Patriots for Change Presented by Margaret Wong; Celebration of Norway's Constitution Day; The Annual Dinner for The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.
On Saturday, May 14th, we drove to the Chagrin Falls Library to hear Ms. Margaret W. Wong speak there as a guest of "Patriots for Change" which is a progressive organization. Ms. Wong was introduced by Mr. Jim Ciocia, the club president, as "one of the outstanding immigration and nationality lawyers in the United States." First of all, Ms. Wong wanted to leave her audience her conviction that the United States is the greatest country in the world despite whatever problems its immigration policy might have. To be sure, such problems are not unique; other countries are having just as bad of a problem if not worse.
During the course of her presentation, Ms. Wong contended that in order to understand the history of immigration, one must also understand the history of the United States and its different cultural trends at different times. She emphasized that there are cultural differences within all ethnic groups so just because a person is an "Asian" or a "Latino" does not mean that they think uniformly. Age matters a lot too, for instance, Ms. Wong considers herself "old Chinese" thus her views were shaped by experiences different from those of younger people.
She recommended the book, "On Golden Mountain: The 100 Year Odessey of My Chinese American Family" by Ms. Lisa See as true to life account of the immigrant experience.
As for what is going on today in terms of immigration, Ms. Wong talked about the problems that have occurred/are occuring because immigration to the U.S. was taken out of the auspices of the Dept. of Justice and placed under those of the Dept. of Homeland Security. She also talked about her problems with current laws and legal procedures and President Obama's policies pertaining to deportation.
As for the current political scene, Ms. Wong said that "I don't know about this Donald Trump guy..." She went on to say that if he really wanted to do some good he would build library and re-build our infrastructure instead of building a wall. After all, as she correctly noted, we do not use the Great Wall of China anymore.
We could tell that the group was deeply touched when Ms. Wong told of what it is like being an immigration lawyer and not being able to help certain clients as much as she would like to. She mentioned how tough it was to listen to some of their stories.
At the end of her presentation, she received a warm applause and a lot of sincere thank you's for coming to speak to "Patriots for Change" and for being there for her clients as well as her community.
On Sunday, our first event was a celebration of Norway's Constitution Day put on by the Ohio Norsemen at the Gemini Center on Lorain Avenue in Fairview Park.
Ms. Brigit Ihms, the former president of the organization, graciously took a few minutes to explain to us personally the significance of this day which commemorates the signing of Norway's constitution on May 17, 1814. In Norway, children (almost from birth through high school) take the center stage and parade through the streets wearing either their best clothes or a national costume known as the "bunad" along with a pin composed of three ribbons colored white, red, and black in honor of the flag of Norway.
Even though the adults certainly take a hand in organizing the parades (most of the sizable cities in Norway now have them) this is a day for the children because they represent the future. Accordingly, military artillery is forbidden in these festivities. Afterwards, the children are served the "food of the day" which happens to be hot dogs and ice cream.
In keeping with this tradition, on this day at the Gemini Center we adults had hot dogs and ice cream too. In addition, however, there we several excellent salads and pies for us to eat. Ms. Ihms showed us a book with beautiful photographs of Norway and let us know that the Ohio Norsemen always celebrate Constitution Day on the Sunday closest to the 17th except if it happens to be Mother's Day.
We shared a table with Mr. Burt H. Sagen and his family. Mr. Sagen used to serve as the program director for the Parma Bar Association and recalled that he once arranged for Ms. Margaret W. Wong to be a guest speaker.
We also visited for a moment or two with Mr. Peter Jones and his wife, Ms. Jan Jones. Ms. Jones told us that her mother's cousin, Ms. Ada Madsen, was an artist who designed the Queen Maud statue which is located on the grounds of the palace at Oslo. Mr. Jones told us that Ms. Margaret W. Wong helped him obtain his Green Card and Permanent Residency when he moved here from Great Britain in the late 1980's/early 1990's.
After leaving the Gemini Center we headed over to the Intercontinental Hotel on Carnegie Avenue for the annual dinner for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. We walked in with Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill and talked with him about the upcoming November election where Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court Judge John O'Donnell and 11th District Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Rice will be in the running for seats on the Ohio Supreme Court. Justice O'Neill got to talk about this very subject in a speech he gave to us that very night during the dinner. He noted that he was the only democrat on the Ohio Supreme Court at this time but he had to be very careful about what he said about the election due to priority and ethics rules.
He did say, however, that he could recite the results of polling by the Ohio State Bar Association which rated Judge O'Donnell as "recommended" and Judge Rice as "highly recommended". He concluded by saying that he had 2.5 years to go before he has to retire and he believed that one justice (himself as it stands currently) could make a difference and that three judges could make a court.
Interestingly, we met several people at this who were with us at the "Empowering Local Leadership Conference" in Washington, D.C. two days earlier like Mr. Ty C. McBee, External Affairs Manager at Dominion; Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail; and Lake Commissioner Kevin Malecek. We talked to each other about what we liked about the conference and what we got out of it.
When the time came to be seated we were delighted to discover that we would be sharing a table with Ms. Stephanie Turner, Vice President at KeyBank, who we sat with last year at this very dinner. Also at our table was Dr. Daisy Alford-Smith, former Director of the Cleveland Dept. of Public Health who we met earlier in the year at the Mardi Gras for "Links" at the Hard Rock Rocksino.
During the dinner a video was shown in memoriam of the late Congressman Louis Stokes. It was announced that the "Louis Stokes Courage and Leadership Award" was being established in his honor. Accordingly, his grandson Mr. Brett Hammond spoke for a moment and said that he regarded his grandfather to be the "best personification of courage" which was "courage with grace" which was why the late Congressman was always known as the "gentleman from Ohio."
There were several other short excellent speeches but the highpoint was the speech of the Honorable Julian Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio, TX. Mr. Castro praised the policies of President Obama because he believed that they have helped many people achieve success and prosperity regardless of where they came from initially. He recalled his own grandmother immigrating here from Mexico in 1922 when she was only 6 or 7 years old. She grew up with little education and supported herself and her family by working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter paving the way for Mr. Castro's mother to be the first one in the family to graduate from high school and college.
Mr. Castro went on to talk about how exciting it was for him and his brother, Joaquin, to be accepted into Stanford and how delighted his grandmother was that her grandsons had achieved what she never believed possible. Of course, money for college expenses was an issue but Mr. Castro was able to ultimately graduate from Stanford through a combination of hard work, the support of his family, and Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, and Work Study Assistance.
Mr. Castro said that such a blueprint for success was still valid for today along with several other items like comprehensive immigration reform because it would "unleash the potential of many immigrants." Mr. Castro did not pledge support for any particular U.S. Presidential candidate but he did say that Mr. Donald Trump was troubling because he was pitting people against each other.
This viewpoint was expressed earlier by U.S. Congressperson Marcia Fudge who said that Mr. Trump was dividing the country that needs to be pulled back together.
We believe that a good start in doing this might occur when the RNC takes place. In fact, Congressperson Marcy Kaptur said that when the delegates arrive we should make sure that they take a trip down Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue (i.e. the Cleveland Cultural Gardens), take a tour of our outstanding health care facilities, and have their awareness raised regarding the incredible beauty and economic potential of Lake Erie.
"You have something to be proud of," said Congresswoman Kaptur.
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