We wish to give a warm welcome to the 15 students and two teachers from Marbach am Neckar, Germany, Washington’s partner city, or more commonly known as Sister City. There has been a great relationship between the two cities for more than 20 years.

One of the objectives in creating this relationship was educational for our young people. The idea was to promote visits between the two cities, especially among our young people, more specifically high school students. That has happened.

The Sister City partnership agreements were signed in Marbach in 1990 and in Washington in 1991. The idea for the program originated in a meeting of the steering committee for the 150th anniversary of Washington’s incorporation. The year for that celebration was 1989. It was in 1989 or 1988 that the idea was hatched for a Sister City program. It was suggested we have an agreement with a town from where early settlers of Washington originated. Problem was another community in this area beat us to that city. So we contacted the International Sister Cities organization and they suggested making a contact with Marbach.

Considerable groundwork had to be laid in both cities prior to even proposing an agreement. Delegations from both countries made visits back and forth and both cities found the other to be a good fit. Strong relationships developed rather quickly.

It’s interesting to note that before agreements had been signed, the student exchanges began, according to Walt Hatcher, chairman of the Washington Sister City Committee. Three Washington students went to Marbach in 1989. In the same year, three Marbach students visited Washington. There have been student exchanges ever since. It’s quite an educational experience for all the students. Strong friendships have resulted.

About 15 interns from Marbach have trained in Washington in various fields as part of their educational programs. There haven’t been interns lately since the educational programs in Europe have undergone change apparently.

One of the strongest relationships that developed is between members of both fire departments. Like Washington, Marbach has a volunteer fire department. When firemen visit, they go on calls with the host department. The firemen “do their own things.” In other words, they plan their own programs and visits. One Marbach fireman has visited here more than 25 times. In some years, he visited twice.

Both high schools here teach German. The high school in Marbach teaches English. Actually, in Germany English is taught beginning in the elementary grades.

As in the past, the German visitors and their host families have a busy schedule, visiting schools and other attractions in the area, including tourist sites in St. Louis. Also, as in the past, new friendships will be made. The two cultures among the students will bond rather easily and it again will become evident that there really isn’t much difference between Americans and Germans. Their goals in life are similar.

We have never forgotten what one Marbach official said during an early visit by Washingtonians, “If we would have had these exchanges prior to the 1940s, perhaps we wouldn’t have had World War II.”