Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

May 18: WI Sec. of Agriculture Randy Romanski

–submitted by Janet Piraino

WI Sec. of Agriculture Randy Romanski gave Rotarians an overview of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and discussed the impact of agriculture on Wisconsin’s economy.

In addition to advising and providing financial support to farmers, DATCP regulates food safety, animal health, consumer protection laws and the meat packing industry. Agriculture is critical to our economy, with one in nine Wisconsinites employed in agriculture. Wisconsin is fourth in the world in cheese production.

Romanski’s presentation included a visit from Alice in Dairyland, who promotes Wisconsin agriculture products. He gave shoutouts to past Alices in attendance, including our own Carol Koby.

If you missed our Rotary meeting last week, you can watch the video here. (Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our guest speaker last week and for allowing us to post it on our club’s YouTube channel.)

May 4: Ukraine/Poland Border in 48 Hours

submitted by Valerie Renk

Alan Klugman and Joe Shumow shared details May 4 of their humanitarian visit to the border of Poland and Ukraine.  They visited four refugee centers, meeting with volunteers and some of Poland’s three million Ukraine refugees as part of a Jewish Federation delegation. 

Their visit lasted only 48 hours, but they heard stories of a lifetime. They met a refugee who told of meeting family with a son paralyzed from the neck down. The family took turns carrying him for three days, finally collapsing. With help from many, they were able to finally emigrate safely to Warsaw.   

Another moving story was an 87-year-old-woman, left at the border with volunteers by her son who went back for family. This made the elderly woman relive World War II memories.  Happily, her son was able to reunite her and his family.

It was powerful, they said, to sit in Warsaw and feel safe, as this is an historically war-torn

area. The Polish government paid for two of the refugee centers and other resources. Over three million refugees have been accepted in Poland; 300,000 Poles have opened their homes to offer safety at their own cost.

What can we do to help?  Giving is paramount. Many groups are raising money, including Jewish Federation ( , and Rotary international (   

Volunteering is also needed; local volunteers were all races and religions of people who had a previous connection to Ukraine who wanted to give back. They were often sharing a sweater, a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a hug.  Volunteers are needed who speak Russian.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

April 20: Changes to the Military

–submitted by Rich Leffler

Col. Sheri Swokowski (right) pictured here with Club President Teresa Holmes

Our speaker, retired Army Colonel Sheri Swokowski, served for 35 years. She is the highest ranked retired Trans officer. She discussed the military’s dual nature concerning minorities, the “DOD Dichotomy.” Until 1948, the military segregated Blacks. President Truman ordered the end of this discrimination and ordered equal pay for women. The military has since become a leader in the integration of minorities. She herself was discharged from the Army for transitioning in 2007. But she was eventually rehired by the Pentagon as an analyst and got her military record corrected. In 1993 the exclusion of gays was somewhat ended under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Similarly, discrimination against women and Trans personnel was ended under President Obama and again in 2021 after a hiatus under President Trump, but still not by statute and so, subject to reinstatement. Today, over 2,000 Transgender people serve, 86% of them either senior officers or enlisted personnel. Col. Swokowski then discussed LGBTQ issues in the larger society. Ultimately, the solution is for all people to be treated with respect and courtesy. Simple, but not achieved so far. Except perhaps in the military.

April 6: The Work of Politics in the Age of Digital Amplification

–submitted by Rich Leffler

Maier-Bascom Professor Dhavan Shah, Director of the Mass Communication Research Center at the UW-Madison proposed that modern digital and social media make it harder to compromise in politics. Our politics were developed in a different time, and modern technology actually degrades political debate. It is harming the ability to engage in reasoned deliberation. For instance, his research indicates that audiences react to dynamic style rather than substance. We live in “an attention economy.” Negativity gets the attention on social media. The angry and the bombastic get the online attention and this, in turn, is picked up by the larger media, amplifying it.

If you missed our meeting last week, you can watch the video here:

March 30: All Things Rotary – Local Rotary Clubs’ International Projects

This week’s program featured 3 international projects.  Our club’s International Committee Chair Gary Tree started the program by providing background information on the committee.  Next up, Tammy Thayer, a member of our International Committee, described plans for our International Committee’s new signature project which is a prevention program to help tackle child trafficking in Uganda. The project partners include our club, Rotary Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS), other international Rotary Clubs, and Hope for Justice (HFJ).   Kathy Roberg from Madison West Towne-Middleton Rotary Club shared information about their club’s project in Haiti and several others that their club supports.  Kevin Frost from Madison Breakfast Rotary shared details about their club sponsored project in Guatemala.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

What’s Going On Post COVID?

submitted by Larry Larrabee

From left: Jess Cavazos, Jason Ilstrup, Peggy Gunderson and Matt Gerding

The March 23rd program was a panel discussion of “The Post Covid World” that consisted of Rotarian Jess Cavazos from Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce, Matt Gerding from FPC Live (Frank Productions) and Peggy Gunderson of Strategic Brand Marketing with Jason Ilstrup serving as emcee.  After providing their organizations’ experience with the pandemic, there followed a discussion of how they were moving forward.  Space does not allow a just description but in essence, they described changes reflecting heightened importance of relationships, changes in the use of various technologies, and increased optimism for the future.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: