Service to Chicago’s Diverse Communities
Robert D. Grant’s Speech
Robert Grant: NF is an Excellent Platform for Different Communities to Share Their Cultures and Values
Niagara Foundation’s Luncheon Forum continues to honor itself by hosting a number of significant figures from Chicago area and beyond. The presidents of several universities, the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, The General Manager of ABC 7 Chicago TV channel along with many others are just a few examples.
Niagara Foundation hosted yet another important voice of Chicago, Robert Grant, the Special Agent in charge of FBI Chicago, on 1st of February, 2007 at the Niagara Foundation. Along with splendid and delicious home-made Turkish food and candies, Robert Grant delivered an eloquent speech to the audience filled by people from different communities in Chicago.
Kemal Oksuz, the Executive Director of Niagara Foundation declared the event open and thanked Elmhurst College representatives for the flowers kindly sent to Niagara Foundation as Niagara Foundation sent 30 professors and personnel from Elmhurst College to Turkey for friendship and intercultural dialogue purposes. Beautiful flowers showed the thankfulness and gratitude of Americans to Turkish hospitability in Turkey. Later on, Mr. Oksuz presented a short biography of Robert Grant and introduced him to the audience and left the podium for the speaker.
Robert Grant was addressing to high profile people and full audience. Some FBI workers in Chicago were also present at the forum. Robert Grant firstly introduced his life-time experience from his childhood and stressed the intercultural and interfaith issues and problems that he faced when he had lived in Virginia. He told that he was a strong protestant despite of his predominantly environment of Catholics and his parents shared 4 different ethnic and religious backgrounds. He went on pointing out that his lifetime experience with racism, religious, ethnic and civil rights strife and violations led him be determined on his way to where he currently is.
Then he emphasized how diverse city of Chicago is and how distinct ethnic and cultural communities live side by side with peace for almost a decade but not more. He said that currently Italians, Greeks, Asians, Middle Easterns, Hispanics, Polish, Bulgarians, Bosnians, Albanians, Russians, Czechs are living in the city of Chicago. “Although blacks were few in the turn of the 20th century, it increased during 70s” added Mr. Grant. “The city of Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the US. It is ever changing and dynamic. Its geographic and strategic location makes it even more compatible to trade and economy” said Robert Grant. He told that there still do exist different cultures, values, religions and values so that FBI’s existence is of utmost importance. He also told that FBI consists of police forces and domestic spies or intelligence agencies. Also according to Robert Grant, it was important to alleviate fear that people have toward FBI. By stressing “When people fear to institutions that are responsible for the security of the people, then the services being provided diminish”, Mr. Grant defended his thesis of fear vs. police force/security institutions. It is supposed to be FBI’s job to protect all people regardless of their race and culture and/or ethnic background and give the justice to all.
He talked a little bit about FBI’s story of more than hundred years. He also confessed that FBI was a corrupt institution until 1970s. He listed down the decades and pointed out the priorities for FBI in particular decades. If in 1940s security of state borders, in 1950s, Cold war, espionage, in 1960s Vietnam War, Civil rights, organized crime were among priorities, it was 1970s and 1990s that FBI primarily focused on drugs, human trafficking, civil rights, Watergate scandal, and organized crimes. He told that 2001 was a turning point for FBI when two World Trade Center skyscrapers attacked by terrorists. It made FBI be more focused on homeland security and terrorist issues. FBI is a branch of Department of Justice. In the end of his formal presentation he talked about the main mission of FBI which is to protect all Americans, priorities as terrorist attacks, organized, high-tech and violent crimes, civil crimes and corruption. Core values are the respect to constitution and make sure that all executions and implementations are in line with the constitution of the Union. Then dignity, compassion, personal integrity, accountability for consequences is among FBI’s core values.
He briefly talked about the structure of FBI at the end of his speech. He told that FBI has 27,000 employees and divided into a number of divisions. Also it is very competitive to get into FBI.
As his topic was about Chicago’s diverse communities, he touched upon international and transnational criminal communities, too. According to Grant, in Chicago there are Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Korean, Albanian, Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Nigerians, and Polish Organized Crimes. It is mainly due to the friendship and relationships established among the members of those distinct communities so that they can act together and launch criminal groups.
Grant also complained about the civil rights issues and brutality of police to different ethnic communities in Chicago. But he also stressed that he experienced the decline of civil rights violation and racism cases throughout his career and it is primarily due to the professionalism in the work of FBI.
He concluded his speech by emphasizing the biggest problems that FBI is trying to solve which are human trafficking and slavery that is on significant rise in the country. He then responded to the questions posed to him by the audience. Executive Director of Niagara Foundation, Kemal Oksuz presented a very precious and meaningful gift to Robert Grant. The gift was a portrait of a single fascinating flower what we call as “Ebru” in Turkish. In Ebru kind of portraits, painters use many colors but none of them change their color during the decoration process. Every color keeps its original nature and it symbolizes friendship and intercultural communication attempts as many cultures, religions, communities live side by side peacefully without changing into another or assimilating into each other. Last half an hour of the event was a sweet picture of dialogue, getting to know each other, nice talks and constructive communications among different communities of Chicago while enjoying their food. Robert Grant thanked Niagara Foundation for its wonderful job and being an excellent platform for different communities to share their cultures and values in his interview to Niagara Foundation, Niagara Foundation Media Department reported. Also Mrs. Pascal, vice-consul of France to Chicago, sent her congratulations to Niagara Foundation as “it brings high profile speakers to stage so far” added Mrs. Pascal.
There were many leaders at the event from small communities in Chicago as well as representatives from FBI agency, vice-consul of France to Chicago, vice-president of Elmhurst College, representatives from many educational institutions, NGOs, governmental agencies along with representatives from Turkish community in Chicago.
The next luncheon forum is announced to be on 15th February, 2007 at Niagara Foundation. This time the speaker will be Professor Martin E. Marty from the University of Chicago.
February 1, 2007
Reception: 12:00 p.m.
Luncheon: 12:30 a.m.