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The World According to Stokes

On Friday, January 15th, our first event for the day was a trip to the City Club of Greater Cleveland to attend a program called "The World According to Stokes" featuring, of course, former Cleveland Congressman Louis Stokes, who earlier in the day was presented with a Lifetime Service Award by the Cleveland Clinic. Congressman Stokes spoke for the first part of the program and then was interviewed by two of his children, Mr. Chuck Stokes of WXYZ-TV Detroit and Ms. Lori Stokes of WABC-TV New York. Congressman Stokes, with some help from his children, gave a presentation that had just the right balance of seriousness and humor to make it entertaining, informative and thoughtful. He talked a lot about his role in the civil rights movement of the 1960's and 1970's and his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Not surprisingly, he said that Dr. King "meant a lot to me" and he could only think of a few men such as Thurgood Marshall and Nelson Mandela who inspired him as much. When he was asked how Dr. King would have felt about a particular issue, Congressman Stokes replied that it was difficult for him speak on behalf of Dr. King because "I am not in his pay grade" and got a laugh and a round of applause. One story he told that we found particularly memorable was the night in 1967 when his brother, Carl Stokes, was elected mayor of Cleveland for the first time. He said that when his brother was announced as the winner in the wee hours of the morning his supporters literally danced in the streets but Dr. King, who certainly was there, chose not to go outside and attend the celebration because he didn't want to steal the moment from Mayor-elect Stokes.

When it was time for Congressman Stokes to sit on the City Club stage with his children and take their questions, he recalled taking his daughter to the historically memorable March on Washington when she was only five years old. Ms. Lori Stokes quickly interjected that she was only a year old, not five years old, when this happened and the whole room burst into laughter.

On a more serious note, in response to a question by his children about what he thought of Congress today, Congressman Stokes bemoaned the lack of respect that members often openly display towards each other now. He said that he first came to Congress he was trained and mentored by real gentlemen who taught him to always respect his colleagues even though he may disagree with them and to treat them with courtesy. Congressman Stokes said that one reason why he chose to leave congress was because after Newt Gingrich became speaker in 1994, professional conduct started slipping and has been slipping ever since.

As far as his future goes, it has just be announced that Congressman Stokes, along with such dignitaries as Ohio State Senator Nina Turner and former U.S. Senator George Voinovich, will be a co-chair of a committee that will travel to five cities to conduct hearings and interview people in order to explore ways to improve community relations with the police. This committee has been put together by Ohio Governor John Kasich and Congressman Stokes believes that the our governor is very serious about this and really wants the committee to come up with recommendations that he can implement.

At today's program, we encountered Ms. Maria Schimer of NEOMED who said that her company has turned to Margaret W. Wong and Associates on several occasions to obtain help for employees who have immigrated to the United States from other countries. She told us to be sure to say hello to Ms. Wong. Also wanting us to say hello to Ms. Wong was her old friend Mr. Ben Stefanski from Third Federal Savings and Loan who was there too. We shared a table with former City Club President Bob Lustig and several friends of his as well as our friend Ms. Wynne Antonio of the North Shore AFL-CIO who recently attended a program composed of people who had visited Cuba at various times over the years (Ms. Antonio went around 1990) and had different perspectives about it. We urged her to come to the Cleveland Council of World Affairs program about Cuba on January 27th which we are also looking forward to attending.

Probably the most valuable exchange that occurred at today's program, however, was when Mr. Anthony Price, a high school student who was the moderator at a City Club program about race that took place earlier this week, asked Congressman Stokes about how difficult it was for him to work for 17 years to create a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King and what advice he had for young people. Congressman Stokes really appreciated the question and said that many of the problems faced by young people today should have been solved a long time ago and for this he was sorry. As far as the holiday for Dr. King, he acknowledged that things don't happen overnight and sometimes great patience and hard work are needed; he understands that the process is slow but it is sure. Congressman Stokes concluded by saying that we need the leadership of young people so he urged all of the students there to get a good education and become leaders.

It was a wonderful program and we are very grateful to City Club member Mr. Joe Stills for suggesting that they have a program featuring Congressman Stokes and to Ms. Patty Quinones for working so hard to make it happen.

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