Annual Luncheon Celebrates Sarasota Sister Cities ImpactAs I sat at my table during the Sister Cities Association of Sarasota “Celebrate 60 Luncheon”, I was struck by the various languages I heard. I was sitting with the Switzerland contingent, all speaking Swiss-German. At the table to the left of me, I could hear Italian and at the table to the right of me, the conversation was in French. Clearly, this group’s focus on relationship building through interaction is working.At the table in front of me sat seven Past-Presidents, representing two thirds of the Sarasota organization’s history. Wells Purmont (1976-1986), Hope Burns (1994-2001), Linda Rosenbluth (2001-2005), William Wallace (2005-2008), Carla Rayman (2008-2011), John Halbert (2011-2013), and Beth Ruyle-Hullinger (2013-2016) were congratulated for their service by Dr. Raymond Young, V.P. of Education and acknowledged their service. Under their leadership, cities in Russia, France, Israel, Canada, Scotland, Italy, China, Mexico, and Switzerland were all welcomed into the Sarasota family.Dr. Young then provided a history of SCAS events that have made an impact on our Community including the creation of a Tree Walk on City Island that commemorates all of Sarasota’s Sister Cities, the delivery of actual architecture from theaters in Italy and Scotland to Sarasota, A Sister City “Write-a-Play” youth competition, as well as numerous other business and municipal visits to and from Sarasota.Throughout its history, through its mission and actions SCAS has reinforced its mission to develop respect, understanding and cooperation through citizen diplomacy. Working outside the government, in what President Dwight D Eisenhower called “People-to-people diplomacy” in 1957 when he established the Sister City Program which to date encompasses over 130 countries worldwide.As the luncheon adjourned and members were mingling, the various languages gave way to the one we all had in common with words of praise, appreciation, and friendship for those who all believe in peace and understanding.