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The Future of Europe: Germany's Role in It; Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce New Member Reception

On Thursday, September 8th, we attended a special program put on by the American Council on Germany Cleveland Eric M. Warburg Chapter and Case Western Reserve University titled "The Future of Europe and Germany's Role in It." The program took place on the 14th Floor at the PNC Building on East 9th Street in Cleveland and it consisted of a short presentation by Dr. Gesine Schwan who is a political science professor and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany for whom she was the presidential candidate on two occasions.

During the course of her presentation, Dr. Schwan talked IMG_4344about the refugee crisis in Europe, the significance of Brexit, the rise of right-wing populism, and the tentative efforts of the political parties in Germany to address the challenges before them.

On the latter point she offered very fair, detailed criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic government as well as her own Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the rightist Alternative for Germany. About Chancellor Merkel, Dr. Schwan didn't believe that she had any overall "vision" as to what to do; instead she was resorting to the creation of "fortress Germany" by closing the borders and urging for the coordination of secret service activities between countries which is not a satisfactory long-term solution.

Dr. Schwan believes that immigrants and refugees have the potential to actually assist in the rebuilding of desolate areas. In fact, she cited the fact that at least 30 towns and cities scattered throughout Europe are open to taking in more refugees; therefore, she proposes that the European Council give economic aid directly to these communities instead of to leaving it up to the countries in which they are located to distribute it. As Dr. Schwan spoke we were impressed by the similarities between Europe and the U.S. regarding the eagerness of immigrants and refugees to seize the opportunities available to them and be a benefit to the places where they finally settle.

Dr. Schwan believed that the current right-wing populism could be attributed to the certain groups of people feeling more and more alienated over the years due to lack of economic opportunity and social services to assist them. As a result of this many frustrated people are unjustly blaming the refugees for current problems. Dr. Schwan likened the situation to having to deal with a group of angry youngsters who do not want to listen to reason. Likewise Dr. Schwan believed that the rise of Mr. Donald Trump in the United States mirrored the rise of the right in Germany. Dr. Schwan believed that Mr. Trump would be a disaster if he were to be elected President of the United States because there "is no rationality in what he proposes."

It was a very informative program and we learned about it only at the very last minute. We really thank Mr. Martin C. Schulz; Managing Director/Senior Portfolio Manager of International Equity at PNC Capital Advisors; for organizing it.

On the way out we talked to several people associated with the language school at the Donauschwaben German-American Cultural Center in Olmsted Falls who are familiar with conditions in Germany and Europe. We wondered if the turmoil in Europe could lead to increased immigration to the United States but they didn't believe that this was very likely unless things took an especially severe economic downturn.

We also talked to Mr. Joshua Walker, a young student at Lakeland College who came all the way from Lake County to attend this program because his family immigrated to the United States from Hungary and thus he is quite interested in U.S./European relations. Just like we do, Mr. Walker closely follows where, like us, he learned about this event.

As for Dr. Schwan, we read that she is the President and Co-Founder of the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform. After we got home, we investigated it and learned that this governance platform "strives to achieve better conditions for democracy, shared prosperity, and sustainability" by way of "bringing together government, the business sector and organized civil society in structured three-actor dialogues (so-called Trialogs) and mediate between the different perspectives. This approach makes the preparation of complex social change and/or policies that go beyond party-based politics possible. The collaborative diagnosis, the design of reforms and their implementation strengthens the cooperation between government, business and organized civil society. All in all, this effort support democratic and welfare-oriented processes of decision-making."

We are glad Germany and Europe have such principled leaders as Dr. Schwan.

Later that day, we attended the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce's "New Member Reception & Summer After Hours/Networking" held at a neat place that we had never been to before which was Pickle Bill's Lobster House IMG_4351 on River Street in Grand River.

Our friend who had been there told us that it was a great place to go if you are really hungry because, even though at first glance the food/seafood appears expensive, you can keep asking for more without being charged any more!

The chamber event was located in "Admiral Charlie's Banquet Room" which was a suitable location because 50 people had RSVP'd for this event including 10 new members. These included representatives from such companies as  "Damsel in Defense" which "equips, empowers, and educates" women on how to defend themselves; "The Hildegarten" a new spiritual retreat/holistic health center in Fairport Harbor; and "Doc Howard's Distillery" which is set to create whiskies, rums and vodkas in Perry, Ohio.

Needless to say, we did a lot of networking at this event and met a new member named Ms. Leigh Ann Casarona-Sperk who is a professional fundraiser and likes to assist nonprofits. Along these lines, on several drives she contacted Margaret W. Wong and Associates and loved working with Ms. Margaret W. Wong.IMG_4355

On a more personal note, we were thankful to make the acquaintance of Mr. Michael Caldwell from "MPC Heating and Cooling" because we keep a card file of people we can call at all hours should the aged heater in our mobile home stop working on a cold, wintry night.

When we told one man that we worked for an immigration attorney, he recalled working with a person from Canada who experienced all sorts of problems trying to extend his stay in the United States. He shook his head with empathy and said that this poor Canadian guy was having more trouble with "the Feds" than he had experienced when he used to work for the nuclear industry.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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