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Professor David D. Cole at The City Club Luncheon

The guest speaker at the City Club luncheon on Wednesday, December 7th, was Professor David D. Cole, a legal scholar and author whose most recent book is "Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law" which was indeed an appropriate topic for these times considering the fact that President-Elect Donald J. Trump, who made some contentiously heated statements about Muslims and immigrants among others during his campaign, is shortly due to take office. 

Pertaining to the U.S. Presidential election and its unexpected results, Prof. Cole admitted that when he agreed to speak at the City Club and accepted his latest position which is Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), starting after the first of the year, he didn't think that Mr. Trump would win the U.S. Presidency. In fact, he and most of his colleagues were looking forward to working with Hillary Clinton (the expected victor) and finally having a liberal-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.

Things did not turn out that way, however, so now Prof. Cole addressed the topic which was on all of our minds which was what can be done to block the incoming administration's expected ominous actions regarding immigrants, civil liberties, and the environment to name but a few. We must say that we felt more hopeful about the future after listening to Prof. Cole because he described how efforts by individual citizens particularly when coupled with those of renowned organizations like the ACLU have produced commendable results.

He went into detail about how the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush was forced to back down regarding the detention of foreign nationals at Guantanamo Bay after human rights groups took their case to the countries from where the detainees came and rallied the people and the political leaders against our controversial policies which caused international tensions to heighten. This pressure along with several decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court brought about the release of many of those forcibly held.

Professor Cole was quite fair and also talked about successful actions initiated by more conservative organizations like the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life as well as those of the LGBTQ groups on behalf of marriage equality.

During the Q and A, we asked Prof. Cole about how we could organize on behalf of constructive immigration reform. The professor reluctantly acknowledged that "at the outset" our actions will be "very defensive." Of course we shouldn't sway away from our long term goal of obtaining some sort of legal status for the undocumented but for the time being we must prepare to respond to the obvious threats of targeting Muslims and more deportations. On the latter point, he mentioned that the rate of deportations under the Obama administration has been higher than it has been in recent memory and to increase the rate as radically as President-elect Trump wants to do would generate a lot of questions about due process that would cause concern amongst traditional conservatives as well as liberals.

Accordingly, we must be prepared to work with groups like the community partners for this program which were the ACLU, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and the Cleveland Marshall College of Law. Representatives from all three organizations spoke before the program started and Professor Milena Sterio, from Cleveland Marshall,  mentioned that it was a very hopeful sign that contributions to the ACLU on Giving Tuesday 2016 were 1000% greater than they were on the same occasion in 2015.

During lunch we were fortunate to share a table with our friend Mr. David Ream who told us that he had started an online petition on behalf of undocumented immigrants and City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop's mother, Ms. Jewel Moulthrop who brought several of her socially concerned friends with her.

Mr. Moulthrop, himself, said (with the right combination of humor and seriousness) that he had seldom seen "so many bleeding hearts" at a single City Club program. He went on to ask how many of us were at the forum last Friday in which former Speaker of the House John Boehner, a conservative republican, was the guest speaker. A telling number of us raised our hands and Mr. Moulthrop credited us for practicing civil discourse.  He encouraged us not to become a "tribal lot" and to attend programs featuring speakers that we might have issues with because respectful, dignified disagreements are the "sauce" that holds the City Club together and makes it worthy of its reputation as a "Citadel of Free Speech."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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