By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
David Schmidt, past mayor of Delray Beach and current board president of Sister Cities of Delray Beach was honored by the new Japanese Consul General for Florida, Kenji Hirata, for his work with Delray Beach’s sister city, Miyazu, Japan last month.
Schmidt received the award in recognition of his long-term and supportive work maintaining the Sister Cities relationship between Miyazu, Japan and Delray Beach, and his support of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
The honor, “The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays,” is one of the highest ranking civilian honors awards given by the country of Japan, similar to a knighthood in Great Britain.
”It’s a real honor to be recognized by the country of Japan,” Schmidt said. “It’s an honor that flows directly from the Emperor of Japan, Emperor Akihito.”
Schmidt also received a formal letter of congratulations from the US ambassador to Japan, William F. Hagerty, IV, for which he says he was “pleasantly surprised.”
“David Schmidt truly deserves this honor,” said Consul General of Japan for Florida Kenji Hirata. “His dedication to the Sister Cities relationship to Miyazu and his important work to ensure the stability of the Morikami during the recent economic downturn has provided many avenues for both Floridians and people in Japan to learn about our individual cultures and strengthen the friendship between Japan and Florida.”
The Sister Cities Program of Delray Beach was created by the city commission in April 1977 for the purpose of establishing the relationship with Miyazu, Japan, the hometown of George Morikami.
In 1999, the city added a partnership with Moshi, Tanzania, East Africa, and more recently created a sister city relationships with Pesaro, Italy and Aquin, Haiti.
The mission of the Sister Cities program promotes friendship and understanding between the citizens of each city by encouraging cultural, youth, athletic and economic exchanges.
Schmidt served on the Sister Cities board from 1993-2000 and was president from 1995-2000.
He returned to the board in 2004 and was president again from 2005 – 2018. This is his last year serving as president.
Additionally, Schmidt served on the board of the Morikami Museum, as secretary from 1985-1994 and then returned to the board in 2004 and served until 2012. He was president of the board from 2008-2012.
The primary program of the sister cities initiative is a high school student exchange program, although Schmidt says he is interested in developing more business relationships.
“The relationship between Delray and Miyazu is important because of globalization,” Schmidt said. “The program gives students the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures and gives them an advantage later on in the business world.”
He mentions a student who is studying international business relations and another that did his medical school rotation in Japan.
“The exchange opens doors to pursue an interest in Japan and to pursue a professional career,” says Schmidt.
Tony Durante runs the student ambassador program as well as the orientation process for students and chaperones them frequently to Japan. He has been traveling to Japan since 2005.
One of the highlights for him has been meeting the relatives of George Morikami who live in Miyazu.
“It has been the most moving experience,” Durante said. “It’s a very human connection.”
“David is the perfect recipient of this honor,” Durante said. “He has done much for the sister cities program, including contributing to a unified and more peaceful world.”
“These young students are our best ambassadors,” he said. “They will shape our future and will create lifelong bonds between our two countries.”
In the future, Schmidt said he hopes to develop business and economic ties with Pesaro, Italy and next year hopes to take a visiting delegation from Delray Beach to Italy.
What will he do with the honor?
“Get it framed and add it to the collection,” he jokes.
Sister Cities is looking for volunteers. Contact David Schmidt at David@simonandschmidt.com.