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Morning Buzz at Akron Chamber of Commerce; City Club with Ms. Jenkins; Centennial Gala of The Cleveland Cultural Gardens

On Friday, April 8th, we got up early to drive to the Hilton Garden Inn in Akron for a "Morning Buzz" IMG_9878session of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce where we networked and listened to a presentation by a community leader. We heard someone say that there was 100 people at the March, 2016 session and 130 there on this day.

We made several new contacts including some people who knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong like Ms. Wendy L. Brugmann who used to work for a firm that made use of Ms. Wong's services back in the 1980's.

We shared a table with Ms. Megann Eberhart, Director of Government Affairs for the chamber who knows our good friend South Euclid Councilman Marty Gelfand quite well. Ms. Eberhart shared a table with us once the program started and talked about new rules that the U.S. Department of Labor might be creating that would affect small and medium-sized firms.IMG_9877

When we told a man that we worked for an immigration law firm, he told us how his family immigrated from Germany to Canada where he was born. Eventually he, himself, settled in the United States.

At this gathering, the presentation consisted of Mr. Donzell Taylor, President and CEO of Welty Building Company which built Akron's Children's Hospital and the Akron Art Museum being interviewed by his good friend, Mr. Martin P. Hauser, formerly of SummaCare who is now a consultant with Ohio's Polytechnic University at the University of Akron. Mr. Taylor talked thoughtfully about the factors that contributed to his company's success including creating a team-like atmosphere amongst his workers where all parties are listened to and opinions weighed. Because of this they were able to eliminate a lot of the wasted time, energy, and money that often plagues construction projects.

As for the weather, we didn't notice much snow from the night before as we drove through Cleveland but saw quite a bit of it as we passed through Brecksville/Broadview Heights and a very fair amount in the Akron area. As one disgruntled person said, the chamber ought to consider filing a class action lawsuit against Punxsutawney Phil!

Next we drove back to Cleveland and arrived in time to go to the City Club for a program featuring Ms. Jo Ann Jenkins, President of the AARP Foundation. The program was sponsored by KeyBank so Ms.IMG_9881Margot J. Copeland, Chair and CEO of the KeyBank Foundation, spoke for a moment about how she had come to know Ms. Jenkins, her good friend, through civic work and said that she considered "a powerful woman with a powerful message."

Also speaking briefly were Mr. Richard Brodie, President and CEO of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, and Ms. Maria Foschia, Chair of the Council on Older Persons. As far as we were concerned, Ms. Copeland was very correct in her assessment of Ms. Jenkins who was a very dynamic speaker who really rattled our consciousness as she contended that stereotyping someone because of his/her age was just as wrong as racial and gender profiling.

She challenged our culture's obsession with youth as she stated her belief that people should "claim their age and be proud of it and make the most of who they are." Instead, in a humorous nod to Ms. Copeland, she said that "we fight against aging with every dollar in our KeyBank account!"

She urged us to veer away from the thinking that "50 is the new 30" and concentrate on "50 being the IMG_9884new 50" because "I don't want to be 30 again; I am better for what I have learned over the years!" This is due to the fact that life experience really matters and helps define who we are.

Ms. Jenkins quoted Muhammad Ali who said, "the man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."

She went on to talk about the wonderful contributions that older people are making or have the potential to make to their families, community and places of employment. They are of the boomer generation who tried and in many cases succeeded in changing the world and now have the chance to do so again if we could all come "to see aging as continuous growth."

Ms. Jenkins was inspired by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms Speech" back in 1941 to produce her own four freedoms of aging which are:

(1) One should have the freedom to choose where he/she wants to age whether this be at home, in a retirement community or wherever it suits them.IMG_9885

(2) As a person gets older, he/she should be able to retire if they wish or keep working as long as they are physically and mentally able if that is their preference.

(3) An older person who wishes to learn the new technologies so that he/she can keep up with their job or life in general should have access to the resources to do so.

(4) A person has the right to pursue happiness by discovering his/her purpose in life and to be the person that they always wanted to be if they have not done so already.

Ms. Jenkins expanded on all of the above in her book, "Disrupt Aging" and free copies were available for us all.

On this day at the City Club we met Ms. Millie Stetenovic with Office Professionals which worked with Ms. Margaret W. Wong years ago. Ms. Stetenovic told us she very much enjoys receiving our holiday cards each year.

We also talked to several fine people involved with AARP like Ms. Cris Hughes who gives presentations to  people which teach them how to deal with scam artists who prey upon the elderly, and Mr. Al Moreland from the Tri-C Police Department which assists AARP members with document destruction and disposal of unused medications.

We learned that AARP doesn't really target the immigrant population although they do offer bilingual services and if an elderly foreign-born person came to them for help on a matter that involved immigration they certainly would take the time to find out who could help them and direct them there.

Of course that evening we put on our best suit and went to the Intercontinental Hotel on Carnegie Avenue for the Centennial Gala of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens where we saw practically everyoneIMG_9904 that we know in Cleveland including Mayor Frank Jackson. We were especially delighted that our former employer and good friend former Cleveland mayor and U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich was in town and was able to attend.

Throughout the evening, the things that were most said was that the Gardens, themselves, were a "treasure" that symbolized the proud "diversity" of Cleveland and that the "volunteers" who have worked for nothing to create and maintain the Gardens were terrific.

One of the first people that we talked to was Mr. George Havens of Judson Manor who shared with us a wonderful experience that he and his friends had last fall when they enjoyed cocktails in the Hungarian Garden before they moved to the German Garden where they ate a picnic dinner before moving onto the Irish Garden where dessert was consumed.

We enjoyed mingling, drinks, and appetizers from 6pm to 7pm before we went into the ballroom for dinner IMG_9899where we shared a table with our friends Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins and his wife, Gayle. Sitting just to the left of us was Ms. Nora Hennessey who is an associate dean from the Mandel School at CWRU which has a fine study abroad program. Ms. Hennessey brought with her Ms. Rong Bai, an international student from China who is currently studying for her doctorate.

Mr. Dick Russ served as the master of ceremony and he was honored to do so because he was raised not far from the Gardens and when he grew-up and became a reporter he did many stories about developments pertaining to the Gardens over the years.

Mr. Ken Kovach sang the U.S. National Anthem and Ms. Sheila Crawford, President of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF) had all of the board members come forward to be recognizedIMG_9914 before we all drank a toast to the Centennial and said what we felt was appropriate in the language of either our homelands or the homelands of our ancestors.

 Both of Ohio's U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown gave testimonies about the significance of the Gardens via video and Mr. Dan Hanson (who was termed "indispensable" by Mr. Russ due to the wonderful work of and the civic work that Mr. Hanson and his sister Ms. Debbie Hanson both take part in) shared a letter sent by U.S. President Barack Obama in which he wrote:

"America's story has always been defined by our people-women and men who come from different backgrounds but look toward a shared destiny. With roots all over the globe, every one of them embodies our country's founding premise: out of many, we are one. In marking the centennial of your gardens, each as inspired as the cultural mosaic that is our Nation, we bear witness to the way beauty springs from the seeds of inclusion, and we are reminded of the power our common humanity has to IMG_9912 transcend our differences."

Making a great contribution to the success of the evening was Councilman Kevin Conwell and his band, "The Footprints" that was rarely off the stage. When the dignitaries were introduced they played little snippets from songs that good-naturedly took digs at the dignitary's name and/or public image and we all laughed including those being acknowledged.

IMG_9908The underlying theme of the keynote speech given by Mr. Chris Ronayne, the President of University Circle, was contained in the Shakespearean quote, "What is a city but the people?" which Mr. Ronayne cited soon after he began.

He talked about the history of Cleveland as it paralleled that of the Gardens and how he has taken visitors to Cleveland to the Gardens who have been entranced by them.

He was particularly proud to announce that "the association between the Cultural Gardens and University Circle just got stronger as CCGF has become a member institution of University Circle, Inc. joining the 40 member institutions from the Cleveland Museum of Art to Lakeview Cemetery." He also announced that the Holden Parks Trust was issuing grants and gifts totaling $112,000 to assist with the creation of the Centennial Plaza, Centennial Banners, and a CCGF flag and pole.

We really liked when Mr. Ronayne said, "So as our Gardens grow, what do they project? What do they say about the city of Cleveland, what do they say about Clevelanders? For me, the word "welcoming" comes to mind. Most of our growth as a city pre-1950 was attributed to the growth of immigrants as IMG_9891reflected in our Cultural Gardens. In some respect, like a spring bud on branch, each new Garden represents the growth of our city's family tree. A century ago our city had a knack for welcoming people. Let's hope we're developing that knack again. I want to congratulate the Board of Global Cleveland on the hire of their new director Joe Cimperman. Joe knows when we welcome people, we grow. At the turn of the last century, our city was one-third foreign-born. A century later that number had fallen into the single digits at less than 5%. As immigrant flow declined, so IMG_9889did the population of our city. Put aside national immigration debates (recognizing debates may be too cordial a word) if we rise above the rhetoric and get to pure fact, is it not an unassailable proposition, by way of our own Cleveland testimony, that we grow as a community when we attract immigrants."

Other words that Mr. Ronayne believed could pertain to the Gardens were "peace" (One World Day was created to promote peace through understanding); "perseverance" (pertaining to the hard work need to establish a Garden and maintain it); "journey" (because we are all the 'products of a journey' including his father-in-law and stepfather who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon and Italy respectively); and "celebration" (the gardens represent a 'celebration of culture and diversity of our city).

As for the future, he hoped that the Gardens will someday be known as "Cleveland's Cultural Corridor" and a place that reflects "who we are as a people." He believed that the Gardens "represent who we are as American people-a melting pot of people from all IMG_9898corners of the world."

Mr. Ronayne concluded by saying that "tonight we celebrate our successes of 100 years together. Tomorrow let us set out to educate generations of Clevelanders ahead about the power of a great civic idea born in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. What is a city but its people? The people of this great city of Cleveland, Ohio are here. Those who welcome others, who promote peace, who persevere against all obstacles, who respect the journey and celebrate one another. Celebrate a neighbor and congratulate them on 100 years of building a community. Onto our next century together!"

By: Michael Patterson  Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.