Patriotic Duty

September 3, 2002
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Employers may have a tough decision to make next week as the country’s scab covering terrorism is picked off on the first anniversary of the destruction at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Everyone wants to do his or her patriotic duty, but, unless President George W. Bush calls for a national day (off) of mourning (with pay), employers will be in a touchy spot when employees want to share their emotions with others outside the office setting.

And that’s what will happen in Grand Rapids, when a community Sept. 11 observance starts at 8:46 a.m. in Ah-Nab-Awen Park, on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

The event features speakers Mayor JohnLogie and StevenHeacock, chairman of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, as well as musical selections performed by the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony Brass Quintet, Bethel Pentecostal Choir, and combined children’s choir from Sibley and Madison Park elementary schools.

The Grand Rapids Symphony is scheduled to give a free concert at 10 at the Welsh Auditorium, lasting 40 minutes.

Participants are then invited to join a silent march through the streets of Grand Rapids led by Grand Rapids Community College President JuanOlivarez, beginning at 11:15 at the GRCC campus and concluding at Ah-Nab-Awen half an hour later.

Singer/songwriter CindyBullens will conclude the observance with a free concert in the park.

DennisDaellenbach, director of the Ford Museum and Library, said a recorded message from President Gerald R. Ford also will be played. The museum also will be hosting an exhibit called “9/11: Messages from the World, Images of Ground Zero,” which is making its national debut in West Michigan.

  • A vivid reminder of Sept. 11 occurs Wednesday when a full-scale chemical weapons of mass destruction exercise takes place in the rear parking areas of Van Andel Arena.

The drill looks at the first four hours of response following a simulated chemical weapons terrorist attack and tests the coordinated response of various city, county, state and federal departments, as well as all local hospitals.

The four-hour event, which takes place from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., means several streets around the arena will be closed. Fulton Street will remain open.

Remember, this is only a drill.

  • The Major League Baseball strike isn’t the only work stoppage that’s on the radar screen. If you’re traveling to Chicago on business this week, check to make sure that hotel workers are on the job.

Members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union were threatening to walk off the job last Saturday unless a new contract was reached with 29 hotels in downtown Chicago and the suburbs.

Local hotel operators say they can’t afford the pay hikes their employees want, but others wonder whether the hotels can afford to fight. With the busy fall convention season kicking off this week, observers believe hotel operators would have difficulty covering the duties of 7,000 striking workers with the skeleton staffs made up of managers and non-striking employees. In addition, unions representing the laundry workers, electricians and engineers as of last Friday had pledged not to cross picket lines.

The affected hotels range from the Allerton Crowne Plaza to the Westin Hotel Chicago, with plenty of big names in between.

  • Best wishes to MikeNichols, the executive director of the local Farmers Insurance Classic Senior PGA Tour event, who is leaving for Dayton to take a job with the company managing the 2005 U.S. Senior Open. Here’s hoping your event can avoid holiday weeks.

  • Here’s another sign that Grand Rapids is growing. City Clerk TerriHegarty is putting out a call for bilingual election workers interested in working at voting precincts throughout the city.

Election workers must be U.S. citizens who are 18 or older and are registered to vote in the city of Grand Rapids. The rate of pay is $115 per election, plus $7.50 for attending a mandatory training class.

Hegarty said people who speak Spanish and English are especially encouraged to apply. Call the clerk’s office at 456-3010 for an application.

  • Speaking of foreign affairs, the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan is bringing in some heavy hitters for upcoming events.

First up is MaryRobinson, former president of Ireland (1990-97) and currently United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Robinson will speak at the organization’s 53rd anniversary dinner on Monday, Nov. 18.

“She fits right in to our strategy of hosting a former world leader during their first American lecture tour after leaving office,” said DixieAnderson, executive director. “This creates such immediacy with their message, as they’re so newly away from their post. Yet, I think, they’re freer to say exactly what they think because they are no longer in an official position.”

Last year’s speaker was former Israeli Prime Minister EhudBarak

But Robinson isn’t the only foreign dignitary coming to town.

“Nobel Peace Prize winner (1984) Bishop DesmondTutu is the council’s capstone speaker in its Great Decisions Foreign Policy Lecture Series coming up in February and March of next year,” Anderson said. “Bishop Tutu, because of his age and health, accepts only about four speaking engagements a year in the United States. We had to submit a proposal and wait to hear if he accepted or not.

“Happily for western Michigan, he has agreed to visit Tuesday, March 25, 2003. We’re still working out all the details — we haven’t even decided on a venue yet — but the event is definitely open to the public. We’ll put out a notice so people know when they will be able to purchase tickets.”

The anniversary dinner also is open to the public. Call the council offices at 776-1721 for information.           

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