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Do you know where the term “citizen diplomacy” originated?

The recent Public Relations Global Network meetings in Sydney gave me a chance to visit a place I had never been before.

A couple days before the conference, we visited Australia’s Blue Mountains.

While walking home from dinner late on a Saturday night in the Katoomba neighborhood, we noticed that an old church on the main street, Blue Mountains Uniting Church, was having a service the next day at 9 a.m. and “guests were welcome.”

So, we decided to attend.  The three in our party bumped the total attendance that Sunday morning to 15 – including the minister and the organist.  It did not include a dog, who sat in his own pew.

Following the service, we joined the congregation for tea.  There, while talking with Albert Ley, 86, a retired golf pro, he shared that the City of Blue Mountains was a Sister City of Flagstaff, Ariz., USA!

Yes – Flagstaff.  My second hometown.  Home of Northern Arizona University. Where I went to college and lived for about six years.  Where my oldest son was born.  Where our agency is a member of the chamber of commerce.

The Blue Mountains crowd was over-the-top nice.  I suspect they are welcoming to everyone, even if they didn’t travel 5,000 miles to get there.  And I don’t think they’re nice just because they are a member of Sister Cities International, which was created in 1956 by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower.

He envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world, allowing people of different cultures to celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.

Since then, Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama have served as the Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International.

And now we know that  PRGN Presidents Robert Deen, Mary Anne Miller, Dale Zabriski, Jack Fearey, Melissa Sturgess, me, Ron O’Connor, Sally Jackson, Dave Neuger, Jay Van Vechten, Perry Goldsmith, John Echeveste, Colburn Aker, Peter Sawell, Anne Buchanan, Frank Cullen, Ze Schiavoni, Patricia Perez, Francine Robbens, Mark Paterson and now David Landis have been leaders in citizen diplomacy for years.

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio


  1. As one of the congregants who was part of this spontaneous church visit in Katoomba, I can vouch for how stunned we were to discover we were in a sister city to your second home in Arizona. Another stunner was meeting another visiting couple, who had lived for several years in Phoenix.

    That Sunday was a great reminder of how flat our world really is — and how open-hearted most people are. Natural curiosity + a willingness to travel = some exceptionally memorable experiences.

    Thanks for being such a great PRGN traveling companion!

  2. Kimberly Ott says:

    Hey Scott,

    Thank you so much for representing your second home (Flagstaff) to the wonderful people of Katoomba!!

    Every person that I have talked with that had the opportunity to visit Katoomba said they fell in love with the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the residents.

    We are lucky to be able to call the City of the Blue Mountains our “Sister City”!!! I’m hoping I can visit someday.


  3. One of the great things about our PRGN membership is that it truly has made us all “citizens of the world.” We’ve shared similar experiences in Wiesbaden, Cape Town, Sao Paulo and other cities that have helped to widen our horizon and give us a new global perspective. Nice work Scott!

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