This past week I had the unbelievable privilege of being the commencement speaker at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy, a Cleveland Metropolitan School District school, that helps students achieve a comprehensive grasp of their new language in a timely manner so they can successfully transition to a mainstream school. This school is home to 800 students from 25 different nations, speaking more than 15 unique languages before they become proficient in English. The graduation was just beautiful. The students and their families were overjoyed. The faculty and staff was equal parts wistful, proud, relieved, and happy.


What moved me was the Valedictorian’s words : “our teacher’s kept telling us try, try, try, try, try. And so we did. And now we are here.” To see these young people from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Nepal with their poise and that look, that look that you know what I’m talking about. That look of excitement, youth and hope. My mind kept going to the journeys these young graduates have endured, through refugee camps, through militarized borders, through checkpoints, through oppression, to freedom, to light, to Cleveland.

These young people and their families are the faces of the newcomer. They are joined in Cleveland with approximately 1000 refugees who come here annually, with almost 3000 people being sworn in as new citizens of these great United States at our US Federal Courthouse in Downtown annually. With the 5000+ international students coming to the Cleveland area every year to study at our great academic institutions of higher learning, the fact is the world is here, the world has been here, the world will continue to be here. There is an absolute and direct correlation between our community’s genesis of greatness and the highest number and diversity of people coming here.

The great institutions of civitism and equality assurance : The Cleveland Foundation, The Cleveland Metroparks, The City Club to name but a few, were all founded in the decade of our greatest welcoming of international and national newcomers. This was when we were the city in the United States with the 5th highest amount of people. This cauldron of diversity, welcome, internationalism, and life force created a spirit of hope and self determination that clearly impacted the launch of the great community pillars listed above. What I take from this my friends, and what the students teach me at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomer Academy is this: the Cavalry isn’t coming because the Cavalry never left. We have it within ourselves to be the welcoming, loving, economically developing, prosperity bringing community that we were borne to be. We try, try, try, try, try, and now we are here. Thanks for being part of our Global Cleveland journey.