By Nikole Dugger
Peggy Wright first participated in a student exchange for Sister Cities International in 1976. A new German guest is scheduled to arrive at the Wright family home in East Ridge this Tuesday.
Though Mrs. Wright said she has not been able to keep a tally on the countless foreign friends made throughout the years, many gifts are prominently displayed throughout the house —; including a glass elephant picture from Hamm, Germany.
Having been inducted into the organization’s 50th Anniversary Circle of Distinguished Volunteers, Mrs. Wright is scheduled to be honored next month during Sister Cities’ anniversary conference in Washington, D.C..
“It gives some sense of achievement, and perhaps you’ve made some sort of contribution for people-to-people relationships and fostering world-wide friendships,” said the retired reading teacher.
In order to be eligible for national recognition, Mrs. Wright had to be nominated at the local level, which Chattanooga Sister Cities President Eleanor Cooper said just made sense.
“She (Mrs. Wright) has been one the volunteers who make the organization work because she’s willing to do anything at anytime,” Mrs. Cooper said. “She inspired others to be involved.”
For Mrs. Wright, however, the friendships have been the most important part.
“We think that international relationships can add to world understanding,” she said. “That leads toward peace, and that’s our whole purpose here.”
Mrs. Wright said she hosted an educator years ago who commented, “if I’d known the American people as I do now, I never could’ve supported Hitler.”
Chattanooga currently has five Sister Cities: Wuxi, China, Hamm, Germany, Giv’atayim, Israel, Gangeung, Korea and Nizhnii Tagil, Russia.
During her six-year stint as organization president and later as a board member, Mrs. Wright visited Wuxi once and Hamm twice.
“One of the real advantages of Sister Cities is that when traveling, you get to know the people -- not just see the city from tour books,” she said.
Currently serving as the organization’s Tennessee coordinator, Mrs. Wright said there’s no end in sight for her involvement.
“Right now, I try to encourage cities in Tennessee to develop Sister City relationships,” she said.
To have a Chattanoogan recognized at the national level is significant, according to Mrs. Cooper.
“It means that we were one of the early cities to get involved and have maintained a strong record and organization,” she said.
Sister Cities has become a family affair for Mrs. Wright, her husband John L. Wright, Jr. and their grown sons Jack and Stephen, she said.
At one time, the Wrights hosted a Russian chemistry professor, and though linguistic barriers were present, Mrs. Wright said they were able to communicate via motions and shared photographs of their grandchildren.
Finding commonality with those across the world is of particular importance for young people, she said.
“When meeting people, we may not have the language but through other methods of communication, you realize how similar we are in other ways,” Mrs. Wright said. “Our world is becoming smaller, and I hope we learn to respect - for our own benefit- the people of other nations.”
E-mail Nikole Dugger at email@example.com
Staff Photo by Nikole Dugger
After nearly 30 years of involvement with Sister Cities International, Peggy Wright will be inducted into the 50th Anniversary Circle of Volunteers next month in Washington, D.C.