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International vigilance mandatory.

Look in the dictionary for a definition of melting pot, and it ought to say "see Toledo? Like many mid-sized cities in America's heartland, Toledo is a diverse mix of old-world cultures and new-world realities.

Toledo is home to substantial Polish, Hungarian, and other ethnic communities, plus significant numbers of Hispanics and African Americans. In addition, one of the largest Islamic mosques in the Midwest is located in our nearby suburb of Perrysburg.

Just fifty miles to the north sits the busiest border crossing between the United States and our long-time and occasionally misunderstood ally--and largest trading partner--Canada.

So it is not accidental that The Blade, in its news columns and on its pages of opinion, recognizes the importance of international news, editorials, and op-ed commentary.

Several times when John Tennant was still serving the Canadian government as its consul-general in Detroit, he commented to our editorial board that few American newspapers paid more attention to Canada than The Blade.

We value that recognition because in the real world of today, a newspaper cannot look inward only. With our family of readers now scattered around the planet and reading us via the Internet, our thoughts on the future of the Balkans are as important as our can't-fail editorial solution for a local sewer overflow problem or administrative controversy at the Toledo Zoo.

Our newspaper's commitment to thinking, reporting, and editorializing on a global scale was reaffirmed five years ago after the untimely passing of a dear friend and editorial board colleague, Thomas Wellman, a skilled writer who was well known to the NCEW membership.

Tom was our resident expert on foreign affairs, with a special interest in Canada and foreign trade issues, and while we mourned him on a personal level, we also recognized that his loss created a professional void as well.

We elected to search for a new editorialist in the same mold and determined that we would not limit our search to the United States, so we placed an ad in the International Herald Tribune. Our qualifications were simple and straightforward: We wanted a commentator who could write in a provocative fashion about geopolitics and speak with an insider's knowledge about trade, about diplomacy, about America's place in the world.

The responses were plentiful and uniformly excellent. But one especially caught our eye. It came not from a journalist but from a thirty-five-year veteran of the diplomatic corps, a career foreign service officer and diplomat, and a man with an impressive list of ambassadorial assignments in Europe and Africa.

His sample columns suggested we had found our man, and today Daniel Simpson is a valued member of the editorial boards of both The Blade and our sister newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dan's editorials appear several times a week in both papers, and he produces a once-a-week column as well.

The Blade's commitment to the world around us is nothing new. Not many American newspapers, especially newspapers our size, can keep a foreign correspondent in Europe and wherever else he may be needed, but The Blade did for nearly thirty years.

Fernand Auberjonois's relationship with our late publisher, Paul Block Jr., and later our current publisher, John Robinson Block, was solid evidence of that commitment. It was a relationship that endured past Auberjoinois's retirement in 1983 until his death in 2004.

I firmly believe that this commendable emphasis on international reporting and commentary makes our newspaper and our editorial pages among the liveliest around.

Perhaps we do not always have the same positive influence--or the same swift gratification--after commenting on foreign affairs that we did when we fought for the construction of a new downtown ballpark for the Toledo Mud Hens, or when making a case for switching our city's form of government from city manager to strong mayor. We pushed hard for both and achieved both.

But you can bet the State Department knows all about Dan Simpson's new career and is keenly aware of The Blade and Post-Gazette's intense interest in foreign policy. In short, they know we're watching.

At a time when our country endures a war seemingly without end, terrorism remains an unseen enemy, and our relationship with significant portions of the global community is strained, the vigilance of our editorial pages is mandatory.

Thomas Walton is editor and vice president of the Toledo Blade. E-mail twalton@theblade.com
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Title Annotation:SYMPOSIUM: Editorializing on international issues
Author:Walton, Thomas
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1U3OH
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Words:725
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