Mayor Ronnie and the intrepid crew that travelled to Scotland made it back in one piece after missed flights, missing luggage and other adventures. The jet lag was brutal, and Mayor Ronnie told me when we talked on Monday that he finally felt like he was “back.” Despite days that were pedal to the metal morning ‘til night, the trip was something none of them will ever forget. Representatives from city government, education, tourism, and those who wanted to get in touch with their Scottish roots made the trip, and as Mayor Ronnie said, “This trip had long days and lots of opportunities.”
They flew into Glasgow and took a train into Stonehaven, our sister city (or twinning city, as they say) which has a population of around 11,000. They got a chance to talk to the locals about the purpose of their trip, and one of the things they had to work past was the universally negative perception about politics in the U.S., with specific respect to the president. To that end, Holly Hollman and the Mayor crafted a statement of intent that seemed to smooth things: "We are here as a city interested in building relationships, and in our cities sharing and learning together. If people want to make a difference and enhance a community, it's on the local level. We cannot allow perceptions, politics, and religion to prevent us as communities from embracing the best part of us," Mayor Ronnie Marks said.
They went to castles, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, were on the water along the coastland, played croquet, saw spectacular fireworks, and ate haggis. For those of you who are not familiar with this delicacy, it is described as: “A Scottish dish consisting of a sheep's or calf's offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal's stomach.” They were given “the honors of Scotland, which are replicas of a crown and sword, and sang Auld Lang Syne with arms linked with the Scots.
Mayors in Scotland are called “provosts,” and the Provost of Stonehaven is named Barney Crockett. He is in fact a distant relative of our very own Davey Crockett, and was a superb host to our mayor.
Mayor Ronnie got to visit the Scottish Parliament and met with Ellen Wong, the Ambassador to Scotland. He said she registered a document with the State Department that endorsed the trip, and connoted its importance. It became clear to Mayor Ronnie and Deborah Baird from ASU, and Trey Holladay of the Athens Public Schools that the greatest opportunity for relationship building between the two cities was going to be found in education. There is a strong desire on the part of the Scots to be involved in science and space exploration. With Athens being right next to Rocket City, the chance to be a part of Space Camp or the Space and Rocket Center is quite attractive.
Before we prayed, Mayor Ronnie said that the biggest benefit of the entire trip was the cultural and educational opportunities for both communities. School here in Athens was due to begin, and as always, Mayor Ronnie, who is a former teacher, thought of the teachers and students, along with the new school year. “All of it makes you think of the legacy we are leaving, the love of teachers for their students, and the legacy and history of the Scottish people.” He told me about the fond farewell they were given as they left, but without trying to imitate the Scottish brogue with which it was spoken: “Haste ye back!” And then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner