Spotlight on Cleveland: A Conversation on Immigration, Economic Development, and the Republican Party; 2016 and Beyond: New Americans Moving Democracy Forward; Global Partners in Diplomacy
On Tuesday, July 19th, we started the day off by attending two events in downtown Cleveland wherein immigration reform was a focal point.
The first was titled "Spotlight on Cleveland: A Conversation on Immigration, Economic Development, and the Republican Party" that was presented by the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County, Partnership for a New Economy, and Global Cleveland and took place in the Atrium of the Halle Building on Euclid Avenue.
We got there a few minutes early and got to visit with Mr. Doug and Ms. Betty Dechert from Westlake. They were honorary delegates to the Republican Convention for one day and were looking forward to taking part in some neat activities. Mr. Dechert's family immigrated to what is now the United States from Germany back in 1754 and Mrs. Dechert's family came here almost 100 years later. Amazingly, they discovered that their families had lived only 20 miles apart in their native land. Because Mr. Dechert is a member of the "Sons of the American Revolution" they both volunteered to help out at several naturalization ceremonies and found them to be among the most moving things that they have ever witnessed.
The moderator of the conversation was by Mr. Doug Butie, President of Antal International Network which deals in executive recruitment throughout the world. As he was introducing the program. He shared with us a letter that he had received from his friend in the United Kingdom which read in part, "significantly we sailed past Ellis Island last week and, and recognize it as symbolizing everything that was good about migration. The hope, the intent, and the absolute honest commitment to making and having a better life seemed to me to be at the very root of America's collective strength in managing and driving the benefits of migration."
The panelists were Ms. Radhika Reddy, Partner in Ariel Ventures, LLC; Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita, President and CEO, Quality Electrodynamics (QED); Mr. Bernie Moreno, President, Bernie Moreno Companies; and Professor Carlos E. Diaz Rosillo, Lecturer on Government, Harvard University. Three of these panelists were immigrants; Ms. Reddy from India, Dr. Moreno from Japan and Mr. Moreno from Columbia and all of them are very successful people who have taken advantage of the opportunities that the United States has to offer.
The panel also agreed that, despite the current misleading political rhetoric, immigrants are a tremendous asset to the United States both culturally and economically. Moreover, every one of them made the point that the United States was a nation of immigrants and agreed that politicians will ultimately hurt themselves, as well as their party by engaging in such an inflammatory discourse that we have been hearing lately.
Mr. Moreno made the point that the people saying these things are appealing to people fear that foreign-born people wish to hurt us. He acknowledged that some of these fears might be legitimate but we cannot let fear define us. He went on to express optimism as he said that we will ultimately get through this and do the right thing in terms of immigration reform by "appealing to the best part of our humanity."
Our next event took place at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and it was titled "2016 and Beyond: New Americans Moving Democracy Forward."
We were one of the first people to arrive there so we got to talk to Dr. Sayu Bhojwani, Founder and President of the New American Leaders Project (NALP) which was putting on this program. She is herself a naturalized citizen who was born in India and grew up in Belize.
While we were waiting it to start we read the literature that Dr. Bhojwani gave us about her organization. We learned that NALP's mission concerns "leading a movement for inclusive democracy by preparing first and second generation Americans to use their power and potential in elected office. NALP is the only national, nonpartisan organization focused on bringing New Americans into the political process." The ways that NALP does this includes"training and inspiring immigrant leaders of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to run for office; building partnerships and coalitions among New American elected officials so they can advance more inclusive policies; researching solutions to create a more diverse leadership and make the make the political system more accessible to all Americans."
Among the people who came to this gathering were our colleague Dr. Azaadjeet Singh from Margaret W. Wong and Associates and Mr. Sam O'Neil from a group that advocates for comprehensive immigration reform called "The Third Way" because it challenges both the Republicans and the Democrats views on this subject. The case it makes is quite extensive so one can read all about it at www.immigranttaxgroup.org
The presentation consisted of Dr. Bhojwani interviewing two very intelligent political consultants, Ms. Ashlee Rich Stephenson, Managing Partner of Just Win Strategies, and Ms. Rebecca Jensen Tallent, who is now the Head of U.S. Government Relations at Dropbox. Prior to that, Ms. Tallent had worked a long time on Capitol Hill and was well-versed on comprehensive immigration reform.
Both republicans, Ms. Stephenson and Ms. Tallent believed that steps must be taken for their party to appeal to a more diverse group of people.
Ms. Stephenson said that "my hope is to recruit people to run who will reflect the population."
Ms. Tallent talked about what must be done to in order to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. She believed that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were to be elected President, she would have to work extensively with House Speaker Paul Ryan on this issue. She believed that Congressman Ryan would be the key to making this happen in 2017. She went on to say that she believed that a grassroots effort might be helpful because people would be more apt to get behind if they were to be confronted by someone who they knew like a grower facing a worker shortage than they would be by a religious leader addressing them from the TV.
To be sure, just like the panel we had attended in the morning, Dr. Bhojwani, Ms. Stephenson and Ms. Tallent were all troubled by the heated political dialogue regarding immigration. Thankfully, however, many moderate and some conservative republicans are distancing themselves from those making such controversial statements. Ms. Tallent said that such "bridge builders" will be needed if comprehensive immigration reform is to have a chance at passing next year. Ms. Stephenson said that the democrats who are trying to win by trying to tie all of the republican candidates to Mr. Trump at the top of the ticket are taking "a lazy approach" and the potential for its success is very questionable.
Ms. Tallent impressed us as being very knowledgeable so we asked her about what to expect from a comprehensive immigration reform package regarding the 10-11 million undocumented people living in the United States at this time. Ms. Tallent said that she anticipated that these people would be given some sort of legal status without a direct path to citizenship but not a solid barrier to it either. She believed that this is what the undocumented want most of all-to be given legal status so that they can remain in the United States and work without the fear of being deported and/or being separated from their families.
We left in time to drive over to Severance Hall on Euclid Avenue for our third event for the day which was Global Cleveland's "Global Partners in Diplomacy" which must have been attended by at least 250 people and we are proud to say that Margaret W. Wong and Associates was one of the sponsors of it and, in addition to ourselves, it was attended by our colleagues Mr. Gordon Landefeld, Mr. George Koussa and Dr. Azaadjeet Singh.
We saw and talked to many people that we knew including Ms. Connie Atkins and Mr. William Holdipp from the Consortium of African-American Organizations (CAAO); Mr. John and Ms. Markika Megyimori from United Hungarian Societies; and Dr. Valdis and Ms. Silvjia Krebs who we met at a program at the Happy Dog back in June.
Moreover there were 80 ambassadors and consuls there from all over the world who came to Cleveland to observe the Republican convention and will go to Philadelphia next week to observe the Democratic convention.
Among those that we met were Mr. Taewoo Lee, Counselor to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea; Mr. Djerdj Matkovic, Ambassador to the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia; Mr. Dato Serbini Ali, Ambassador to the Embassy Brunei Darussalam; Ms. Floreta Faber, Ambassador of the Republic of Albania; and Mr. Andrej Gregor Roda, the Consul General of the Republic of Slovenia who we talked to just two weeks ago at the Slovenian Independence Day celebration at the SNPJ Farm.
The culmination of the evening was a brief program conducted by Mr. Joe Cimperman, the President of Global Cleveland, in which Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita (wh o we heard earlier at the morning event) talked about the diversity of the Cleveland Orchestra which consists of 104 members and 23 of these came to Cleveland from other parts of the world. Dr. Fujita said that those in the Cleveland Orchestra are our "goodwill ambassadors" and that the "global message of music transcends language and cultural differences."
Next, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish spoke for moment about the excellent assets of Cleveland/Northeast Ohio and hoped that these were showcased by the RNC and the CAVS victory so that more people would come here to live, work and start businesses.
Then Ms. Reta Jo Lewis, Director of Congressional Affairs for the German Marshall Fund of the United States (which partnered with Global Cleveland to put this program on) talked about the importance of Cleveland's transatlantic ties. She said that "our diversity helps engage Cleveland with the world."
It was then time for Mr. David Fleshler, Vice Provost of International Affairs at CWRU to introduce the main speaker who was U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
U.S. Senator Corker said that he had never been to a place more welcoming than Cleveland. He thanked the ambassadors and the consuls for being so interested in our system of government that they would want to attend the conventions of both of our major parties. As such, he went on to say that it was the responsibility of U.S. citizens to understand our leadership role in shaping what takes place throughout the world. He believed that the world is a better place because of our leadership and isolationism is not what a nation as great as we are should engage in.
Along these lines, U.S. Senator Corker believed that Cleveland was an outstanding place due to our diversity and deserves to be upheld as an example of what our country is all about.
After U.S. Senator Corker had finished, Mr. Cimperman closed a program with a quote from his mother which was, appropriately, "speak the truth and leave right afterwards!"
We didn't leave right afterwards but very close to it.
On our way home we stopped by a social gathering put on by Plexus at CHA Spirits and Pizza on Father Frascati in Cleveland. We were quite tired by that time and just wanted to wind down and the understanding company of Plexus members is a comfortable venue to do so.
We talked to Ms. Gwen Stembridge from Equality Ohio about the event that took place on that very morning at the Near West Theatre which was a panel discussion on LGBT equality moderated by Mr. Jim Obergefell who we had seen the previous evening at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights. Ms. Stembridge told us that the program was very successful; and the testimony of a person who urged the Republican party to take a more tolerant stand on LGBT issues was especially affecting.
For about a half hour we ate pizza and relaxed. We enjoyed talking to a fellow who recently moved back to Cleveland with his husband after having to spend eight years in Dallas due to an employment obligation. He said that is was very glad to be back in Cleveland because he loved almost every aspect of it including the cold winters.
Come to think of it, so do we, especially the winters...when they are cold.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC