People Make a City International

September 29, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is Atlanta an international city? What makes a city international?

I have worked in Atlanta for three years and it seems like this question keeps coming up. Is it a first rate international school like AIS or leading research institutions like Emory, Georgia Tech, or the CDC that have thousands of international students and faculty? Or perhaps it’s hosting the Centennial Olympic Games, as the city did in 1996.

Maybe it is Hartsfield-Jackson, the biggest airport in the world, which operates only 20 minutes away from the city and serves hundreds of thousands of flights a year with hundreds of millions of passengers from some 70 countries.

It could be the city’s two red giants, CNN and Coca-Cola, both household names around the world. Even in Africa’s Sahara Desert one can find satellite dishes attached to nomadic tents and cans of Coke in camel saddlebags.

In the relatively short time that I have lived here I have met some of the most well known world leaders.

People like Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, and the Dalai Lama who stood in as a guest professor at Emory University.

Others like the Aga Kan who came here to promote International Baccalaureate programs in public schools and the author Salman Rushdie, call Atlanta home for part of the year.

There is also an internationally renowned music scene in Atlanta. In this city I’ve accidently run into stars like Elton John in the elevator and been in the InterContinental Hotel when Usher stepped into the Lobby and started dancing with my beautiful four year old daughter.

What make a city international are not its celebrities, its universities, its airports, or its companies.

But rather, it’s the attitude of its people. Atlantans are endowed with a desire to connect their city to the rest of the world, a curiosity about other places and ways of life.

Becoming internationalized as Atlantans have is a decision that can be made regardless of a place’s history, size, or, even, financial means.

I know this to be true from my hometown and country.

Isfiya, my town, has this same Atlantan attitude and it has managed to turn my once small village into an international tourist destination. Undoubtedly our breathtaking views of the Mediterranean from the top of Mount Carmel and the fact the Elijah walked our trails helped, but that was not the point.

It was the attitude of the residents that should be credited for the fact that at the beginning of the third millennium our town had three Israeli Ambassadors serving on three different continents.

The story of Atlanta and Isfiya is also the story of my country, Israel, a place only as large as the 28 counties in Atlanta’s metropolitan area.

Yet despite its size, Israel has over 100 embassies and diplomatic missions. It has made itself one of the world’s most globalized nations with free trade agreements with the European Union, North America, and with countries and regions around the world.

Atlanta too is building diplomatic missions and trade offices as the city fast becomes the preferred center for foreign missions seeking to work in the unofficial capital of Southeast.

My colleagues in the Atlanta Consular Corps and I work year round to connect the city and the Southeast to our counties and to build the international community from the bottom up.

We work with the city’s smorgasbord of local grass roots movements, civic associations, investors, and companies. We enjoy watching companies from home create jobs right here in the Atlanta area and seeing local investors help develop the communities we represent.

Atlanta, of course, has another example for someone who came from modest means to become a household name in four corners of the world.

If anyone made this city international, it was that man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Looking at his story, and the story of this city, leads me to say yes.

Atlanta is an international city and that’s thanks to its residents and leaders who work tirelessly to be global citizens and active in the international community.

Article original appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Consitution on September 27, 2009

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