It is Thursday, January 22. This is the Forty First Annual Youth Rally for Life. Normally we have held this event on Cleveland Public Square at noon in the midst of all the lunch-time crowds. Despite the usual freezing cold, the young people have always come from their high schools and colleges to deliver their messages of hope and love. We more "mature young people" come to listen and find inspiration.
Our technical wizard Rob Netgen has attended since the beginning years. He rents the loudspeakers and posts the large speaker boxes around the square quadrant so all can hear what our youth are saying. Did I mention that only those who are under 26 years of age are invited to speak?
Today in 2015, however, we cannot use Public Square which is undergoing renovation and reconstruction.
So we have been relegated by the city bureaucrats to the "Free Stamp" area beside Cleveland City Hall which is hardly a bustling space. I get there early this Thursday at 11:00 AM to find whatever parking is available near the huge tilted sculpture shaped like a big hand-stamp with its word of "Free." This huge ungainly artwork sprawls in the middle of a lonely park now covered everywhere with deep and piled up dirty white snows.
Fortunately, I find a parking place on the street. The meter is only good for one hour at a time, but I find lots of quarters in my glove compartment. Then while I pray somebody will show up at this lonely place for the rally, I spend my time scrawling pro-life slogans with huge color markers on white poster boards spread out on my wet car hood.
I am printing in my best Van Gogh style. (Undoubtedly future art connoisseurs will bid for these at auctions.) One sign says, "We are Prolife." Another invites, "Honk for Life." A third proclaims "Abortion kills love."
Our speakers always address many prolife subjects, but they all emphasize abortion, the taking of innocent human life, and the need to help pregnant mothers who may find themselves pressured into aborting their unborn babies because of their harsh circumstances,
I know abortion is a tough subject to discuss. I have many prolife friends and also many prochoice friends. I do listen to all of them and I do communicate with them on our prolife activities.
Here is a response I received from the wife of a good friend of mine after I sent her a notice about today's Youth event.
Please don't include me in these mailings. As I think you know, I have different concerns regarding this issue.
I even have one prochoice friend-at least I hope she still is a friend--who ordered a copy of my Book "Legal Warriors" which celebrates my fifty years of legal practice. I suspect that when she found out that my book had about thirty pages of prolife views out of some 800 pages, she decided not to pay for the book. She has also kept the book and will not answer my friendly collection phone calls. This is an attorney no less whose career should be built upon respecting others even when she strongly disagrees with them.
My point is that we must not shut off communication. It is not just courtesy to others, but a decent respect for the views of others. Let's get back to this year's Youth Rally. While I am drawing my best art for the poster signs, Rob Netgen shows up with the loudspeakers. On the snow-covered grass, we shall have our rally. Rob will unroll all the cords and put up the huge rectangular black boxes in their triangular stands. He has also brought a speakers' podium.
The event begins now with wonderful prolife songs broadcast everywhere by our Master Technician Rob. He found the songs by googling "Prolife Songs." (Try the google yourself and you will discover so many marvelous lyrics celebrating pro-life.)
Virginia Hanley and her wonderful brother arrive. She will be our Mistress of Ceremonies, opening the Rally and introducing all the speakers. Virginia is quite "ancient" and I only hope she can finish her MC duties before collapsing in a dying heap on the cold sidewalk. Seriously, we all love her and the Hanley family who are longtime prolife veterans.
Reverend Ken Sundermeir and his friends arrive. He has brought many signs and spokespersons including a young guitarist. More people reach our destination and soon we have a good representative group whose enthusiastic presence warm this freezing day.
Attorney Steve shows up and he grabs the "HONK FOR LIFE" poster, which was leaning against an icy light pole. He stands tall by the curb and holds the sign up to each vehicle that zips by on Lakeside Avenue.
Meanwhile we held our other prolife signs high all along the curb of Lakeside Avenue. The "HONK FOR LIFE" sign draws many appreciative beeps from the cars going by.
One man will pass by and stop me as I am putting more coins in the meter to save my car from a parking ticket.
"They are so wrong," he exclaims, "they kill the unborn babies and they should not be doing that. They are just wrong." He shakes his head and states, "Thank you for being here." He then drives on.
"Gather around," Virginia urges. Our MC opens the program by reading short passages on life from the Bible and then voicing a welcome message for all. "We have to remember." she reminds us, "that 57 million unborn babies have been killed in America since we began this annual event forty one years ago. We must also remember their mothers who often are pressured into these abortions."
"Let us say our Pledge of Allegiance."
We all place our right hand over our hearts. We say the pledge while saluting the flag whipping in the cold wind high atop City Hall. Next occurs our prolife audience singing "My country tis of thee."
"We have our first presentation," says Virginia. "This is John with his guitar. He will play his favorite song."
The words tumble softly from John's throat while his numb fingers dance along the instrument's strings. "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Black and Yellow, Red and White, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."
Then begins a parade of speakers, including four lawyers who have braved the cold. Denise asks us to remember the women including those hurt by incompetent abortionists. (Currently she is litigating against one who continued his cutting after the patient had cried out for him to stop.)
Bob, an attorney confined to a wheel chair that sinks continuously into the mushy snow, asks us to remember we must love everyone. Then lawyer Steve still carrying his "Honk for Life" sign, stands in front of the group, and says a prayer for everyone.
My turn, as the fourth attorney, is next. I begin the familiar chant, "Give me an 'L'"
"L!" the crowd shouts.
"Give me an 'I!'"
"Give me an "F'."
"Give me an 'E."
"What's it spell?" I ask.
"Louder." I plead.
"What are we here for?"
"LIFE!" The cry echoes off the stone walls of City Hall.
"Life," I repeat. "Our fight to protect life includes all the unborn babies and their pregnant mothers. It also includes many more, the elderly and severely handicapped threatened by euthanasia; prisoners on death row in jail; the undocumented in our country who can be deported to war torn countries; and of course the poor. Today we remember all of them and ask our nation to protect their right to life."
A tall straight standing veteran is next. He is from the Viet Nam era and proudly now wears his almost fifty-year-old uniform. "Peace should be our goal," he says, "not constant bloody warfare including what we did in Viet Nam." Yes, I know this man, Lou, who once gave me a tape recording he had made long ago one night in Viet Nam. As I remember, on the tape he is saying, "It is quiet now. But they say a major attack is coming. We shall see what happens."
Then all hell breaks loose on the sound-activated tape player. That was the night when the Tet Offensive burst forth in Viet Nam and reverberated around the world. While the Communist Offensive was eventually defeated militarily, "The Tet Offensive" became a symbol for those in America who said, "Enough!"
Rob Netgen takes his turn now. He begins his own chant. "Give me an 'L'!"
"L!" the crowd shouts.
"Give me an 'O!'"
"Give me an "V'."
"Give me an 'E."
"What's it spell?" Rob begs.
"Louder." He beseeches.
"Why are we here?"
We next encourage a twelve year old boy to say a few words. He had come with his mother and younger sister to the Rally. He has been holding up a huge banner with others behind the speakers' stand, asking us to remember the 57 million. Finally, he gains the courage to grasp the microphone from Virginia. He begs us, "Stop the abortion killings. Stop the abortion killings."
Others will speak, mothers and grandmothers, students and older activists who have been fighting abortion for decades.
It is one o'clock. Do we hear a church bell somewhere? The troops are getting a little cold. It is time for the windup. We must take the collection of moneys to send to the pregnancy help centers that offer pregnant women a real choice with help so they can have their babies.
Virginia passes me the microphone for my traditional plea. "This is a very distinctive week when we had a special remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King whose birthday we all celebrated. Dr. King's niece has told us about her own two abortions, her sorrow over these lost babies, and now she is a leading prolife speaker. She has declared that if her 'Uncle Martin' was alive today, he would be leading the struggle against abortion. Would it not be great to witness Dr. King leading the march with us in Washington?
"We also must remembered other prolife heroes such as Attorney Nellie Grey who is the Mother of the great Washington March for Life and Dr. Mildred Jefferson who established the National Right to Life Committee. Dr. Jefferson was the first woman from an Afro-American background to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
"We remembered our own local prolife heroes such as Patricia Pichler, Rita Krebs, and Stephanie Varga.
"We now must show our dedication. Reach into your wallets and your purses. Find the dollars and twenty-dollar bills, or even your checkbooks. My daughter Betina has the hat and will pass among you. Give all you can into the hat. Dollars, checks, pennies--the amount does not matter. Give whatever you can!"
While Betina takes up the collection, Virgina clasps the microphone to lead us in two final songs. The first is "He has the Whole World in His hands." To the traditional lyrics we add, "He has the little bitty babies in His hands, He has the whole world in His hands."
For our last song, we boldly intone, "We shall overcome," in the best civil rights tradition.
This year's Youth Rally ends with all of us headed for hot sandwiches and the heaven-sent heat of a Subway restaurant. Thank you, readers, for all your help and support. This year's National March in Washington also was a tremendous success and even the Cleveland Plain Dealer had to publish an account of the thousands upon thousands who made the long journey to our Capital.
That embraced many from the Cleveland area including schools that sent buses. While this affected our Cleveland event attendance, we always encourage people to first go to Washington. If you cannot make that long journey, there is always the Youth Rally for Life in Cleveland.
Of course, we hope we do not have to see you again next year because the evil of permissive abortion will have been eliminated from our Country. Pray that all will join together in safeguarding the right to life of every one.
Thank you again.
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