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A Future that Belongs to Us All; Lorain County Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours and Happy Dog Takes on The World

On Tuesday, October 4th, we went to Trinity Cathedral for the first event in a speakers' series titled "A Future that Belongs to Us All" in celebration of the Cathedral's 200th anniversary. On this day the program consisted of the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean of Trinity Cathedral, interviewing Ms. Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist and Instructor of Journalism at Kent State University, and her husband, United States Senator Sherrod Brown.

We arrived at this event early and walked around for a while. We visited for a moment with Ms. Jo Byrne, a graphicimg_5035 recorder, who did a beautiful visual summary of the Lind/Schultz/Brown conversation as it was taking place.

We sat next to Mr. Philip Corfman, a freshman studying history at CSU. Mr. Corfman said that he was fascinated by the political process and, for a person like himself, Cleveland was a great place to be because of the number of notable political figures who visited here. For instance, he saw U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren at a recent event on the CSU campus and attended the Labor Day gathering at Luke Easter Park where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Governor Ted Strickland and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown all spoke. On the other hand, Mr. Corfman went to a Donald Trump rally in Cincinnati and, even though he is not a Trump supporter, he was impressed by the frenzied passion of the huge crowd of people who turned out to see him. Along these lines, he admitted that Mr.Trump's style of no usage of notes-just "speaking off the top of his head" was truly unique.

At noon the program started and the first question that Rev. Lind put to U.S. Senator Brown and Ms. Shultz concerned what it meant to be an U.S. citizen today in terms of values.

U.S. Senator Brown said it has always been a struggle between those who want to move forward and those who want to stay in one place but our society has come a long way in 200 years; just look at the recent victory of marriage equality. Overall, it is a matter of extending equal opportunity to all.

Ms. Schultz believed that the best expression of patriotism is having a "lover's quarrel" with one's country about the need to rise above one's fears of those different from himself/herself and move forward by not being afraid to challenge accepted traditions.

Next, Rev. Lind asked how we could achieve unity in this age of great diversity.

Ms. Schultz shared an encounter that she had where she was where she was advised to talk less and listen more. She went on to say that she would like to see tough issues discussed with civility and without profanity. Accordingly, she added that the English language was very rich and diverse so words could surely be found that would be adequate substitutes for swearing.

U.S. Senator Brown recalled how he had once been advised by former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller to "listen with soft eyes" without judgment as people tell their stories. As a legislator/lawmaker, he had learned the importance of finding common ground even with the most conservative of Republicans on at least a few issues.

Ms. Schultz interjected at this point and said that not only does one need to find common ground but one needs to img_5029pitch a tent there even if it takes a lot of willpower.  U.S. Senator Brown responded by saying that "you can tell she is the writer and I'm not!"

Then Rev. Lind asked the two of them about what made their marriage work so well as it obviously is doing. Both parties replied by saying  affectionate things about each other. Ms. Schultz said that she regarded U.S. Senator Brown as her "full partner" and went on to say that it was obvious that since they married when they were older they would not be having a 50th anniversary so they had learned to live in the moment.

In the next to the last question, Ms. Lind asked about how does one combat racism and what must be done before people can change their attitudes.

Ms. Schultz talked about conversations that she had with the mother of Tamir Rice. She went to the memorial service and was troubled by how few white people were there.

U.S. Senator Brown said that it troubled him by how much racism has figured into this year's U.S. Presidential contest. He believed that racial issues could be extended to immigration and gave a short history lesson about the "know-nothing party" that existed in the time of Lincoln and was formed on the basis of people's fear of immigrants; in this case it was German Catholics. He hoped that a by-product of this campaign might be people becoming more serious about addressing racism after it is over. Specifically, he wanted to see a renewed commitment to voting rights.

Lastly, Ms. Lind asked them to address the young people who were in the audience.

Ms. Schultz expressed a lot of optimism about the future because the millennials of today are one of the most socially conscious generations ever. She loved working with them in her classes at Kent State and has learned a lot from them.

U.S. Senator Brown said that he was heartened because the young people of today care a lot about equality and civil rights. He asked us to take note of the diversity in the room and said that the millennials have driven change. The Senator was encouraging of them getting more actively involved in the political process particularly at the local level where they could learn more and make a difference.

It was then time for the Q and A wherein we asked them to name one thing that could be done to make the immigration debate less intense.

Ms. Schultz acknowledged that we, as a country, were bitterly divided on this issue. She went on to say that one of the stories that was the hardest for her to write was the situation at the U.S./Mexican border where young children fleeing from Central America were apprehended by often profane adults. She didn't believe that it was right to call these children "illegals" because you either believe that they were children in need of help or you didn't.

U.S. Senator Brown believed that it might help if our business leaders would stand up and talk about immigration in a sensible way by demonstrating how immigrants can really benefit this country. Finally, he remembered how moving it was when their son-in-law, who came to this country as a refugee from El Salvador when he was 10 or 12, finally got to take his citizenship oath. He mentioned that there were 22 new U.S. citizens there that day who had immigrated from 19 different countries. He suggested that anyone who hasn't done so should attend a naturalization ceremony because they are uplifting and inspiring.

img_5044Several hours later we drove to Lorain Community College to attend a Lorain County Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours that took place at the Small Business Development Center in honor of October being designated Manufacturing month. We knew a lot of the people there and introduced ourselves to several more.

Mr. Donald Romancak, Director of the Lorain County Community Development Department, told us that Lorain takes pride for  being a place of internationalism since there are a lot of Puerto Ricans live there as well as many people who have immigrated to the United States from Mexico and Eastern European countries.

Likewise, Mr. Max Upton, an Economic Development Specialist from the Community Development Dept. told us that the family of a good friend of his immigrated to the United States from Romania some 30 years ago.

Along these lines, Mr. Timothy Hughes, owner of a local Jimmy John's, recalled that his neighbor, who is a good friend of his, immigrated to this country from Beijing and is now a professor at CSU.

We had a nice visit with Ms. Janet Herman Barlow, Director of the Stocker Arts Center of the Lorain Community College, who, as we found out, was the manager of the Cain Park Arts Festival for 12 years. We gave her our contact information in case a performer or an artist encountered a last-minute snag with his/her visa.

Before we left, we spoke to Mr. Joe Bodnar from the Bodnar Printing Company who watched Ms. Margaret W. Wong's interview on WKYC last week and liked her.

Our last event of the day was a "Happy Dog Takes on the World" gathering pertaining to the future of U.S.-Mexico Relations which featured Mr. Juan Manuel Solana Morales, the Consul of Mexico from Detroit, and Professor Daniel Chand, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kent State University as panelists.

Consul Solana told us that he had been in foreign service for 21 years but used to be a banker and an economist whose focus was on people and their welfare. Prof. Chand listed as one of his specialties the study of U.S. Immigration policy; namely how it is developed and administered.

img_5050We shared a table with our good friend Dr. Maria Pujana and, as usual, Mr. Tony Ganzer, WCPN host/producer, moderated the conversation which was introduced by former U.S. Ambassador Ms. Heather Hodges from the Cleveland Council on World Affairs who acknowledged that this conversation was certainly timely event due to the heated rhetoric of this year's U.S. Presidential election concerning immigration from Mexico.

Mr. Ganzer, himself said that "this topic is huge so don't be shy."  He then started by asking both panelists to define the U.S./Mexico relationship.

Consul Solana said that it was "very special" and Prof. Chand said that it was "friends with benefits" meaning that he to believed that it was "very special" due to close proximity and shared history.

Throughout the course of the evening, Consul Solana focused on economic issues and believed that both Mexico and the United States must become more integrated. Along these lines, he believed that NAFTA was a means to an end and, even though he acknowledged that the trade agreement had its problems, it has been very beneficial to both sides and cited many statistics that supported his contention. Prof. Chand thought that the results of NAFTA were more "mixed" but believed, as did Consul Solana, that the U.S. and Mexico must continue to work side by side.

In terms of immigration, both panelists contended that over the last several years the number of people immigrating to the United States from Mexico has dropped considerably and that the figures cited by Mr. Donald Trump were outdated at best. Consul Solana said that this was because there were now more economic opportunities in Mexico than there were a few years ago and it was vital that this trend be continued and, once again, emphasized the importance of good trade agreements. Prof. Chand said that people who come to the United States from Mexico do so for economic reasons whereas those from Central America come here to escape violence and Amb. Morales agreed whole-heartedly.

Prof. Chand talked about how new security measures instituted after 9/11 made it more difficult for Mexican workers to move back and forth across the border each day as they did previously so now they stay in the United States for extended periods. When asked about the impact of a wall, Prof. Chand said that to build a wall across the entire Mexican border would be impractical; for no other reason because a lot of property on the border between U.S. and Mexico is privately owned and too many people would be angry if the U.S. tried to seize the land through eminent domain.

Prof. Chand then challenged the audience to think of how many times a terrorist has been caught crossing a border into the United States. The answer was exactly one and that was the Millennium Bomber who was apprehended at the U.S./CANADIAN border.

We asked both panelists would type of immigration reform that they would like to see. Consul Solana said that we need to focus on  "supply and demand" and believed that guest/temporary worker programs have worked out well. He said he would also see more attention given to establish more bilingual programs in both the United States and Mexico so that the citizenry of both countries can learn to work with each other better. Prof. Chand believed, as we did, that the 2013 immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate but stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives would have been a good compromise.

As far as people fleeing Central America and trying to get to the United States through Mexico, Consul Solana admitted that Mexico may have been slow to address this problem but now programs are being developed to help these people. Prof. Chand said that he would like to see a lot more funds being channeled into improving the United States' asylum procedures and staffing conditions at United States immigration courts.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Mr. Ganzer made an excellent observation when he said that an important first step would be for more people in the United States to start seeing Mexico as a partner instead of as a problem.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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