March 19, 1986

The President met today with the leadership of Sister Cities International to mark their 30th anniversary and receive their award for his contribution to international understanding. The President is the Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International.

Over the years many ideas have been tried in the field of private international exchanges. For 30 years the Sister Cities programs have been among the most successful and effective. Sister Cities programs began after 1945 but became a full-scale national effort in 1956 when President Eisenhower initiated the People-to-People Program at the White House. Since then, Sister City relationships have been established between more than 745 U.S. cities, representing more than 90 million Americans and over 1,100 communities in 86 nations.

Sister Cities programs have worked to eliminate barriers of culture and language and have enhanced the opportunities for mutual understanding. Because of Sister Cities programs, thousands of young people have the opportunity each year to expand their horizons, American know-how is made available to help people in dozens of developing countries, and thousands of people around the world can see the American volunteer spirit at work.

Sister Cities International is also an important part of our effort to expand and broaden contacts and communications between the people of the United States and the Soviet Union. The President and General Secretary Gorbachev agreed in Geneva on the utility of broadening exchanges and contacts and finding new ways to increase cooperation. People-to-people programs can help build better understanding and genuine constituencies for peace.

The Sister Cities programs are an outstanding example of citizen and private sector participation at their best in the field of international exchange, understanding, and cooperation. We wish them well on their anniversary.