A Message from Sharon Tennison of the Center for Citizen Initiatives and member of the ACEWA Board of Directors:
Russians Meet Mainstream Americans! (RMMA-pronounced Rama) will launch on March 20, 2018 when a delegation of four enterprising Russians arrive at the Atlanta Airport! To answer the first question usually asked …No, they have nothing to do with the Russian government, except of course that they vote.
Lena Novomeiskaya from Yekaterinburg, Natasha Ivanova from Krasnodar in the south, Tatyana Bukharina from Yalta in Crimea and Elena Ivanova from St. Petersburg will travel to the U.S. as “citizen diplomats.” They come at the invitation of the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) to attend discussion groups (up to three a day) where they will answer questions, share ideas and seek solutions with counterpart American citizens. They will visit five U.S. areas: Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth, several cities in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington D.C. They will live in American homes, help cook meals, be transported in family cars and have hundreds of meetings in public forums, civic clubs, homes of volunteers, state official offices and offices of Congress members.
This new program is “Bottom-Up Diplomacy” at its best! We citizens will interact with each other in comity (and levity at times) regarding stereotypes and misinterpretations of each other, in addition to discussing different points of view on major current obstacles such as Ukraine, Syria, Crimea, ISIS, hacks, leaks, Vladimir Putin, and other issues of considerable importance. We will attempt to understand the psychology regarding why leaders of nations resist each other … rather than work toward cooperation. This is a pressing reality at this particular time. Our two nations have enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life on our planet in 30 minutes. We MUST find ways to prevent this possibility––starting with civil and cooperative discourse, then moving toward arms control treaties. This will take a huge amount of citizen education, involvement and pressure from the bottom.
When “Top-Down Diplomacy” is absent, as it is today, it is critical that “bottom-up diplomacy” fill the vacuum and begin grappling with these heavy issues of war or peace. RMMA participants won’t argue or debate, we will simply share different points of view and in the process will educate ourselves, each other––then educate fellow citizens in both countries.
RMMA is a Second Generation Program: Its mother program, Soviets Meet Middle America! (SMMA), was a huge success. In 1988-89, SMMA rolled out a ‘first-ever’ initiative to bring Americans and Soviet counterparts together in 264 U.S. cities and towns. Soviets lived in American homes, ate breakfast around kitchen tables and quickly began to enjoy each other. These rather ordinary Soviets spoke at Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, were introduced to mayors, city councils and local leaders. They were interviewed by newspapers and television stations. They declared themselves friends and not enemies in both countries’ media; thus, making it easier for Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev to abandon the fears and ill will that these two superpowers labored under for decades. The previous program design was successful in quite a tense time; we have hope that it will be again!
Travel Schedule: The Russians will land in Atlanta on March 20, then travel to Dallas-Fort Worth on March 25, go to the San Francisco Bay Area on March 30, then travel to Washington, D.C. on April 7and arrive back in Russia on April 14. In each city, local volunteer organizers have been busy creating their meeting schedules. All meetings will provide opportunities where participants can freely share opinions and solutions. They are scheduled from morning to evening. RMMA will be a grueling but important experience for us all.
RMMA city reports will be posted on CCI’s Facebook page, website and shared on the CCI iContact E-list. If you wish to attend one of the events in the cities mentioned, email email@example.com.
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For more information about the Center for Citizen Initiatives, visit https://ccisf.org/.