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One World Day - George Koussa

The 73rd “One World Day”:  Sunday, September 16, 2018:  Cleveland Cultural Gardens, Rockefeller Park, Cleveland, OH:

The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are considered to be a unique and distinguished gathering of a world class collection of international gardens.  As stated by the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation, (CCGF) “each ethnic community develops their site to show their culture and history through sculptures, plaques, fountains, and plantings of all kinds. This unique outdoor museum exhibits sculptures from a variety of internationally known artists. Currently, there are twenty-nine established gardens located in the City of Cleveland’s Rockefeller Park with ten more nationalities actively developing plans to establish their gardens”.

The Shakespeare Garden was the first cultural garden initiated by Leo Weidenthal in 1916. “The Cultural Gardens reflect the great ethnic diversity of Greater Cleveland and demonstrate our city’s welcoming and friendly environment. The motto of the CCGF is “Peace Through Mutual Understanding.” Each garden focuses on the cultural successes of their country and by sharing these achievements with the other garden members and the community at large.”

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This year, our Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC’s  table was located in the Syrian Cultural Garden. Also, I was fortunate to have the good help of my colleagues, Mr. Michael Patterson, who came early to set up our table and get all the outreach literature ready, and Mr. Justin Faulhaber, both of whom were great support for our team at this important function. Further, the Syrian Garden turned out to be one of the focal center points for the celebration due to the spectacular “Parade of Flags”, which attracted  a lot of people participating in these activities.  Also, the annual naturalization ceremony in which 30 people from 13 different countries took the oath and became U.S. citizens.

Before he administered the oath, the Honorable U.S. Magistrate Jude Jonathan D. Greenberg, Untied States Northern District Court said, “I cannot think of a more appropriate place for a naturalization ceremony than the Cleveland Cultural Gardens on One World Day because it signified a peaceful coming together of different countries and cultures.”

 Dr. Khoury and the Oath

Dr. Khoury and the Oath

Dr. Wael Khoury, President of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation said, “the Gardens are a source of great pride for Cleveland, Ohio, and the nation. There is nothing like this park in the United States or the world. It is a gem and we want to be a vital part of Cleveland’s renaissance; this indeed embodies “Peace Through Mutual Understanding” in a major and most powerful way.” During the course of his presentation, Dr. Khoury paid tribute to Mr. Johnny Wu, the producer of 2018’s One World Day, as well as its other coordinators who were, Ms. Sheila Murphy Crawford, Ms. Angela Woodson, Mr. Tom Tukaly, Ms. Oahn Loi-Powel, Mr. Asim Datta, Mr. Laura Tereshko, and Mr. Dan Hanson.

We also met an old acquaintance, Dr. Adnan Mourany of the Cleveland Clinic. We gave him a copy of Ms. Wong’s book, The Immigrant's Way and he reminded us that our firm had helped him in the past with his parents.

 Dr. Mourany

Dr. Mourany

While celebrating this great day of our Cleveland’s beautiful mosaic, and flipping the Program Booklet pages about all the day’s events, I found a most fitting quote from a great Lebanese philosopher, writer and poet, Khalil Gibran, (1919) addressing young Americans of Syrian descent, “I believe in you, and I believe in your destiny.  I believe that you are contributors to this new civilization. I believe that you have inherited from your forefathers an ancient dream, a song, a prophecy, which you can proudly lay as a gift of gratitude upon the lap of America. I believe that you can say to Emerson and Whitman and James, “In my veins runs the blood of the poets and wise men of old, and it is my desire to come to you and receive, but I shall not come with empty hands… It is to stand before the towers of New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco saying in your heart, I am the descendant of a people that built Damascus, and Byblos, Tyre and Sidon and Antioch, and now I am here to build with you, and with a will.. It is to be proud of being an American, but it is also to be proud that your fathers and mothers came from a land upon which God laid his gracious hand and raised his messengers.. Young Americans of Syrian origin, I believe in you.”

Unfortunately, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson could not be with us, but was represented by Mr. Alex Lackey, Government Affairs Coordinator of the City of Cleveland, who presented a proclamation and emphasized the following in his remarks: “One World Day is a long standing tradition that allows us to come together and reflect on the theme, “Peace Through Mutual Understanding,” the Cultural Gardens’ motto. This is a day where we not only celebrate our own culture, but learn about many other cultures these gardens represent our people and their diverse heritages that make up the social fabric of Cleveland. Cleveland is a city built on the immigration, and it is only that today; is still open to people from different countries and ethnic backgrounds.  Thus, we value diversity and the impact it has on our businesses, schools, and our community at large.”

In his impressive and very educational article, About The Cleveland Cultural Gardens, Mr. Dan Hanson wrote, “the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are part of Rockefeller Park which consists of land donated by John D. Rockefeller on Cleveland’s Centennial celebration in 1896. The history and growth  of the Cultural Gardens is a mirror of the history and growth of Cleveland. The early gardens were predominantly European, (Italian, German, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Irish, Slovak, etc.) because that’s who had been settling in Cleveland. Because of the Cultural Gardens, Cleveland has the only street in the world with a large statue of Mahatma Gandhi on a street named for Dr. Martin Luther King jr.  Not to mention the statue of Mother Teresa at the other end of the road.” Mr. Hanson concludes, “after a successful Centennial Year, plans for the next 100 years, including the Centennial Plaza, are being  implemented. Please join us as we continue in our next 100 years of this unique treasure.” Learn more at clevelandculturalgardens.org

By: George Koussa

Ethnic Consultant and

Arabic Translator

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC

Justin Faulhaber