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Neither Clinton nor Trump; Ukrainian Museum Archives; Vietnamese Cultural Garden

On Friday, December 11th, we went to the City Club of Cleveland for a program titled "The Two Most Important IMG_6353 Players in 2016 Aren't Named Clinton or Trump" which is interesting because the initial title had the name of Bush as part of it instead of Trump but apparently Bush's currently low standing in the polls initiated a re-evaluation. The speaker was Mr. David Brock, author and democratic party activist, IMG_6348who used to be a republican. Some time ago Mr. Brock was doing research on the Clintons with the goal of writing a disparaging piece about the former U.S Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but the more he studied her the more he came to admire and respect her. Accordingly, he abandoned his task of maligning Ms. Clinton and ultimately founded a Super PAC named "Correct the Record" whose purpose is to defend Ms. Clinton.

Mr. Brock has authored several books, the latest of which is titled "Killing the Messenger: The Plot to Derail Hillary and Hijack Your Government." Courtesy of Mr. Mario Moreno, co-founder and Founding Chair of Venture Philanthropy Partners, copies of this book were available at this event for free. We selected one to give to Ms. Margaret W. Wong who really likes Ms. Clinton.

Another nice person that we met at this event was Mr. Tony Weber of Goldfarb Weber Creative Media who put together a short but very powerful video for the Diversity Center about tolerance.

Before the program started, we exchanged ideas with Mr. Jeff Rechenbach, retired Secretary-Treasurer of the Communications Workers of America, about who these "two most important people" might be. We both thought that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders might be one of them because his candidacy has made/will made the democratic U.S. Presidential primaries more interesting than they would have been without him although we still regard Ms. Clinton as a shoo-in for the nomination.

Instead those two people ultimately turned out to be the controversial Koch Brothers who Mr. Brock contends have chartered the course of the republican party for years and are responsible for moving it more and more to the right. Except for one of of the republican U.S. Presidential candidates, the Koch brothers are very close to all of them.

Not surprisingly, the maverick of the bunch who refuses to take the Koch brothers' money in order that he may pursue his own agenda is Mr. Donald Trump who is all but stealing the conservative base that the Kochs have worked so long and so hard to create and refine. Mr. Brock compared the Trump phenomenon to a monster created by mad scientists who has escaped from the lab.

He said that up until a short time ago the GOP U.S. Presidential contest could be considered "entertaining" until Mr. Trump came up with his proposal to ban Muslim immigrants and refugees from entering the United States thus rendering it "dark and dangerous." Mr. Brock was noticably disturbed (as we all are) that such a thing could even be said, let alone receive the amount of support that it has.

We asked him if he believed that Ms. Clinton could continue to push for constructive immigration reform at this time and Mr. Brock replied that he believed that she could and probably will use it to her advantage as evidenced by the fact that the GOP has already written off the Hispanic vote in 2016. He went on to say that he believes immigration reform will be a powerful "wedge" issue next year and thought that it said something about the ideological bent of the GOP that Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Mario Rubio used to be moderates on the issue but their stands have shifted more to the right due to pressure within their own party.

In terms of who the ultimate GOP U.S. Presidential candidate will be, Mr. Brock tended to lean towards U.S. Senator Ted Cruz at this point but, unfortunately, would not count Mr. Trump out because "never underestimate the power of a demagogue."

Mr. Brock talked for a few minutes about Ms. Clinton and why that he believes that she would be a successful U.S. President. The main reason seemed to be that Ms. Clinton is able to work with people from all sides of the political spectrum. What's more, according to Mr. Brock, polls show that people rate Ms. Clinton, a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, as being strong on national security issues and strength is a source of trust. Subsequently, as he maintained, we can trust her to deal well with the problems at home.

On Friday night we had two yuletide events to attend.

First, we stopped by the annual Christmas party at the Ukrainian Museum Archives on Kenilworth Avenue in Tremont. We could only stay for a little while but Mr. Walter Ciszkewycz showed us the exhibit in the archival building concerning the 50th year anniversary celebration of "Plast" which is the Ukrainian version of our boy scouts/ girl scouts. Mr. Ciszkewycz told us of the other exhibits planned for 2016 including the annual Easter bazaar and a special one planned for the RNC.

Ms. Midge Szmagala and Mr. Andrew Fedynsky, Resident Scholar, were very glad to see us and we visited for a moment with Mr. Mike Dobronos, Attorney at Law, an old friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong who she lovingly refers to as the "Ukrainian lawyer." Mr. Dobronos said that he and Ms. Wong were "kindred spirits" and he would love it if she ran for mayor of Cleveland because she would "get stuff done."

Next we drove over to St. Elias Church in Brooklyn for their annual Christmas party.

We received another warm greeting from Mr. George Ade and Ms. Janet Jacob who were checking people in and were then treated to good food provided by "Catering by Verba's" which just received an award from the Cleveland Hot List as the best wedding caterer of 2015.

Throughout the evening there were Christmas carols played on the piano by Mr. Bernie Medja.

We sat next to Ms. Judy Abdalla who has been a congregate of St. Elias' for over 50 years, and her husband, Mr. Kaleel Abdalla who is a sub-deacon. Before the opening prayer, Reverend Naim Khalil said that we were coming together on this occasion as a family. Father Khalil hoped that the Nativity would be a motivation for peace and it was the mission of St. Elias to transform the reality of evil into the power and the love of God and then peace will come.

On Saturday and Sunday, December 12th and 13th, we tabled on behalf of Margaret W. Wong and Associates at the Holiday Festival at Saigon Plaza on Detroit Avenue which was organized by Ms. Gia Hoa Ryan in order to showcase the specialties and talents of local vendors and to raise money for the Vietnamese Cultural Garden through the selling of excellent Banh Mi Sandwiches and Vietnamese coffee.

Helping Ms. Ryan put this together was her friend, Mr. Joseph Meissner, her assistant, Mr. Will Sanchez, and such volunteers as Ms. Uyen Dam, Mr. Mike Powell, and his wife, Ms. Dahn Powell who prepared the food and sold tickets.

We were told on Sunday night that probably 200 people attended this event throughout the weekend which was a good number but we all agreed that it would probably have been higher if it had not been for the unseasonably warm weather which inspired Clevelanders to go out and get things done around their homes before winter comes.

Among our friends who stopped by were Ms. Mari Galindo-DaSilva from MetroHealth, Mr. Ken Kovach from ICC-Win, Mr. Sam Tanious from CAMEO, Ms. Jessica Whale from Global Cleveland, Mr. Dan Hanson and Ms. Debbie Hanson from, Ms. Megan O'Brien from the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, Mr. Asim Datta from FICA, Ms. Sheila Crawford from the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, Ms. Marcia Nolan from Detroit Shoreway Community Development Association, and last but certainly not least Ms. Laurel A. Tombazzi from the Karpato-Rus Ensemble who suggested that Margaret W. Wong and Associates have their own plastic bags created so we can give them to people at festivals to carry all the literature that they pickup and all the purchases that they make.

A few elected officials stopped by too including Cleveland City Councilmen Matt Zone and Brian Cummins and Judges Marilyn Cassidy, Janet R. Burnside, and Ray Pianka.

In additional to ourselves the vendors including Mr. Meissner's daughters Ms. Bettina Meissner and Ms. Laquita Meissner (beanie babies), Dr. Maria Pujana (jewelry), Ms. Soledad Vasquez (custom art), and Ms. Pat Hollack (unique vintage finds). Even Ms. Lisa Wong, President of the OCA, was there for a little while registering voters.

On Saturday we tabled next to Ms. Alida Henriette Struze, age 94, who was selling copies of her recent book "My Life, My Letter, and My Loves." We have written about Ms. Struze before and how much she has done to help local refugees. On this day she introduced us to her friend, Mr. Michael T. Petro, Jr. who encouraged her to write her book and published it for her himself. Very understandably, Ms. Struze could only table for one day but most people who were there agreed that Ms. Struze stole the show by way of her grace, elegance, and genuine concern about people.

Of course several people stopped by our table to visit including:

  • Mr. Dan Verkhlin who took Ms. Margaret W. Wong's Introduction to Immigration Law class at CWRU in 2011 and was very impressed by her. He ultimately chose not become an attorney but now has a fine job at Keybank and is very much involved and is part of the Russian community which really loves Ms. Wong.
  • Mr. Jerry Qui who years ago served in the Green Berets with Mr. Meissner translating Vietnamese into French. He immigrated to the U.S./Cleveland in 1975 just before the fall of Saigon and became a U.S. citizen a few years later. Mr. Qui told us that he waited to see what direction Vietnam would go before he decided to go for U.S. citizenship. He worked as a laborer for many years before he retired and now loves to travel. To date, he has visited 35 countries and insisted on buying us a Vietnamese coffee.
  • Ms. Pam Lynch, who obtained a degree in international management and has traveled all over the United States, remembers stories told by her grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Slovenia.  She endeavors to appreciate all cultures because she has come to the conclusion that we are all more alike than we are different. Ms. Lynch feels badly about refugees who have had to flee their homes, perhaps never to return, but wants to hear their stories because they "enrich your life and give you a different perspective."
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