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Common Ground; Lunch at Public Square, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs at the Syrian Cultural Garden:

In a spirit of collaboration among the Cleveland Foundation on Public Square, the Greater Cleveland’s largest outdoor communities, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, some very important events and conversations took place on Sunday, July 30, 17:

Common Ground Lunch on Public Square:  the powerful theme that dominated the discussion was how we can all work together to make our community much more effective, “resilient, and equitable”.  I attended the event and was joined by the Greater Cleveland’s largest outdoor community members.  This event was hosted by the Cleveland Foundation on Public Square.  We were also joined by hundreds of community members, including Ethnic Community Leaders, Civic and Public Officials, as well as individuals and other international and local organizations. We also shared a meal together and continued to discuss forward-looking conversations about how we can all get along and work together as a community in order to make our County and cities a more tolerant, resilient, and equitable place to live.

Common Ground Public Square Partners included:  Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, The City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland Public Square, Cuyahoga County, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Edible Cleveland, Global Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Congregations, Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Neighborhood Connections, and Old Stone Church.


Common Ground:  The Cleveland Council on World Affairs, (CCWA) at the Syrian Cultural Garden.

Another similar event occurred earlier in the afternoon of Sunday, July 30, 17, The Cleveland Council on World Affairs at the Syrian Cultural Garden.  Similarly speaking, this initiative also was the result of collaborative work between the Cleveland Foundation and other partners across the region to bring Cuyahoga County Residents on one day during a nice and almost perfect Summer day to meet, share a meal and discuss what we can do together to create more “equitable and resilient Greater Cleveland.

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs partnered with Common Ground to provide a rare opportunity to discuss how to build a stronger, and more globally-minded Cleveland. The conversation took place at the Syrian Cultural Garden on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and delicious Syrian and Middle Eastern Cuisine were served.  As a Syrian native and Immigrant to this great country from Syria 30 years ago, I could not help but feel a sense of nostalgia and a motive to get more involved in this important discussion.  Also, I was very glad to represent our Immigration Law Firm, Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC and provide my insight into the importance of current immigration and global issues confronting all of us, especially in light of the new Federal Rules and Regulations, the Travel Ban, and other challenging issues for our Immigrant population.


What made this conversation more interesting was meeting international and domestic American students taking part in this kind of discussion.  Students were interns at the CCWA and had some very challenging and important questions to ask, for which I was happy to answer and elaborate upon; sharing my experience and ideas from working at Margaret W. Wong & Associates Law Firm.  The students were very receptive and appreciative of the information and insights they learned from, as well as sharing their own ideas and global perspectives that were very impressive and worth listening to.

All Common Ground Conversations were shaped around a group of shared principles.  As a part of these conversations, they asked each participant “to consider and take at heart these principles as you shared in this day of civil civic conversation:

“We are here to tackle issues, not each other, to connect, not to conflict; we are here to honor other people and their opinions, especially in disagreement”.

Finally, and as part of this Common Ground Conversation, participants came up with the following:

Value all voices, listen to understand, speak from experience; respect everyone, and look forward and focus on possibilities and how to start and who to help”.



By George J. Koussa

Public Relations Administrator and Arabic Translator-Interpreter

Margaret W. Wong & Associates,

Cleveland, Ohio