On Thursday, July 17, we went to the 53rd Annual Captive Nations Dinner by the American Nationalities Movement of Ohio which was held this year at the Wal-Tam’s Grand Ballroom on Granger Road in Garfield Heights.
Almost immediately upon arrival we met Ms. Irene Morrow, one the the organization’s founders, who told us how happy she was that they were able to obtain Wal Tams, a Polish caterer, to cater the event and indeed the food was excellent and the ballroom seemed filled to capacity; in fact it was announced during the course of the program that this was perhaps their most well-attended event in years and we must say that Judge Ralph J. Perk, Jr. and the other board members did a very fine job putting this event together.
It was great to be there surrounded by old friends and acquaintances and everyone loved it when Ms. Margaret W. Wong stopped by and spent some time there. Ms. Wong and U.S. Senator Rob Portman, who was both an honoree and the Keynote Speaker this evening, were both thrilled to have their photo taken together.
We got to sit at a table in the back (which was perfect for taking notes) with Mr. Jimmy Craciun of Craciun Funeral Home, who we knew but got to know better during the course of the evening, and Mr. D. John Beck who is retired from the AFL-CIO along with his partner of 30 years Ms. Karen Laus. Mr. Beck is a longtime admirer of Ms. Wong’s and told us how she graciously put on several events at her home years ago for the Peking Circus when it came to Cleveland. He loved it when Ms. Wong stopped by our table to say hello to him.
The program began with a Welcome by Judge Perk who reminded us how important it is for us to be eternally vigilant so that freedoms will not be lost the way that they now are in Eastern Europe. The pledge of allegiance was lead by the judges attending tonight’s event including Hon. Diane Karpinski, Hon. Joan Synenberg, Hon. Pamela Barker, Hon. Deborah J. Nicastro, and Hon. Rath Colaluca.
After dinner, the Freedom Award was first presented to Ms. Katalin K. Gulden who simply thanked the American Nationalities Movement for choosing her to receive it and then to Mr. Francis A. Rutkowski who spoke for a little longer and thanked the various Polish organizations namely the Polish American Congress that he has belonged to who worked “shoulder to shoulder” with him on important projects throughout the years.
The last Freedom Award for the evening was presented by Ms. Irene Morrow to U.S. Senator Rob Portman, who as we said before, was also the Keynote Speaker. Ms. Morrow highly praised Senator Portman and said that he had the “courage to do what is right and take responsibility” and called him our “go to person in Ohio”. Senator Portman in turn praised Ms. Morrow and said that she was a “woman committed to her cause” and that she worked with energy and compassion to serve those who she cared about.
Senator Portman went on to say that he loved Cleveland and considers it a “great diverse city representing America” and during the republican convention in 2016 the rest of the world will get to see how great Cleveland is. He praised the American Nationalites Movement for keeping him informed on how the situation in the Ukraine was deteriorating long before it started making the headlines. He said that the world intelligence community is not what it used to be and so groups like the American Nationalities Movement which has connections all over the world are becoming more and more invaluable.
Senator Portman went on to give a very compelling speech in which he condemned what the Soviet intervention in Crimea and the Ukraine and urged the current administration to change its foreign policy and send more artillery and equipment to our allies in that region and to impose tough sanctions against Russia. But most of all he urged the American Nationalities Movement to continue to do what it does because the people of places like the Ukraine/Crimea look to them for support and are so appreciative of their efforts. Senator Portman received a standing ovation for his speech.
The evening concluded with Judge Perk reading the names of supporters and sponsors of this event including Margaret W. Wong and Associates which also received a hearty applause.