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2017 Annual Meeting of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA); Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc. Meeting

On Monday, June 12th, we attended two events whose starting times overlapped each other so we could not stay as long as we would have wanted at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) which took place at the Lincoln-West School of Global Studies on West 30th Street in Cleveland.

Accordingly, we sadly missed the keynote speech by Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, the annual report by CCWA CEO Ms. Maura O'Donnell McCarthy, and didn't get to see several deserving people like Cleveland City Councilperson Brian Cummins be presented with awards.

Upon our arrival at Lincoln-West, we were escorted to the Meeting by Mr. Brian Brochetti, the School of Global Studies' College and Career Success Manager, where we were greeted by Ms. Sue Gundlich, CCWA Office Manager, and Mr. Jacob Melaragno and Mr. Christopher Deucher, two very courteous young interns.

During our short time there we visited with Mr. Toan Huynn, a bilingual teacher who has spoken with Ms. Margaret W. Wong many times over the years and knows her well. Another person who knew of Ms. Wong's work was Mr. Guillermo Pardo because she helped one of his family members immigrate to the U.S. from Peru.

We really liked the welcoming remarks of Dr. Irene Javier, Principal of the School of Global Studies, who reviewed the School's mission and the expectations for its students.

Along these lines, we reviewed the School's vision which is to help its students "master key academic competencies through personalized pathways that develop critical thinking skills, language proficiency, and ownership of their learning. Through innovative instructional programs including blended-learning, small group instruction, community-based projects, and strategic partnerships locally and globally students will develop the knowledge and the skills necessary to grow and succeed in a diverse and evolving global society."

Thus, we believe that the CCWA couldn't have picked a more appropriate location to conduct its annual meeting.

After we left Lincoln-West, we hurried over the Garfield Heights Library on Turney Road to attend the first meeting of the year (the March, 2017 meeting was cancelled due to a snow storm) of Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc. which featured Dr. Jonathan Kinser, who recently received his PhD from CWRU, giving a presentation entitled "Slovaks and Italians Oppose the Ku Klux Klan in the Mahoning Valley During the 1920's."

The notice for the event read that Dr. Kinser would "present an overview of his doctoral dissertation concerning the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the Mahoning Valley in the 1920's, the violent protests against the Klan and the non-violent opposition to the Klan's activities spearheaded by the editors of two local foreign language newspapers, one Slovak and one Italian."

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Cleveland Chapter of the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences. According, Dr. Kinser was introduced by Mr. Paul Burik, from the Cleveland Cultural Federation, who translated many of the Slovak documents/newspaper accounts for Dr. Kinser and also in attendance with Dr. Richard Crepage who we see all of the time at multicultural events.

We were very impressed by the fairness of Dr. Kinser's account; he showed the Klan for being a violent entity but, at the same time, so were many of the people opposing it. Interestingly, even though our first thought of the Klan whenever the subject is brought up is that it is a racist organization which was not so much the case with its existence in Mahoning Valley in the 1920's. Instead Catholics (due to fear of the Pope who many saw as a dictator) and immigrants (for almost exactly the same reasons that we hear today like they take our jobs and they are taking over) were the targets of its wrath.

On the other side though, the Klan was also a vigorous fighter against political corruption of which there was an abundance of at that time and was staunchly abolitionist concerning alcoholic beverages as were many people for such good reasons as being a contributing factor concerning the destruction of families. In fact the bulk of its opposition seemed to be just as much based on economic issues (i.e. the production of moonshine) as those of patriotism.

During the Q and A, Dr. Kinser talked about his background and what motivated him to invest as much time and energy as he did on this project. Among the reasons that he mentioned was that he once taught social studies to young people and he would like to see such programs revitalized so that discussion would be promoted instead of just a recitation of names and dates. Very rightfully, he cautioned us against "romanticizing things that shouldn't be romanticized" because a careful study of history shows that very little is as black and white and as simple as it is made out to be.

Dr. Kinser then encouraged us to have empathy for those who may disagree with us on political issues and come to the realizations that we all have good reasons for believing as we do. What's more, we should resolve to personally interact more with those different from us in terms of ideology, religion and ethnicity because (and we think that Dr. Kinser couldn't have been more correct on this point even if he tried) our "pocket devices have separated us more than brought us together."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC