Twin City Times- Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Mayor's Corner #111
I will quote below from her entire letter as I believe you will find it most fascinating and from which in the end I will relate to my most recent trip to Paris, France.
“Dear Mayor Laurent F. Gilbert, Sr.,
Hello, my name is Emily Fournier. I am thirteen years old, and I attend Lewiston Middle School as an eighth grader. I was recently interviewed as well as accepted for an organization called People to People. This magnificent organization was founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and since then has included many different Presidents as honorary chairmen.
By getting accepted into the program, I have become a Student Ambassador and will be traveling to England, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland for twenty days during the summer 2010. I feel honored that I was accepted because only forty high school and junior high students throughout Maine get to participate in this wonderful experience. During my trip, I will learn about the history, culture, and religion of the citizens of each country. I will meet government officials and practice the customs of the people of the different countries when I stay with a host family. Another thing that I will gain from this trip is friends that will last a lifetime.
The program tuition is $7,000.00 which includes all transportation, accommodations, meals and educational activities. My fundraising activities included the following: recycling bottles and cans, car washes, bake sales, various craft fairs, babysitting. However, I do not think that these fundraisers will raise all the money that I need.
I am writing today to ask you for financial or guidance support to help me reach my goal. I plan to give a speech or share my journal, photographs, and experiences with contributors upon my return. I would love to represent the United States and in particular Lewiston, Maine. Personally, I am looking forward to broadening my perspectives of the world and gaining a better understanding of Western European history. Your generous contribution or advice would enable me to share in this wonderful opportunity. Thank you in advance for your consideration and support.
I found myself very impressed by her letter and what she hopes to achieve in her function as a student ambassador. I’ve recently written in a previous column about my travels to Paris (at no expense to the city), as one of two invitees from the United States to attend the International Association of Francophone Mayors conference with mayors from throughout the world. The theme of the conference was “Cities and the Dialogue of Cultures.”
What I see in the adventure Emily will undertake is a similar one to mine. She will communicate with students her age from various parts of the world and as a result will develop a better understanding of students from other nations with their various histories, customs, religions, art, music, dance, trade, immigration and politics.
She will share with others from around the world the culture of students from the U.S. These young folks will be the leaders of the world in not too many years. Today, as we are a world economy and with our means of jet travel, instant communication with the internet, it is of critical importance that we understand each other and develop a respect for each other as nations of the world. The result will be improved economic stability, and avoidance of war which will achieve the peace we all seek.
We all fear what we don’t know. As peoples, when we understand each other’s history, culture and develop an understanding that we are really very much alike in that we all seek the same things in life such as quality of life, family life, employment, education, religion, the arts, we find that we truly are one humanity. The only differences may only be in the color of our skin and cultural differences.
Certainly, Emily will experience this, I am certain! What a wonderful opportunity for this young person to participate in this venture and return home to share it with her classmates and those of us adults who will also benefit from it.
To assist her in her financial support, my wife and I are making a financial contribution in her effort to raise funds. By virtue of this column I believe it will assist her in raising some of the necessary funding and as time goes on I will provide her guidance by meeting with her.
I would encourage businesses in the community, residents and all who can in some way make an investment in this young lady and in return she will come back and share with us what she has learned.
Emily Fournier, I wish you much success in your venture. You will truly be our ambassador and you will make us proud while you share L-A as well as the U.S. with the world. Readers, please join me in supporting Emily.