Carl Stokes Building Dedication - Cleveland, Ohio


SEPT. 24, 2002

Good morning, everyone.

Congressman Louis Stokes, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, it is certainly a pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you, and it is an honor to be here with retired U.S. District Judges Lambros and White as well as U.S. District Chief Judge Paul Matia and the other esteemed jurists and colleagues of the court for the dedication of this magnificent Carl B. Stokes United States Courthouse. The dedication of the Stokes Federal Courthouse marks a glorious and historic occasion for Cleveland, for the state of Ohio and for our Nation. We are here to express our heart-felt appreciation to those who worked so hard in years past to make this building possible¿and we are here to express our heart-felt aspirations to those who will work to administer justice within the walls of this building in years to come.

Before I comment further about the Stokes Courthouse, I know that President Bush and members of congress would want me to express best wishes and congratulations to Congressman Louis Stokes - and to the Stokes family. Congressman Stokes, we treasure the life-time of public service and pioneering leadership that you have given to our great state of Ohio and to America. Thank you.

Greetings from Washington also to U.S. District Chief Judge Matia, to the Honorable Court of Appeals Judge Karen Nelson Moore, and to Mayor Jane Campbell.

Ladies and gentlemen, Senator George Voinovich and Congressman Steven LaTourette send their profound regrets that they could not be here personally today because of scheduled votes in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on matters relating to providing homeland security against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. As you may know, Senator Voinovich provided strong support to Congressman Stokes and other member of Congress to secure the additional funds needed to bring this building to a successful conclusion. As you may also know, Congressman LaTourette was a sponsor of the legislation that named this U.S. Courthouse to honor the life and legacy of Carl B. Stokes.

The completion of this huge project would not have been possible without the strong collaboration, persistence and excellent work of a great many people over an extended period of time. This certainly includes retired Chief Judge Thomas Lambros who got the project started, retired Chief Judge George White who sustained the momentum and our current Chief Judge Paul Matia who has seen the project through to construction of the beautiful building before you today.

So "thank you" to the judiciary for helping to make this building a reality, including Jerry Smith, the Clerk of the Court, Pat Glass, Administrative Manager, and David Allen, the Court Architect. I particularly would like to commend architect Michael McKinnell and the firm of Kallmann, McKinnell and Wood. Mr. McKinnell clearly has succeeded in creating a wonderfully designed structure that adds a new dimension to the Cleveland skyline and is already becoming a well-recognized icon in that skyline. We can all take pride in this beautiful building and the fact that it will serve the needs of the court and citizens of Ohio for generations to come.

Congratulations also to the GSA team of very talented associates here in our Great Lakes Region who coordinated this huge construction project. This work was completed under the direction of GSA's Regional Administrator, Jim Handley, and the Executive Project Manager, Rich Latkowski. The project team included: Zlata Godsel, Kathleen Kapala, Elizabeth Lopez, Josue Flores, Anthony Szafran, William Green, Laurel Soltan and Camdon Hindes. Other GSA team members on the project were Kathy Lease, Dave Overholt, Heather Kilbride, Janet Opasker, Diana Ciryak and Michael Springer. Thanks to all of the GSA team for the great work you did on this important project.

I hope that each time we see this building in the future, we will be reminded that this towering structure befits its namesake, Carl B. Stokes - a man who came from very humble beginnings to rise to towering heights in terms of his accomplishments at the local, state and national level. Carl stokes was born in Cleveland in 1927, as the second son of Charles and Louise Stokes. As Carl and his brother Louis grew up in a federally funded housing complex, Mrs. Stokes surely must have provided extraordinary parenting and nurturing in order to develop sons who would achieve such great heights in their public service careers. Carl was a person with incredible charisma and incredible talent. We know that he worked hard to achieve his education and to prepare himself for his destiny. In 1954 he achieved his law degree; in 1957 he passed the bar and joined his brother in the practice of law at the firm of Stokes and Stokes. In 1963 he became the first African-American to be elected as a democrat to the Ohio house of representatives. In 1967 Carl became the first African-American mayor of a major U.S. city - a watershed event for American politics and for American society.

I remember vividly, as though it was only yesterday, watching Carl Stokes on television in the debates during his campaign for mayor of Cleveland in the mid-1960's. He was well informed, he was articulate, and he was inspirational. I know that every young person in my neighborhood was inspired by Carl Stokes and learned from him that we should prepare ourselves to seize the opportunities and to carry out our responsibilities to pursue successful careers in both the public service and private sector areas in this country. At the time of his election, " the Reverend Martin Luther King said Carl's election - along with the election the same day of Richard Hatcher as mayor of Gary, Indiana - showed "once again, American voters have successfully hurdled the barrier of race." Some years later, Senator George Voinovich has called Carl Stokes "a lifelong role model, not only for African-Americans, but for all citizens." As mayor, Carl Stokes emphasized jobs and housing. He called politics "one of the most serious endeavors on earth."

Carl Stokes made many of his own breaks in life, and success followed from one endeavor to the next. He was reelected as mayor of Cleveland in 1969. He later became an award-winning journalist in New York City, a Cleveland Municipal Court Judge, and U.S. Ambassador to the Seychelles Islands. It's wonderful to know that this facility will provide the space and amenities the court will need to continue its rich tradition in the administration of the principles that Carl Stokes believed in so strongly - democracy, liberty and justice for all. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, we heard it said often that the terrorist could shake the foundation of our buildings of concrete and steel but they could not shake the foundation of this Nation's great institutions. This court is one of those institutional foundations that cannot be shaken.

Today and for generations to come, this court in this facility will carry on and help decide the important issues of the day. As people pass through the courthouse, we hope they will realize that they are in a special place named for a special individual. Again, on behalf of all my associates at GSA, on behalf of President Bush and most importantly on behalf of the American people, congratulations to all who worked so hard to make the project a success. And best wishes for continued success in the future.


Last Reviewed 2013-12-19