community was blessed with the visit of the Tel Mond dancers, 27 young ladies who performed in high schools and public events during their 5-days in Sarasota.

Sarasota was first chartered in 1903 by a group of Scottish businessmen and in 2002, Dunfermline; the ancient capital of Scotland became Sarasota’s sixth Sister City during ceremonies at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center led by Mayor Lou Ann Palmer and Sister Cities President Linda Rosenbluth.   The twinning was based on Sarasota being founded by Scots and the historical significance of John Gillespie, a Scot, being the first mayor of Sarasota and builder of the first golf course in Sarasota. Ties are deep as The Asolo Theater here contains the stage and interior décor from the turn-of-the-century Dunfermline Scotland Opera House. Students from Dunfermline come to Sarasota nearly every year as winners of the Florida Studio Young Playwrights competition.

In 2007 Treviso Province, Italy, located between Venice and the Adriatic and the foothills of the Italian Alps, became twinned with Sarasota. It was on the stage of the Historic Asolo Theater were the partnership was signed between Mayor Fredd Atkins and the President of Treviso Province Leonardo Muraro on February 29, 2007.

The province of Treviso is one of Europe’s most dynamic growth regions. In addition to its art and history treasures, the province of Treviso is considered to be the most dynamic in Italy... One of the important ties between the 95-community province and Sarasota is the Historic Asolo Theater which was the Opera House of Queen Cornaro in the provincial town of Asolo, Italy.

In 2007 Xiamen, China became twinned with Sarasota.  An enthusiastic Sarasota delegation led by Mayor Lou Ann Palmer participated in signing ceremonies in Xiamen during June 5-11, 2007.
Xiamen was ranked as China's second "most suitable city for living" in 2006, as well as China's "most romantic leisure city" in 2011.   Xiamen is a convention city with an annual international trade fair, a sports center for golf, water-sports & martial arts and holds the Xiamen International Marathon each March; a wealth of cultural & education resources including degree programs in Hospitality Management, visual art, artists & public art displays, symphony orchestras, opera companies, jazz groups; and a center for health care and sports medicine,
Our relationship with Xiamen is very active and we have had several exchanges visits during the past six years.

On December 19, 2010, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico was twinned with Sarasota. Mayors Angélica Araujo Lara of Mérida and Kelly Kirschner of Sarasota signed the official twinning documents in the Courtyard of the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art.  

Our cities have many similarities including being located near the Gulf of Mexico, having tropical climates, being a regional center for commerce and higher education and sharing a love for culture and the arts. This colonial city on the Yucatán Peninsula is the ideal spot from which to explore important Maya archaeological sites like Chechen Itza.

So that wraps up a quick visit to our sister cities.  No pop quiz will follow, but don’t forget you do have homework.  Visit to see your photos from tonight and to delve into the history and adventure of Sarasota Sister Cities Association.