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Senior Day at The Mentor Mall; Ambassador Charles Ries on Brexit

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On Tuesday, May 16th, we started our day by going to the Mentor Mall for "Senior Day" which was sponsored by Advanced Audiology Concepts, Laketran, and the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging.

We decided to go in order to network with the various vendors and to have some fun playing bingo for a while. As it turned out, we didn't win a bingo (the numbers just didn't come together for us) but we did have a good time walking around the mall and visiting with a few vendors from senior/assisted living centers. We gave them our card and asked them to call us in case anyone had a friend/relative living in another country and needed some help obtaining a visa.

After an hour or so we left but it looked to us like the seniors had plenty of activities to keep them busy such as country dance lessons, water color paintings, live entertainment and even a reenactment of "The Price is Right Game Show."

Later that day we went to the Union Club for a program put on by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs which examined all aspects of Brexit. The speaker was Ambassador Charles Ries who is the Vice President, International at the "Rand Corporation" and, in addition to other distinguished offices, was the U.S. Principal of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs between 2000-2004.

Among the points covered by the ambassador during his presentation were the United Kingdom's history with the European Union and the European Community before Brexit; the circumstances that lead up to the historic vote in June of 2016; the campaigns ofthe "leaves" and the "remains" both of whom appealed to fear-in fact Ambassador Ries believed "in the end facts had little to do with it"; the aftermath of the election with Theresa May replacing David Cameron as Prime Minister; the beginnings of a long process of negotiations involving Britain's leaving the EU and what kind of new treaties/agreements might be enacted; what should the United States' role be in all this and the necessity for us to maintain good relations with both Britain and the European Union; where Britain may go from here-some would like to see it pursue a liberal, market directed future as the "Singapore of Europe" while the "leavers" were fearful of globalization and competition.

Before the program started, we visited with the ambassador for a few minutes and he told us that migration issues definitely had a lot to do with the Brexit vote. One the principles on which the European Union is based is freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and labor; thus, the older, blue-collar voters were worried about people moving in and taking their jobs; an apprehension that is also quite common in the United States.

For example, there are 800,000 polish citizens now living and working in Britain but, at the same time, there are some two million British citizens living in the other countries of the European Union.

During the course of the campaign, the "leavers" created commercials that played upon people's fears of the Middle Eastern refugees dominating Britain; a threat indicated by Ambassador Ries to be very far-fetched due to legal procedures already in place.  

In the end, the ambassador seemed to believe that ultimately workable agreements/treaties will be put in place but they probably will not be to Britain's advantage as much being a part of the EU was and Britain will, by and large, continue its long history of being welcoming to immigrants but it will probably develop a system quite like ours wherein the citizens of Europe will now have to apply to reside in Britain and Britain can chose who it wants.

Based on what we heard, we do believe, however, that one very hopeful prospect is that the young people of Britain really liked the multicultural atmosphere advocated by the EU so when it is theirturn to take power retaining or re-establishing this will be a top priority.

In the course of the evening, we also got to talk to several people including Mr. Robert H. Madison who worked in human resources for many years and is very concerned about the direction the U.S. is taking regarding immigration; Ms. Alex Lilly who just completed her first year as a law student at CWRU; Mr. Oliver Seikel who is a good friend of our Mr. Gordon Landefeld; Mr. Michael Kurutz, Manager of Travel Services at CWRU; and Mr. Guobi Li, a CWRU international student from China, who came to this program because, as he said, "I want to learn."

We almost skipped what was to be our last event of the day because the outside temperature was in the 80's and we were tired but, in the end, we decided to go to "Nighttown" on Cedar Road to listen to "Trio Balkan Strings" a guitar group from Serbia because "Clevelandpeople.com" wrote so highly of them.

And we were so glad that we did because we had a wonderful time listening to the music and talking to Mr. Zoran Starcevic and his two sons, Mr. Nikola Starcevic and Mr. Zeljko Starcevic, both of whom have advanced degrees in music and instruct children when they are not on the road. What they had to offer was music from the classical to swing genres played "Balkan Style" which is tough to describe on paper but...let's just say that listening to them was a re-energizing experience at the end of a long, hot day.

Also in attendance was our good friend Dr. Nada Martinovic who was there with her mother, her two sons, and her friend Ms. Terry Boyarsky who, along with Mr. Oleg Kruglyakov, is part of the "Russian Duo" which plays beautiful music also. We shared a table with Mr. Harry Weller from "Clevelandpeople.com" and "ICC-WIN" and Ms. Teresa M. DeChant from "DeChant Art Consulting, LLC".

What we particularly liked about the the "Trio Balkan Strings" performance is how Zoran introduced most of the numbers adding his own anecdotes.

It was quite a feat when Zoran and his sons played the Jewish folk song " Hava Nagila" all at once on the SAME guitar. As Zoran said with a twinkle, he grew up in an economically poor household and the family only had one guitar so they all had to make use of it.

He made a very adept observation when he talked about taking songs from other lands and playing them via the Balkan style. "Everything is mixed," said Zoran, "and music has no borders."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC