In the first half of the 20th century, armed conflicts claimed the lives of an unfathomable number of civilians. Stunned by the horrors of war in Europe, President Dwight Eisenhower sought out a different way to prevent future cycles of war. He proposed a program that connects citizens of nations abroad with U.S. cities: Sister Cities International.
The program began in 1956, and the people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative took off across the country. A few years later, in 1960, St. Louis’ first partnership abroad flourished in Stuttgart, Germany, through the World Trade Center St. Louis' international mission. Now St. Louis has 16 sisters abroad, from Argentina and Senegal to Indonesia.
On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske learned more about what it takes to become a sister city, the St. Louis Sister Cities program and how St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities will commemorate their 60th anniversary on Feb. 15.
Joining the discussion were Susanne Evens, president of St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities Committee, and Tim Nowak, executive director of World Trade Center St. Louis.
Nowak explained that a sister city agreement means a formal connection between the cities’ leaders has taken place.
“A sister agreement is between the two mayors of each city,” Nowak said. “But what’s really important is the work that Susanne and her team [does], because while these relationships are at a very formal level … it really is incumbent on the citizens and volunteers and people with great interest in the long-term execution of this relationship that makes the difference.”
For Evens, the connection with Stuttgart runs deep — she’s originally from Stuttgart herself.
“I’ve lived [in St. Louis] for quite some time now, but this relationship is very dear to my heart,” she said. Her organization, along with the rest of the sister cities, strictly run on a volunteer basis. She noted that each sister city has some sort of connection with St. Louis, whether it’s through agriculture, industrial or cultural.
“Art and culture are huge between Stuttgart and St. Louis. For example, the St. Louis Art Museum has the largest German art exhibit right now, huge outside of Germany. With the cultural, we have a symphony, and Stuttgart has a symphony.
“We also work on economic development, too; we’re trying to bring companies [to St. Louis]. We just had a delegation here in September, and we brought two startup companies here from Stuttgart, and they’re actually looking at St. Louis to start a company here.”
Nowak also mentioned a recent delegation St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson attended in sister city Nanjing, China, back in October for their 40th anniversary. That trip included an installation of an Adam Wainwright statue in one of the new parks in Nanjing.
Listen to hear more about the start of the of St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities and the overall impact of St. Louis’ international sister cities:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.