CLEVELAND - I grew up in Cleveland, about a mile from the shoreline of Lake Erie, and I take a pride in what the city taught me about life. If you cut me, you will get a splash of blood, probably followed by a flow of Lake Erie water.
Cleveland is part of my bloodline. That's how deep my roots are in this city. It has long been my touchstone. I view its people and think my history here and my strength is renewed. This city has taken a lot of knocks over the last several years, but we Clevelanders need to realize we are among the places that has made America great. Not just now, but for many generations.
We should keep the city's storied history in mind as we help chart a new course into the 21st century.
When I was a kid growing up in the city, my family would take Sunday drives through Cleveland and I could see as part of the skyline those industrial stacks that belched out smoke and steam.
"That's money comin' out of those smokestacks," my father would say.
He understood the industrial plants that cast giant shadows over this region put food on the tables of many thousands of families. My dad did not work in a plant, but he did work in the U.S. Post Office. He took special pride in moving the mail throughout this country long before anybody ever heard of computers, websites and e-mail. For more than 30 years, he moved millions of pieces of mail.
When Dad lifted letters, postcards and bill payments to where they needed to go, he did so with precision. If it was your mail, he wanted to ensure he did as much as he could to get it to your house, and not the house around the corner. He understood his job, a small cog in the Cleveland workforce, was helping lift America.
In the 1950s and 60s, my uncles -- almost every one of them -- worked in a Cleveland manufacturing plant of some sort. They made steel or aluminum, fabricated some other kind of metal into products the world wanted and needed. Every one of them -- my dad, my uncles -- knew how to make something that somebody else wanted to buy. That was the Cleveland of my youth.
Each one of the members of the generation in front of me had survived 12 years of the Great Depression and four years of World War II. When the Korean War came along, they muscled through that time period, too.
The same with the Vietnam War. Many of us who were of age were called off to war. My family members were strong men and women who grunted out their livings in tough times in a tough city that understood families survived because of the hard work of those who brought home the bacon.
Cleveland has taken a few hits. The Industrial Flats of the city is not what it once was. A lot of jobs have gone up the old chimneys and disappeared into thin air. But Cleveland and its suburbs are still here, filled with strong-minded people cut off the same log from where their ancestors came. Many of us are descendants of those workers who knew how make something and make it good.
I have been thinking about this for a long while. Cleveland has the know-how that runs deep. My parents taught me the importance of hard work and dedication to the job. One year into my teenaged years, my dad suggested I ought to get a newspaper route and deliver the morning paper on doorsteps in my neighborhood.
At age 13, I was on the street seven days a week at six o'clock in the morning. In the bag draped over my shoulder were nearly a hundred newspapers that I folded individually so I could toss with a thud on the front porches of newspaper customers in my neighborhood.
Thirteen is a tender age to be muscling newspapers down the street before the sun has even had time to get out of bed. In the days of safe neighborhoods, I did it. My parents insisted I learn the importance of hard work. I was not alone.
Cleveland is filled with thousands of people who learned that same lesson. So when somebody says we are in a tough way economically in Cleveland, I understand the economic picture. But I also realize we have to keep in mind that we can come back. We are a tough people -- or the descendants of tough people. That strong work ethic is in our blood. It's part of the bloodline; it's part of the city's heritage.
I know America is filled with men and women who can do the work if there is work to be done. Business people, looking to set up shop somewhere, should look to Cleveland. In this city where the winding Cuyahoga River empties into the broad-chested Lake Erie, they would find a workforce ready to do the lifting of building something, or creating something, or bringing a service to the world's needs.
When this nation went off to war, Cleveland, Akron, Lorain, Sandusky, Canton, Massillon and a lot of other communities in Northeast Ohio, were there. The steel, rubber, copper, brass, textiles and other products were represented in the armaments and articles of war.
Civilian workers were at their machines around the clock, showing the might of America to the enemies of America. The manufacturing might of the nation was evident