A local man is also an international man. John Dabeet serves as the President of Muscatine Sister Cities and as a board member for Sister Cities International. Dabeet has been involved with Muscatine Sister Cities since he moved here 23 years ago. He was elected to the national board two years ago.
Sister Cities International (SCI) was started in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was originally a part of the National League of Cities, becoming its own separate nonprofit in 1967. It focuses on three areas. The first is a people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative, on which President Eisenhower founded the organization. This helps people meet other people from different countries and work together to build “bridges of peace.” The second area is education, as SCI works to train teachers and foster student exchange programs, among other activities such as showing student artwork around the world. The final area is economic development, which, just as it sounds, helps both sides of the relationship in an economic fashion.
Dabeet was elected to the SCI Board of Directors in an election that took place in 575 cities throughout the nation. He was chosen from eight potential candidates and is the second Iowan to serve on the board. While he serves on the national level, he continues to serve as president for the Muscatine chapter.
“I try to do my best to lift up Iowa and Muscatine to the national level,” Dabeet said.
Dabeet has already established a sister city for Muscatine. One of the eight sister cities of Muscatine is Ramallah, Palestine. This was the city Dabeet lived in before he moved to the United States 30 years ago. Dabeet is currently working with four cities across the nation to match them with cities around the world. These cities are Alameda, CA, Albuquerque, NM, West Liberty, IA, and North Liberty, IA. While the first two have sister city programs in place, West Liberty and North Liberty do not. Dabeet is meeting with North Liberty’s mayor and city council on May 25 to discuss the program. This has stemmed from the citizens of these two Iowa towns reaching out to Dabeet to help start the program.
Dabeet has met with officials of many different countries, including prime ministers, foreign ministers, and ambassadors in his time with SCI. While it keeps him busy, Dabeet enjoys his work.
“It’s a big job and a well-demanding job. I’m enjoying every second of it because it [helps] me to meet people who are seeking help so you can take them to the next level of their relationship with other communities,” Dabeet stated.
Muscatine has the most sister cities of any city in the state of Iowa, with a total of eight. However, it is not the number of sister cities, but rather the interaction between them that matters. Dabeet stated that the first step to starting a new sister city is to have at least three people who are committed to maintaining a close relationship with that city.
“I would like to see, obviously, more and more people in Muscatine joining Sister Cities as a local organization, and learning more about the mission of the organization in building peace around the globe, in building more understanding between people,” Dabeet said.
While there’s always more to be done, SCI and Muscatine Sister Cities have been able to foster understanding and peace, and Dabeet is thankful for that and holds SCI and Muscatine Sister Cities close.
“I hold this organization dear in my heart, because this is an organization that teaches us how to live together. This is an organization that teaches us how to be nice to each other and how to understand each other and how to treat each other as equal and as human beings,” Dabeet said.