Sunday, December 27, 2009

GlobalPittsburgh, Formerly PCIV, Celebrates 50 Years of Citizen Diplomacy and New Opportunities

Volunter Mary Larson hosted the man who would later become the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Marge Simonds received an ancient bowl from a French visitor she and her husband hosted in the early 1960s, and discovered that it had been intended for President John F. Kennedy.

These and other stories were told during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of GlobalPittsburgh, formerly known as the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors, the organization for which these and hundreds of others Pittsburgh-area residents have welcomed members of foreign delegations into their homes and showed around the region during the last five decades.

More than 150 hosts, volunteers, friends and supporters of GlobalPittsburgh gathered Dec. 21 at LeMont Restaurant on Mt. Washington to celebrate and reminisce about the many memorable encounters, long-lasting friendships and other connections made possible through the organization since its founding.

"All of this has been a wonderful, wonderful experience," said Simonds, who is now in her 90s.

Mary Larson recalled how she was invited to visit Gordon Brown, whom she hosted when he was a Member of Parliament in the mid-1980s, during a trip to London when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown became British Prime Minister in 2007.

"We did keep in touch, but I haven't heard from him much lately, because he has been a little busy, I guess," she told the group.

Frances Cohen-Knoerdel recalled an ongoing friendship she and her husband made with a visitor in 1972, when they hosted a Finnish student attending Carnegie Mellon University. They maintained contact with the student and will travel to Finland this summer to attend his son's wedding, she said.

The circle was completed, she said, when another visitor from Japan, with whom she also had developed a friendship, told her he was traveling for business to Finland. Cohen-Knoerdel suggested he meet her Finnish friend, and another friendship was formed.

"The world is not really that big," she said.

The program included a retrospective by Heinz History Center President Andy Masich of events in Pittsburgh and around the world at the time of GlobalPittsburgh-PCIV's founding in 1959, the year that Castro came to power in Cuba, the Barbie doll was introduced, Hawaii became the 50th state, and Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Nikita Kruschchev engaged in their Kitchen Debate.

The evening was highlighted by music from the Celtic duo of Merry Loves the Fiddle, the Brazilian jazz vocals of Lily Abreu and two songs by Jueyin Wang of Wuhan, China.

The event was generously underwritten by Anna and Ed Dunlap, owners of LeMont.

CLICK HERE to view more photos of the evening.

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