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Cultural Exchange Initiatives Continue

Dundee, Scotland and Alexandria renew friendship over recent weekend.

One of the most exciting events during the celebration of Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk is the visit of the Lord Provost of sister city, Dundee, Scotland, to Alexandria.

John Letford is the current Lord Provost and this was his second visit to the city. Like Mayor William D. Euille, Letford was re-elected in May.

“The election was by no means an overwhelming victory for the Labor Party,” Letford said. “We are running a coalition government in which members of the Conservative Party share power with members of the Labor Party. It works very well for the most part.”

Letford was elected to the City Council and then elected by the members of the Council to be the Lord Provost. He will serve for four years on his current term.

“While I am a politician, my job as Lord Provost is not political,” Letford explained. “I am in charge of the civic affairs of the city of Dundee and I try to keep politics out of that job.”

His role is to attend and preside over civic functions and to host visiting dignitaries and serve as an ambassador for Dundee with Dundee’s sister cities around the world. “Our relationship with Alexandria is a special one,” Letford said. “We have been twinned since 1973 and, like our two countries, walk side-by-side with Alexandria in many ways.”

THE ECONOMY of Dundee, like the economy of Alexandria, is strong. “We are looking at a 30-year plan for revitalizing our waterfront,” Letford said. “That is quite an undertaking for us and we are very excited about it.”

Letford is excited about the cultural exchanges between Dundee and Alexandria. “We are looking at exchanges between Dundee University and your universities here and are looking at medical exchanges,” he said.

Middle and high school exchanges are new initiatives that are being contemplated. Letford had an opportunity to visit St. Mary’s Catholic School and T. C. Williams High School while he was in Alexandria.

“We have one private high school in Dundee and I have visited there,” he said. “Our national government provides some support to our parochial schools.”

A public-private partnership has recently helped to build new facilities for the city’s state-supported schools. “A group of private investors built the school and leased it back to the school system,” Letford said. “It’s a wonderful facility but there were many members of the staff of the schools who were not so certain it would work. It has to this point.”

At St. Mary’s, Letford met with a group of fifth-graders who had researched Scotland and written essays on various aspects of Scottish life. “It was wonderful to spend time with the children,” he said. “I’ve been here before but have never had the opportunity to meet with young people.”

LETFORD WAS ALSO impressed with the students at T. C. Williams High School. Principal John Porter led him on a tour of the school. Letford and Euille made impromptu visits to several classrooms, exchanging pleasantries with students.

In a senior government class, Euille was challenged by a student who asked why money was spent on laptop computers for ninth grade students when there are not sufficient chemistry and physics books for T. C. students. Euille offered to arrange a meeting between the student and the superintendent of schools and the School Board chairman.

“Your questions indicate to me that your teachers are doing a good job,” Letford said to the government class. “Keep asking questions and challenging people like your mayor and me. Don’t get discouraged. Keep asking questions. In this class, there are future mayors of Alexandria and future national leaders. Stay involved.”

Letford and Euille exchanged gifts at Monday night’s City Council meeting and Letford left for home on Tuesday. Euille plans to visit Dundee in September and Letford will return to Alexandria next December.