Tempe Sister Cities President Dick Neuheisel has been leading the organization since it started nearly 40 years ago.
I can’t imagine a better way to have spent the past 40 years than serving as president of the Tempe Sister City organization. I have traveled to each of Tempe’s sister cities many times and I always return with a new sense of commitment and promise…and a belief that there really can be peace in the world if only people can learn to know and appreciate each other.
I am proud to have worked closely with Mayor Dragoljub Stavrev of Skopje when we launched the monumental partnership of Tempe, an American city, joining Skopje, Yugoslavia, (now Republic of Macedonia) a communist city in Eastern Europe. This had never been done before. There were national headlines, shock, disbelief, and fortunately some supporters.
Looking back, it was this partnership that opened Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to the Sister City idea, and today there are scores of American cities twinned with cities in these areas. This brave experiment has turned out well, and Tempe and Skopje have enjoyed various exchange programs over the years.
As we moved forward, we twinned with seven more cities. I still remember all the people we met as we formed these partnerships and began formal exchanges. I am proud that our student exchange programs were and still are the heart and soul of the Tempe Sister City organization.
We created the annual fundraiser Oktoberfest, which attracts some 200,000 people each year and requires the efforts of more than 2,000 volunteers. Proceeds from this event have funded our exchange programs since 1973 when the event was first presented. The first Oktoberfest attracted some 200 people and netted less than $1,000. We’ve come a long way since then, and all because of the wonderful volunteers who make it happen.
I am thankful for all the students who have participated in the various exchange programs that the Tempe Sister City program has fostered. Not only have they been successful, but life-changing. I’m thankful for their families who have “paid it forward” and helped more students participate.
We have also funded educator exchanges, professional exchanges, and music and sports exchanges and hosted literally hundreds and hundreds of international visitors.
I am thankful to the City of Tempe officials who have always embraced and supported our programs. We are also grateful that the City gave us the opportunity to develop Hackett House, Tempe’s historic bakery, where volunteers have created programs that benefit the entire community and increase international awareness.
I am confident the momentum generated within the Tempe Sister City organization will carry us forward to more adventures, more friendships, and more memories.
Thank you, Tempe, for reaching out the hand of friendship around the world.
President, Tempe Sister Cities