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Out & About in Cleveland

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The Presidency, Power and the Middle East at the City Club and Dialogues on Diversity at CMBA

On Wednesday, March 11th, we went to the City Club for a program titled "The Presidency, Power and the Middle East" which featured Mr. Aaron David Miller who is currently Vice-President for New Initiatives and a Distinguished Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Prior to this he served in the State Dept. as an advisor to Secretaries of States (of both parties) on Middle East issues. It is also worthy of note that he once served as president of Seeds of Peace, an internationally recognized program in conflict resolution and coexistence. His most recent book is "The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President." Mr. Miller is initially from Cleveland and has spoken at the City Club at least four times before. On this day, Mr. Miller said that he believed that the people of the United States have an unrealistic expectation about the office of the President of the United States; they see him as the "energizer bunny" who keeps going and going and fuels everything. Plus, the term "great" is used so commonly now that it would be hard to describe exactly what we mean when we say it. Mr. Miller went on to say that there has probably been only one great President per century because in order for a President to be truly great there would have to be "a crisis before greatness" and then whoever holds that office would have to have the "character and the capacity" to make the "political elites" go his way instead of letting them run him. We believe that this is indeed a rare combination of circumstances.

Nevertheless, Mr. Miller said that it is realistic to hope for someone who would at least be "good" in terms of "capability and "emotional intelligence" and believes that either former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton or Governor Jeb Bush would be all right.

He then turned to the Middle East and said that he used to believe that we could "transform it" but not anymore; nor can we simply leave it. Instead we must concentrate on our core interests and be very careful when using military force. Moreover, we must ask ourselves if what we are attempting to do is achievable. For Mr. Miller, these core interests involve protecting the security of the United States, weaning ourselves of Arab hydrocarbons, keeping an eye on Iran (if we can get a good nuclear agreement that's fine but it is not the end of the problem), realize that allies need friends and don't disown them if they have to make deals with people or governments that are unsavory by our standards.

Overall, Mr. Miller said that everything in the Middle East region has been driven by "pain and the prospects for gain" so in order for the situation to change both the Israelis and the Palestinians must be willing to face themselves like "The Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson and take responsibility for their actions.

Interestingly, on Tuesday night we had gone to a Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) program on Afghanistan and Pakistan and on this day we saw a few of the people from the CCWA that were there on the previous night including Ambassador Heather Hodges (who introduced Mr. Miller), Ms. Maura O'Donnell-McCarthy, Ms. Jane Meyers, Ms. Jenni Carney and Mr. Tom Turner. We shared a table with Mr. Pat McGraw, a retired attorney who admires Ms. Margaret W. Wong, and his wife, Ms. Pat McGraw who used to work at the Cleveland Heights Library. Prior to the start of the program we chatted with Mr. Mike Bekeny, a very knowledgeable retired social studies teacher who taught in Strongsville.

We also spoke with Mr. Alexis Edelman, Development Director of the Cleveland Hillel Foundation who immigrated to the United States from Argentina. Mr. Edelman knows Ms. Wong very well and they are old friends.

Just before we left the City Club, we asked Mr. Miller if he though that comprehensive immigration reform would enhance the security of the United States and he immediately agreed with us that it would indeed due to that fact that we would have more secure borders and the people who are living here under the radar due to fear of being deported would finally have the chance to come forward and move out from the shadows.

Later that day we went to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association for one of their "Dialogues on Diversity" programs that, according to its description, "engages area leaders from the legal and corporate community in important discussions about the business and ethical case for diversity and inclusion."

At this program, Mr. Richik Sarkar, from McDonald Hopkins, LLC, interviewed two people from the Cleveland Cavaliers who were Mr. Len Komoroski, CEO of both the Cavs and the Quicken Loans Arena, and Mr. Jason Hillman, Vice President and General Counsel. Mr. Komoroski said that if a company just limits itself to just one group or enity it leaves itself short-changed. He believed that "different people and viewpoints create the best possible impact" and not to take this route would mean not finding the best optimal talent.

Mr. Hillman believed that diversity was in the "DNA" of this organization. Mr. Hillman went on to say that Mr. Dan Gilbert believes that relationships are the "foundation of human wealth" and they are up to forming them with all people because, even if they don't have the opportunity to work together now, they might in the future. Plus, as Mr. Komoroski, said, our culture is embodied in the Cavs and the NBA, for a long period of time lead the charge for diversity.

Both Mr. Komoroski and Mr. Hillman were proud to be working for an organization like the Cavs that has such a diverse leadership team and makes a conscientious effort to be a role model for the rest of our society.

Our last event for this day was our monthly meeting of the Cleveland American Middle East Organization (CAMEO) in Independence at the Holiday Inn. CAMEO is an engine that helps to fuel a lot of successful projects in Cleveland and we are looking forward to several upcoming events which are open to the public like their 45th Anniversary Celebration and Installation of Officers on May 2nd at the St. Elias Banquet Hall. Several important dignitaries have been invited.

We always have a good time at the annual CAMEO picnic that will take place this year on July 12th in Middleburg Heights because the food is great and a lot of our friends attend it too.

And, of course, we will all be there on April 29th when Mr. Richard Ganim, one of CAMEO's founders, will be inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame at the Marriott Key Center.

We were very happy when CAMEO's president, Mr. Pierre Bejjani talked a little about the immigration seminar that took place on Margaret W. Wong and Associates on February 28th. Mr. Bejjani termed it "a great success."

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