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Out & About in Cleveland

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Montel Williams and Deepavali Festival of Lights

On Friday, October 24th, we went to a City Club luncheon where the guest speaker was Mr. Montel Williams; decorated formal naval officer, inspirational speaker, author, entrepreneur, and patient advocate; and the title of his inspirational presentation was "Who Owns the Definition of You and How You can Become an Empowered Patient." Mr. Williams talked about his childhood in Baltimore, MD and how his parents instilled in him a drive and passion to succeed. He spoke of an incident where he got an "F" on a paper he wrote, while still a young child, because he misspelled the word "wrapped" as "raped" and the teacher told him that he did this because that was the only thing on his mind and that he would never amount to anything.

Well, this teacher motivated Mr. Williams to prove how wrong that she was. As the program notes stated, "Mr. Williams began his professional career in the U.S. Marine Corps and was the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Williams earned a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs. While serving in the military Williams was the recipient of two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, and two Navy Achievement Medals and various other military related awards and citations."

Mr. Williams spoke a lot a about his own personal battle with multiple sclerosis and how proper diet and exercise has contributed to his doing so well at this time.

We learned other interesting things about him that we didn't know before such as how he pushed successfully to make the recent academy award winning film, "12 Years a Slave" a part of high school curriculums around the country. The reason for this was because he wants young people to see what slavery is like because at this time, according to the statistics that he mentioned, there are more 16 to 19 year olds enslaved throughout the world in some capacity than there were slaves in the deep south prior to the civil war.

Another thing that he stressed emphatically was that he believes that American health care is in trouble not because of the affordable care act but because we have a terrible shortage of doctors and nurses. He touched briefly on immigration when he contended that there is a form of "reverse discrimination" currently being practiced in admission process to medical schools here in the United States because too many students who had immigrated here temporarily from China and India used to fill up these schools at the expense of their U.S. counterparts and then returned to their home country instead of staying here to practice medicine. Accordingly, Mr. Williams contends that our medical schools are not accepting as many immigrants as they used to.

Mr. Williams directed a lot of his presentation to the young people of John Hay Early College and the Baldwin Wallace University Scholars Program. He told them that two mottos that he has endeavored to live by are:

***When you are looking at a mirror, you are looking at a problem but also looking at the solution.

***What did I do today worth talking about tomorrow.

We gave our contact information to the person accompanying Mr. Williams who was Ms. Melanie McLaughlin, President of the Montel Media Group. We also exchanged info with Mr. Frank Legan with Cedar Brook Financial Partners; Ms. Lachaka A. Askew, Health and Wellness Contributing Writer; Ms. Belinda Cox, VP of Operations with Mutual Health Services; Mr. Chad Kunkle of the Cleveland Clinic; Mr. Peter Walker of PDA Group Agency.

We always meet people who know Ms. Margaret W. Wong wherever we go but today we were happy to find more than just a couple. Some of them were:

***Dr. Linda D. Bradley, M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic whose children went to school with those of Ms. Wong's.

***Ms. Alex Boone who works with Dr. Bradley at the Cleveland Clinic and belives that Ms. Wong is a "great person and a great lawyer".

***Ms. Beverly Charles from the office of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge who really appreciated the reception that Ms. Wong gave for the congresswoman several weeks ago.

***Ms. Debbie McHamm from "A Cultural Exchange" which is a literary based non-profit for children that has been around for 22 years. Ms. McHamm said thank goodness Ms. Wong took a liking to them and and put on a fundraiser for their 15th anniversary. *

**Ms. Tina Jeldon who used to own Fine Dining Restaurant and used to attend Ms. Wong's church, St. Dominic.

***Ms. Lisa Turchik who once employed our services to help her husband who immigrated to the United States from Israel.

***And, just as we were leaving, a young man stopped us at the door and asked, "do you work for Margaret W. Wong?" It turned out that he was Mr. George Jeny whose father Mr. Jeff Jeney is a good friend of Ms. Wong's as is his young sister, Katie.

We once spoke to someone who said that he could count the number of true friends that he/she had on one hand. Every day we are reminded that we have a quite a few more friends than can be counted in this fashion.

On Friday night our first event was a community celebration of Deepavali-The Festival of Lights held in the Rotunda of Cleveland City Hall and put on by the Federal of India Community Associations of Northeast Ohio (FICA).

We asked Mr. Chitteranjan Jain, Chair of the Board of Trustees of FICA, exactly what the significance of this festival is. Mr. Jain replied that "It is a festival of light that is celebrated throughout Inda. Different regions have different reasons for celebrating it. It is harvest time and that has a lot to do with it as well as the triumph of good over evil. Overall, it is a big celebration which begins the new year and the people are thankful for the last year and hope for good things in the upcoming year. Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth is indeed worshipped for that reason.

When it became time for the program to start, our good friend Dr. Asim Datta reminded everyone that this was the fifth year that this program has been celebrated in the Rotunda largely due to the efforts of Mayor Frank Jackson who, in turn, said that a festival of lights was indeed a good occasion to celebrate Cleveland's diversity. Also present was the democratic candidate for County Executive, Mr. Armond Budish who said that the festival signifies "richness and a diversity of culture that has come together in a positive way."

Among the people we met there was Ms. Laxmi Mallik, a former client of ours who immigrated to the United States from Calcutta. And, of course, it was great to be with Mr. and Mrs. Richard Crepage, Mr. Pierre and Mrs. Bejjani, Mr. and Mrs. Ken Kovach, Ms. Valerie McCall, Mr. George Burke, and Mr. Paramjit Singh.

As we were leaving we thought of another things that Mr. Jain told us which was that on this day in India, "every house will be illuminated even if it is just by way of an oil lamp...think of the Christmas lights in the United States!"

Our last event for the day was the 3rd annual clambake hosted by the Lebanese, Syrian, American Junior League (LSAJL) which was held at the Beachcliff Tavern on Detroit Road in Rocky River. We found out about this event when we were tabling earlier this year at the St. Elias Festival. Ms. Deneen Kassouf, the chair of the event, is a good friend of ours, as is her husband Jeff, so she invited us to come.

Ms. Kassouf has been a member of this organization, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, since 1992 and considers it a "sisterhood" whose mission is "to encourage its members to participate in educational and charitable activities and to establish funds for the furtherance of charity and education." Among the things that it does is to raise money for educational scholarships for young people and to put on a debutante ball every other year. The proceeds from the soon-to-be-auctioned baskets are slated to go to the welfare committee which assists families in the community.

We visited for a moment with Mr. Edward Haddad, Jr., President of Clean Engineering, who told us about a college student he once knew who immigrated to the United States from India who managed to put together all of his immigration paperwork himself. Mr. Haddad still wishes that the student had gone to Margaret W. Wong and Associates for help, though.

We shared a table with Mr. Paul Haikal who immigrated to the United States from Lebannon in 1995 and became a citizen in 2001. He was here with his wife, Zeneda, and their young son Sammy. Mr. Haikal is an electrial engineer who chose to immigrate to the United States due to the turmoil in the Middle East. We also sat with Mr. Haikal's brother, Samir, and his sister-in-law Kim.

Another person we spoke with was Ms. Brenda Chelala whose brother worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates several years ago. Ms. Chelala is a second generation American whose parents immigrated here from Croatia in 1956. But, even though she came here about sixty years ago, Ms. Chelala's mother still has contacts and family in Croatia and likes to visit there often.

As for the food, we cannot eat shellfish or meat but we really enjoyed the sweet potates and corn on the cob. After Mr. Montel Williams and the Deepavali Festival, this was a good way to end the day.

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