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The Omaha Sister Cities Association in 2015 prepares to ship a ceramic sculpture by Omaha artist Jun Kaneko to Shizuoka, Japan, a gift to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sister-cities relationship. 

The world in the 21st century is remarkably interconnected.

People exchange messages and photos instantly across continents.

Businesses and agricultural producers sell and import goods and services from around the globe. Universities have expanded their international outreach and studies.

Add it all up, and people are more aware than ever of global connections through economic, cultural and environmental linkages.

Omaha has special international connections of its own, through its longstanding sister city program. Omaha’s current six sister cities are Shizuoka, Japan; Braunschweig, Germany; Siauliai, Lithuania; Naas, Ireland; Xalapa, Mexico; and Yantai, China.

Now Omaha is adding another, and it’s an eminently appropriate choice: In the wake of this month’s 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, Omaha has announced that it will have a sister city relationship with a region along the Normandy coast of France, including Omaha Beach.

“History connects us,” Mayor Jean Stothert said in making the announcement, “and the future will provide many opportunities for cultural, educational, business and, most importantly, the personal relationships which are fundamental to all sister cities.”

Five Normandy mayors visited Omaha in March, and a delegation from Omaha visited Normandy the following month. All sister city affiliations are approved by the Omaha City Council and the mayor. The Sister City Agreement will be signed in France in October.

Omaha’s experience shows that the sister city program can open up rewarding opportunities for cultural understanding and exchange. Our city’s connections with Shizuoka, Japan, provide a key example.

In 2015, Omaha and Shizuoka marked their 50th year as sister cities and held a three-day celebration, including an International Friendship Banquet and a joint performance by the Omaha and Shizuoka Symphony Orchestras. The Omaha Sister Cities Association sent Shizuoka a sculpture by Omaha artist Jun Kaneko.

Over the decades, teachers, Scouts and hospitals have participated in exchanges between Omaha and Shizuoka. The University of Nebraska at Omaha has a student exchange program with Shizuoka University. And Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo has exchanged animals with Shizuoka’s Nihondaira Zoo.

Omaha’s upcoming sister connection with the Normandy region will no doubt open up equally worthwhile opportunities. Let’s make the most of the connection.

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