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In India, Fischer's Message Of Compassion Could Have Economic Benefits

J. Tyler Franklin
Mayor Greg Fischer

Mayor Greg Fischer is in India this week on a trip to promote economic opportunities in Louisville, as well as its ethos of compassion.

“Our focus on compassion is something that resonates worldwide and is so relevant in today’s world,” Fischer said in a statement. “And I always welcome the chance to tell our city’s story to potential investors and business interests that may be looking to expand in the U.S.”

The 10-day trip was organized by the Strong Cities Network, an international group that focuses on helping cities plan for and build responses to violent extremism. The U.S. Embassy in India funded the trip.

While in India, Fischer and Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait are slated to meet with the Dalai Lama, who visited Louisville in 2013. The Tibetan religious leader canceled plans to return last year.

Tait is the only other mayor on the trip. His city adopted its “city of kindness” motto in November.

Another event on their agenda: A conversation at the Indian Merchant Chamber of Commerce called “Countering Violent Extremism Through Compassion and Kindness.”

There is a link between economic potential and societal values when it comes to promoting a city abroad, said Ian Klaus, a non-resident senior fellow at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and former State Department official.

Klaus said “traditionally” global cities — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — may have different approaches to international relationship-building than a smaller city. For Louisville, which has room to grow in terms of global economic connections, playing up its focus on compassion could be a boon.

“Diplomacy… is about the nature of building relationships and having a city brand, so to speak, or having people understand that Louisville is a place that is receptive to ideas,” Klaus said. “It’s something that has benefits for the long run.”

Cities are well-situated to combat violent extremism in ways that the federal government cannot, and participating in this sort of trip can expose mayors to ideas for doing so, Klaus said.

Some may wonder why mayors travel abroad when there are plenty of issues that still need to be addressed at home. As long as mayors have plans in place for local and regional development, citizens should expect them to engage in the global economy as well, Klaus said.

“I would ask the question … if they are doing the things they should be doing at home, why aren’t they also advocating for us on a global stage?” Klaus said.

Since taking office in 2011, Fischer has participated in one other trip abroad, according to records provided by his office. In 2015, he visited London to participate in a CityLab discussion on urban mobility.

Fischer’s past efforts to engage with India include opening a cricket pitch last fall at Hays Kennedy Park in Prospect. The facility was named for Sunil M. Gavaskar, a celebrated Indian cricketer. The city contributed $150,000 to the project, and Fischer said in a statement he hoped it would bring Louisville more global opportunities.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.