The Biggest Little City on Earth

As many of you know, I’m originally from Youngstown, Ohio, an industrial hub and steel town. By the early 1930’s it was the forty-fifth largest city in America, hence its nickname “Biggest little city on earth.” During my childhood, even on the darkest night, the skies were red from the glowing blast furnaces.

In the early 1950’s, I entered public school kindergarten and matriculated through the system until I graduated. I was somewhat a minority student because I was a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant, and the vast majority of my classmates were first or second generation Americans. Their families had immigrated from such countries as Ireland, Wales, Poland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Greece, Hungary, and Serbia. Many of them had intriguing last names that hadn’t been Anglicized by some intake official. As a seventh grader, I fell hopelessly in love with John, and I practiced over and over again spelling his last name: Asimakopoulos.

I feel very fortunate to have experienced such a culturally rich childhood, where I was welcomed into so many unique family traditions. My mother’s cooking skills were far exceeded by most my friends’ mothers’. And tonight, I remember the wonderful afternoon when my friend’s Ukrainian grandma showed us how to elaborately decorate an Easter egg. And tonight, I marvel at how well everyone got along in my school, and how we shared our heritages together. But most of all tonight, I pray for peace in the Ukraine. Years ago, the renown Walter Cronkite posited: War itself is, of course, a form of madness. It’s hardly a civilized pursuit. It’s amazing how we spend so much time inventing devices to kill each other and so little time working on how to achieve peace.

Join me in praying for peace.

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