City Club Lunch with Mr. Baker; Cleveland Film Festival: Screening of a Documentary titled "Walls"
On Wednesday, April 6th, we went to the City Club for lunch and for a talk by Mr. C. David Baker who has been President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio since 2014. Mr. Baker said that he took the job because he fully endorses the values that it professes which are commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and excellence. Even though we are not sports buffs we were tremendously impressed by Mr. Baker's passion and sense of purpose so we believe that no one could be better than he to ensure that the Hall continually fulfills its mission which is to honor the heroes of the game; preserve its history; promote its values; and celebrate excellence wherever it can be found. What's more he believes that participation in sports and other collective endeavors (particularly at an early age) are excellent training grounds for life because they teach one "how to get up after getting knocked down." He noted that successful sports teams can have a significant impact on the morale of an area especially one facing troubled times. Thus, he cited the examples of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. This is because, as Mr. Baker indicated, sports have the potential to bring people together whereas politics divides people. He went on to talk about great plans that are being formulated at the Hall of Fame for the NFL Centennial in September of 2020. Included in these plans are the creations of a youth football complex,a performance center, a coaches' university, and a new 5-Star Hotel. Just as Disneyland is hailed as "the happiest place on earth" he would like to see the Hall of Fame be the most inspirational place on earth. It touches him deeply that many sick and/or aged people visit the Hall of Fame because they want to see it before they die. Mr. Baker was introduced on this day by his good friend, U.S. Congressman Jim Renacci who was a managing board member of the Arena Football League when Mr. Baker was its commissioner. U.S. Congressman Renacci said that it was "thrilling to watch what is being accomplished in Canton" under Mr. Baker's leadership. Other political leaders who were there were Mayors Tim DeGeeter of Parma and Cyril Kleem of Berea. During the Q and A, it was brought to Mr. Baker's attention that the City Club had recently conducted a program about the impact of concussions on the mental and physical health of football players. He acknowledged that there was a lot of work to be done in terms of better equipment and close monitoring of players after a brutal knockdown. But he then cited statistics that challenged what is being said about head injuries contributing to a high suicide rate amongst players. We asked him about how the Hall of Fame figures in efforts to make football an even more popular international sportthan it is now. Mr. Baker recalled a recent trip that 19 Hall of Famers took to Israel and a meeting that they had with Prime Minister Netanyahu wherein the prime minister praised his visitors because he found them to be "tough" and "strategic." Earlier we talked to Mr. George Veras, who is Executive Vice President/Chief Revenue Officer/Executive Producer with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mr. Veras told us that some Australians are playing for U.S. football teams now as "punters" but in terms of international players working here in sizable numbers, he believed that it will take years for such a trend to develop. Mr. Veras is an old friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong(as are his wife Brecksville Councilperson Kimberly A. Veras and his mother-in-law Ms. Katie Gallas who were there too) and sometimes sees her when they both take plane trips at the same time. He also helped her with the editing of "The Immigrant's Way." While we were at the City Club, we talked to Ms. Stephanie Jansky, its Director of Programming, who told us that the City Club was involved in a film forum that would take place that very evening after the screening of a documentary titled "Walls" at the Cleveland Film Festival. Ms. Jansky showed us the festival guide and we learned that "Walls" concerned "the intimate stories of those affected by the division on the borders of Spain and Morocco, Mexico and the United States, and South Africa and Zimbabwe." Of course this sounded like something that we should view so after the City Club luncheon we walked over to Tower City and bought a ticket for the "Walls" screening and returned later to watch the film which we found to be very compelling especially because it took into account the opinions of all involved in the issue of walling including the border guards. We came away with the impression that walling dehumanizes people and whether or not the walls do what they are intended to do is debatable at best. After the screening, there was a short but potent forum consisting of Mr. Tony Ganzer of WCPN interviewing a panel consisting of Ms. Danielle Drake of US Together; Ms. Jazmin Long of Global Cleveland; Mr. Khoon Thomas Kate, a Burmese refugee very actively involved in the Ohio City Farm; and Mr. Carlos Alvarado from Esperanza. Among the things that were said were: ***Mr. Alvarado spoke of the invisible walls that immigrants and refugees often face in terms of public perception particularly if they are people of color. For instance, those with an accent (like himself) have a tough time being readily accepted. As for the language barrier, he praised Tri-C for enlisting volunteers to help with ESL. ***Ms. Long talked about the efforts of Global Cleveland to help newly arrived immigrants by hooking them up with others who spoke the same language and had been through what they are now experiencing. She also made if clear that for the most part immigrants/refugees are very industrious and contribute a lot to our economy; indeed whatever they initially take in terms of government assistance is paid back many times more. ***In light of certain comments made by U.S. Presidential candidates that have been casting immigrants/refugees in a negative light, Ms. Drake talked about how tough it was to break a stereotype but it helps if people born here in the United States actually engage with international people because they often find that they have more in common that what they initially thought. ***Likewise, Mr. Kate spoke about how education is sometimes necessary to challenge negative stereotyping. He drew upon his own experience and talked about how refugees do not leave their homelands by choice but because of fear for their lives. ***Ms. Drake drew a round of applause as she expressed her belief that just because she was born here in the United States does not make her any more deserving of the benefits and opportunities that this country has to offer than someone who was not and that no one has "a right to say that let's build a wall!" By: Michael Patterson Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.