Well Intended: On jUNe Day, Westport meets the world
Updated 6:54 am, Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The 50th anniversary of jUNe Day will take place Saturday, and the flags of all the nations in the United Nations will fly over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen bridge. We will welcome more than 300 United Nations staff members, representatives and their families from governments around the world to enjoy a summery day in Westport.
This is a day that my children and I look forward to each year as we head to Saugatuck Elementary School in the morning to greet the guests. Michaela MacColl, the committee chairwoman, is also one of my dear friends and her enthusiasm for carrying on this tradition of citizen diplomacy has rubbed off on all of us.
This annual event began in 1965 when Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, former private secretary to Eleanor Roosevelt and founder of the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut, wanted to find a way to connect ordinary Americans with representatives from other countries so that we would have a better understanding of each other. What better way than to invite everyone to enjoy a summer day together?
There is no agenda of politics or of formalized diplomacy. jUNe day is a day of friendship, fun and (hopefully) sun and of making connections. Everyone is welcome! We invite these visitors to enjoy the beach or compete in a soccer game or tennis match, play a round of golf or explore some of our favorite activities in town. Local businesses have generously donated food and the town of Westport provides transportation to the visitors.
Cohen believed in the ability of individuals to make a difference. By reaching out in friendship she understood that we could make the world a better place. She aspired to promote peace through relationships. In her living room, Cohen hosted weekly meetings of the International Hospitality Committee, where she served tea and cookies and members discussed current events and cultivated a global outlook. She believed that you cannot hate a country if you’ve dined in someone’s home and sought out ways to connect citizens from all nations with the people of Westport.
jUNe day gives Westport residents a unique opportunity to play host and to welcome people from around the world to visit our hometown. On Saturday, June 27, at 10:30 a.m. we’re all invited to an opening ceremony Saugatuck Elementary School. Or you can keep your eyes out for our international guests around town and welcome them when you see them. They will be wearing blue wristbands and will have access to events all over town including Earthplace, the Westport Historical Society, Wakeman Town Farm, the Westport Arts Center, Compo Beach and Longshore Park. Please greet them and make them feel welcome, and take a little bit of time get to know each other if you have the opportunity.
Sometimes the world feels like such a big place. It’s nice when we can make it just a little smaller. jUNe day gives us a wonderful chance to be hospitable and the opportunity to share a sunny day with new friends.
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.