SOUTH HAVEN – South Haven Speakers Series President Mark Odland wasn’t kidding when he announced several months ago that audiences would be sure to recognize some of the names of this year’s guest speakers.
Keep up with news and gossip from the Speakers Series on this blog.
By BECKY KARK
EDlTOR AND GENERAL MANAGER
Bing Goei knows what it’s like to be an immigrant — a stranger in a strange country. He also knows, first-hand, how to become a successful business and community leader in that strange land.
Goei, who now serves as director of the Michigan Ofﬁce for New Americans, spoke about the role immigrants play in the state‘s economy, as part of the South Haven Speakers Series earlier this month.
“Our conversation is becoming negative,” he said, regarding the recent political movements to restrict the number of immigrants that can enter the United States. “We have the knowledge, technology and resources, but we have to get beyond stereotypes…l believe our economy is unsustainable if we don’t recognize that it’s for everyone, especially as everything is becoming global.”
Goei and his family left Indonesia in 1954 and sought political asylum first in the Netherlands and later in America where they ﬁnally arrived in 1960 in Grand Rapids. “My dad was an educator, my mother, a small business owner,” Goei said. “My dad was being told what to teach (by the Communist-run government). He felt it was against the well-being of children. At that time, the government was allowing people to leave. We had to leave with the proverbial suitcase and that was all my father, six boys and my mom was pregnant. It was a courageous decision.”
Goei went on to become a successful entrepreneur by getting involved in the ﬂoral business. In 2001, he purchased the bankrupt Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids and rebuilt it to become one of the top 50 Teleﬂora businesses with six locations in Holland, Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. In 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder chose Goei to lead the new Michigan Office for New Americans, an agency established to tap into the talents of immigrants for the betterment of the state and its economy.
“The governor recognizes the valuable contributions immigrants have made,” Goei said. “He wanted the state to maximize the talents of these individuals by making Michigan a welcoming state.” As director of the Office for New Americans, Goei focuses primarily on providing opportunities for immigrants to become entrepreneurs.
“Immigrants are two to three times more likely to start a business than U.S. born citizens,” he said. In Michigan, he said the immigrant population comprises 6.5 of the state’s population. Conversely, 10.4 percent of the state’s immigrants own businesses. Over the years, immigrants have made an impact on the state’s economy in other ways. “Immigrant businesses generated $1.8 billion in net business income in 2010,” he said. In 2014, immigrant household income totaled $19. billion, giving them a total spending power of $14.2 billion.
“They buy cars, homes, all the things we take for granted,” he said. He ended his speech with a prediction made by the U.S. Census Bureau. “By 2043, the majority of the U.S. population will be people of color. We can fear it or celebrate it. We need to know how to use that as an asset rather than making it a liability.”
The presentation on Immigration from Bing Goei was well attended. Here’s the video and some photos from the event.
Watch the video – Bing Goei: Immigration and Our Future – by Richard Brunvand.
By BECKY KARK
For the Herald-Palladium – http://heraldpalladium.mi.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=1dd8cf55f
SOUTH HAVEN — It would be easy for Detroit- born journalist Jack Lessenberry to look back on the good ol’ days of the 1970s when he was a young adult and the Motor City fueled Michigan’s status as one of the top 10 states in America for economicactivity. But as Lessenberry and many other Michiganders know, those days are gone. “Now we’re 34th,” he told a group of 200 people who attended the South Haven Speaker Series on Thursday at Lake Michigan College’s South Haven campus.
It was Lessenberry’s task to talk for an hour about how to make Michigan better, and he was up for the challenge.
During a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, Lessenberry told the LMC audience that he has known every Michigan governor sinceG. Mennen “Soapy” Williams. Currently a commentator for Michigan Public Radio and head of journalism at Wayne State University, he used to work as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor at The Detroit News and wrote for national and regional publications, including Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
His career has taken him to 40 countries. “A number of those countries don’t exist anymore,” he quipped. But he’s always remained loyal to the Mitten State and Detroit.
Especially now when Michigan faces great challenges.
“Michigan is an absolutely wonderful state,” Lessenberry said. “In some ways we’re not the state we used to be. In 1979 GM had more blue collar workers in Flint then they do in the entire country today. … We could become the best economy in the country, but we have to work at it.”
He presented five issues that confront Michigan and possible solutions:
• Roads, bridges and infrastructure. “Every year our roads deteriorate further,” he said. “It’s very hard to attract new businesses when your roads look like Beirut after a shelling.”
But Lessenberry’s solution would probably trouble people – raise the gas tax 20 cents, maybe even 40 cents to pay for the $3 billion annual cost over the next decade to fix the state’s roads. Right now, the state Legislature is earmarking $1 billion annually for road upgrades.
• Public schools and higher education. “We are cheating our students, Lessenberry said. “We seem to be the first generation that doesn’t want it better for our kids.”
The problem mainly stems from fewer lowskill, high-paying factory jobs and an increase in low-paying service sector jobs. But Lessenberry said the state and federal government should contribute more money to colleges to reduce the tuition burden many students deal with.
State and federal government revenue once accounted for 70 percent of a college’s budget. Now tuition from students accounts for 70 percent of acollege’s budget. In regard to K-12 education, Lessenberry thinks the state shouldn’t fund charter schools and should focus on fixing problems at public schools. However, he is in favor of private schools.
“They don’t get taxpayer money,” he said.
• Gerrymandering. Redistricting political districts in Michigan has hurt Republicans and Democrats, Lessenberry said, pointing out that in 2014 people in Michigan voted for more Democrats than Republicans for the state House of Representatives, but Republicans ended up with a majority in the House – 64-47.
“It is impossible for Democrats to win a majority the way the lines are drawn,” he said.
• Term limits. “Term limits sound like a good idea, but it opens the system up for corruption,” Lessenberry said. “In the last two years of your term,who are you thinking more about, constituents or the lobbyist who will get you a job when your done?”
Most legislators are finally getting the hang of their job when they end up being term limited, Lessenberry said. “You know who understands their job? Lobbyists. They’re there forever.”
• Jobs. Michigan needs to generate more jobs for its citizens.
But it will take the combined effort of better roads, more affordable higher education, and a commitment by the state to help attract industries. Perhaps Michigan’s junior U.S. Senator, Gary Peters, has the solution – driverless cars.
“Driverless cars need a huge upsurge of AI (artificial intelligence),” Lessenberry said. “If you could headquarter that here in Detroit it could do for this state what automobile automation originally did.”
Watch the video – Jack Lessenberry: Making Michigan Work Even Better – by Richard Brunvand.
What are you going to be when you grow up?
We start asking our kids that question almost as soon as they can talk. Then when they are in high school we put the pressure on….what college, what major, how much debt?
Dr Jean Norris and her son Michael raised some very good questions that we all need to answer as we make these life changing decisions. As we ask….Is College the best choice?
The mother son duo spoke at South Haven high school and then in the evening at the second event of the speaker’s series Thursday March 30th, 2017.
How do you help your student figure out the right path? The Norris team used their interest, value, skill, my life, school and program goal centered graphic to present a series of thought provoking questions designed to help students develop the right path to a successful career. The questions are also helpful for parents and grandparents advising students.
In setting goals ask: why do you want to do this, what does it give you and how will you go about getting it?
Under Interests what programs interest you, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? What do people ask you for help with and what careers are you considering for your future?
What skills do you currently have and what skills do you need to acquire to get to your goal?
What are some of the things that you value about school and/or your work? What do you care about? What are some of your “must have’s”?
Dr Norris and Michael turned to life issues asking: what might get in the way of achieving your goals? How will you manage the change that going to college will create?
Finally, if your exploration leads to college, how will you know when you’ve found the right college for you?
The presentation included links to a variety of Internet tools designed to help make decisions.
The two ended with advice for all to listen, establish a safety net and practice patience.
Watch the video by Richard Brunvand.
We kicked off the 2017 schedule with a timely and insightful presentation by David Ryden, J.D., PhD, Professor of Political Science at Hope College, and a nationally recognized authority on the Supreme Court and the Presidency.
It was a cold and windy evening, but as the audience members who came from South Haven and as far away as Niles and Grandville began to fill the Lake Michigan College, South Haven auditorium, we realized the Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and the upcoming senate confirmation hearings were top of mind for many people in SW Michigan.
David led a lively and engaging conversation with the audience by stepping away from a typical professorial presentation, and inviting audience participation by posing eight questions and offering liberal, moderate, and conservative viewpoints. One of the questions, “How important was the makeup of the Supreme Court in the 2016 Presidential election that resulted in Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory”, was answered with post election data that suggested it was very important in the minds of people who voted for Donald Trump, and may have actually swayed the election result.
Many audience opinions were expressed about the appropriateness of President Obamas nominee, Merrick Garland, not being granted a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee, but from a constitutional perspective, that decision, while frustrating to many, was within the law.
David noted that every US President attempts to “pack the court” with like-minded Justices because it helps assures a President’s legacy. It also provides the president with the opportunity to potentially maintain the balance of the court, reinforce the balance of the court, or, rarely, to substantially change the balance of the court.
He concluded his presentation with a thought that had many audience members thinking about what could be an unintended consequence of selecting a highly conservative justice. Justices who are conservative and closely aligned with the “original intent of the constitution” philosophy tend to view the executive branch with caution and are more likely to dampen the new President’s ability to govern through executive order. In other words, the unintended consequence of a conservative justice would be to throttle the power of the person who selected him as the nominee, President Trump.
We were impressed with the speaker’s depth of knowledge, and equally impressed with the insight of the audience members as demonstrated by their questions. Lots of great audience questions.
All of this, plus an awesome wine and cheese reception with the speaker, made for a fun and enlightening evening. Hope to see you on March 30 for our next presentation. Stay in touch with us by sharing your thoughts.
Contributed by Bob Tolpa and Mark Odland
Today is our third birthday and that’s a big deal for us. We’ve finished two highly successful years with record setting attendance in 2016, and are getting ready to launch a whole new look with our web site, Facebook page, marketing, and advertising. And wait until you see our issues packed lineup coming in 2017. Six inspiring speakers addressing topics that are impacting our lives today. A new look, an expanded lineup of speakers, and a loyal group of supporters who have been with us from the start. We are energized by you and ready to get to work with our programming that is just around the corner.
Have you noticed our new logo? Thanks to the superb photography of Dylan Nelson, we have incorporated the iconic South Haven Lighthouse into all of our marketing materials. Dylan is a very talented photographer who recently graduated from South Haven High School and is now studying marketing at Grand Valley University. He took this lighthouse image one very cold evening keeping the lens open for this spectacular photo. We think the lighthouse serves to promote our work in bringing illuminating subjects and highly informed and interesting speakers to our series. Dylan granted us permission to use this photo without charge and we are thankful for his generosity.
Speaking of generosity, did you know the Speakers Series of South Haven derives much of its support from many generous donors throughout the region? We are grateful to our supporters and corporate sponsors for their financial donations. Thank you for helping us bring talented and informative speakers to our community.
And, speaking of generosity, we are so fortunate to be led by an all-volunteer board of directors who give generously of their time, talent, and financial resources. Special thanks goes to Dick Brunvand for his wonderful videography and marketing work, together with Lisl Weiss for all of the crisp and colorful posters, flyers, and advertisements. Tom Renner continues to support us with his incredible photography and the Hodgman’s always make sure the pre-program receptions are a big hit.
We’d love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. Send us a note with your thoughts, and also share your good ideas about future speakers.
We hope to see you for our first presentation of 2017 on March 14 when David Ryden, Professor of Political Science at Hope College, will be here to present “The United States Supreme Court in the Cross-hairs”. David will discuss the current opening on the Supreme Court and share his perspective on the likely outcome. Don’t miss this one.