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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, March 14, 2022

On Pat Jordan and the Importance of Debate in a Democracy

Guest Author, Blog, The City Club of Cleveland

On Pat Jordan and the Importance of Debate in a Democracy

This is a transcript of the remarks of Tom Lucchesi, partner at BakerHostetler, who introduced the 2022 high school debate championship, as he has done most years. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Pat Jordan was a partner at Baker and Hostettler. He grew up in Cleveland in an Irish west side family. He died in 1995 at the age of 37, leaving behind his daughter, Anne, and his wife, Sharon Sobol Jordan, who is now a member of the City Club board of directors. Before he became a lawyer, Pat was a championship debater, at St. Ignatius High School. He was truly larger than life.

Although he's been dead since 1995, for those of us that knew him, not a day goes by when we don't have some memory of Pat. He was an incredible person to be around. He was charismatic. He was funny. He was mean. I mean, he could be mean. But it was all in good humor. He loved to argue. And we would argue endlessly. There's a group of us—our families grew up together over the years—Pat would argue about everything. And for you, high school students in there are you and it was different back in the 80s. We didn't have a source to go to to resolve arguments. We couldn't call Siri or ask Google. We just debated, and it was really just force of personality and endurance. And Pat had more endurance than most.

He was a big guy with a gap-toothed grin. And he was like he was a southpaw. He was left handed, and he would just wave his arm very dismissively—when he argued he would wave his arm, and it was like, you're a fool for disagreeing with me. And I'm going to show you why you're wrong.

On Pat Jordan and the Importance of Debate in a Democracy

My favorite story about Pat—and if those of you that have looked at old videos on YouTube have heard this story—it's an important story. And to me, is important for the debate, and it's important to remember Pat this way. In the in the 80s, the Jacobs Group was constructing a what is now Key Tower. Our firm represented the Jacobs group, and Pat was in charge. One of his early jobs at the firm was to negotiate with the landowners that had leases and property interests at the site where the Key Tower now stands. And there was one particular guy he was negotiating with, a man named Joe, who ran a restaurant in the old Engineers Building on the corner of St. Clair and Ontario. And the negotiations were tough; Joe was driving a hard bargain. And Pat, you know, had to get the lowest price possible. And they went at it tooth and nail, it was a drawn-out affair, back and forth, and it was bitter and contested. And at the end of the day, they reached a resolution, they got a handshake, they made a deal.

And the important point of the story is, despite the conflict and the animosity, and you know, the the anger and the emotion of the debate—which is structurally what a negotiation is, it's a debate—they ended up lifelong friends. Joe relocated his restaurant, still has a restaurant downtown in the Old Arcade Building. And for years, he always asked, “How's Pat? Tell Pat, I said hello.” And there was just a mutual respect between the two. That, to me, embodies Pat Jordan—you could hate them during the negotiations, but at the end of the day, you love them.

And that's something that I think is an important lesson for today. It's always been an important lesson. And I've already stressed it, but over the last five or six years, people have lost the ability to meet in the middle. They've lost the ability to talk to each other to listen to the other side's argument, and to respond appropriately. People are very much into name calling, and villainizing the other side. But at the end of the day, you're going to have different points of view, you're going to listen to the other side, you're going to respond logically. And you're going to you know, try to try to convince everyone that you're right. And that's what a debate should be. And these are very life-altering skills. These are skills you will take with you the rest of your lives. And these are skills that, frankly, are essential to democracy. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, being free to express your ideas, and having the press record it all, those are the hallmarks and the very foundation of a democracy. And whenever a dictator takes over anywhere, those are the first three or four things they tried to eliminate. So that just shows you how essential they are. So while you guys promote democracy today, you're doing more than just arguing, you're promoting the American way of life.

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