Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

Wisconsin Gay and Lesbian History Revealed in a New Book

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff

Dick WagnerWho knew about early Wisconsin’s gay history?  Really, no one.  But now, thanks to Richard Wagner, this story is out of the closet with his new, scholarly, and extensively illustrated book, We’ve Been Here All Along (Wisconsin Historical Society Press).

In a surprise-filled presentation Wagner summarized Wisconsin’s remarkable story from 1895 to 1969.  During most of these years, being gay in Wisconsin was downright dangerous.  Gays were almost universally regarded as criminals or suffering from organic illness or a psychiatric disorder, and this interpretation was upheld by the police, the courts, and even universities.  Men convicted of sodomy were routinely sent to prison or an insane asylum.

Not until the 1930s and 1940s did a few academics begin to view homosexuals as a legitimate subject for research.  For example, a UW professor interviewed prisoners at Waupun who had been convicted of sodomy and from this experience came a series of books and articles that softened society’s harsh caricatures.

Wagner noted that Madison gays and lesbians played significant activist roles by forming social clubs, creating gay bars, and forming organizations such as the Homophile League.

Curiously, Wisconsin society lavished a more benign interpretation upon lesbians describing them as “domestic friends.”   In 1962 when the UW-Madison launched a purge of homosexuals, lesbians escaped, thanks to Dean of Women Margaret Peterson, who was a lesbian.

Wagner began collecting documents for his book 40 years ago but did not begin to write it until 2008.  A second volume, Coming Out, Moving Forward, covering the period from 1969 to the present will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Press in 2020.

Our thanks also to Wisconsin Eye for videotaping our meeting this week and to the Wisconsin Historical Society Press for selling copies of Wagner’s book.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Brad Hutter Talks About Sharks at 4th Annual Bring Your Child/Grandchild to Rotary Day

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mike Engelberger

group 72419

Fellow Rotarian Bradley Hutter, “The Accidental Shark Diver”, gave an illustrated talk (lots of pictures and video!) about his unique experiences while scuba diving with sharks, including Tigers, Bulls, Hammerheads and Great Whites.

Brad Hutter 7 24 2019   Brad got into swimming with sharks “by accident” — he was scuba diving in Stuart Cove, Nassau, Bahamas, and was asked to be a safety diver by the staff of the Discovery Channel who were there filming sharks in the area.

Brad shared that sharks are typically shy and avoid humans. Sharks are in the fish family and half the species are under 39” long; some sharks can rotate their eyes backwards but they cannot swim backwards – so if they are coming towards you, just guide them along past you; some sharks have up to 30,000 teeth in a lifetime; and some deep cold water species can live to be 1,000 years old!  Sharks are apex predators and are very important to sea life balance.

He gave the audience some “tourist based shark rules” to follow if we ever find ourselves in the water with a shark nearby:

  • Don’t swim away, in fact, lean forward, even just a little bit.
  • Put your hands up in a blocking mode.
  • Look the shark in the eye! If you avert your eyes you become vulnerable; Respect sharks.
  • Swivel your head while keeping your eyes on the shark’s eyes.
  • Don’t swim in cloudy water – you may be mistaken for something sharks actually like to eat, like a seal.
  • Avoid dolphins as sharks may be in the area and about to feed on them.

Brad shared that on average, 10 people per year are killed by sharks (because the shark mistook the person as food they eat or the person got in the way of sharks feeding) and by comparison, 725,000 people per year are killed by mosquitos and 25,000 are killed by dogs.  Humans kill ~100,000 sharks per year and some species are down to 5% left.

Mismanaged plastic waste is a big concern for our oceans with China being the biggest polluter. Work needs to be done to stop countries like China from putting plastics in the ocean and laws are needed to outlaw fishing for fins.

Brad has enjoyed learning about sharks over the past seven years as he’s worked with experts seen regularly on Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”, National Geographic, and Animal Planet. It’s a family affair as Brad’s daughters are now avid shark divers themselves.

Brad has a saying – “Live every week like it’s shark week.”

How to Make Time for What Matters…

submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Mike Engelberger

Zeratsky

From let: Club President Andrea Kaminski, John Zeratsky and Past President Jason Beren

How many times have you thought what happened to my week?  Why didn’t I accomplish what I wanted?

John Zeratsky would say that defaults have taken over your life.  It’s not your lack of self-control or willpower.  It’s all of the electronic distractions, calendars, meetings, etc…the defaults that prevent you for making time for what matters.

Taking your guilt out of the picture, Zeratsky shares his journey from list maker- organizer extraordinaire to living a life making time for what matters.

He highlighted his personal journey from Green Lake to UW-Madison to the high-tech Google world.   He and his partner wrote a book sharing methods for getting out from under the daily milieu, “Make Time.” The book shares 87 tactics to make time everyday for what’s important.

Four Daily Steps:

  1. What’s the highlight of your day?  Write it down on a sticky note.  What’s your top focus of activity today?
  2. Create barriers to distraction.  For example, put that phone away.  Turn off or delete aps that demand your attention.
  3. Build energy to enjoy the moments and interactions that matter.
  4. One day at a time.  Each day you can choose to spend time differently.

Feeling a need to disconnect from the world of carryout, Uber and Amazon, he and his wife then embarked on a sailing adventure from SF south through the Panama Canal and then up through the Caribbean to Key West.  On this trip, they were able to disengage from their frenetic world and decided to begin again in Milwaukee…”relearning the value of belonging.”

Zeratsky ends his presentation describing his journey in “self-care” (on their voyage) to the realization that his greater need was contributing to the bigger world.  He ends with “the threads of connection can’t replace that feeling of belonging – that you are meant to be somewhere.”  In his case, Milwaukee.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

 

 

How to Save the World

submitted by Jessica Giesen; photo by Mike Engelberger

Niraj Nijhawan 7 10 2019We are living in the information generation – constantly bombarded by new information and larger and larger amounts of data. In fact, the world is changing so rapidly that the future has become a complete unknown. That unknown is creating anxiety and interrupting everyone’s ability to live happy lives. Through his pursuit of the science of happiness, Dr. Niraj Nijhawan has uncovered specific root causes of unhappiness and developed steps that people can take to reprogram their brains and escape this crisis.

People need to allow their neural networks to thrive and to grow, which can continue to happen until the day we die. In order to support that growth, people must look to time, focus and emotion. The more feedback we allow ourselves to take in and tolerate on a daily basis, the more growth we will see.

Dr. Nijhawan spoke about our negative ties to self-esteem and the “social brainwashing” we have all undergone that tells us that we need to be X or do well in Y or choose career path Z in order to be ‘good’. We learn that status, money, power and educational degrees are the things that must be sought after and achieved in order for someone to be happy. However, according to Dr. Nijhawan, that is not the case and should not matter in life if happiness is the goal. Rather than look to external motivations – such as economic or emotional rewards or penalties, which cause stress hormones to spike and people to remain on “a roller coaster of destruction” – we must flip our mindsets to a radical growth mindset.

The solution is to become higher brain dominant, which can shift a person’s mindset within days and alleviate depression, anxiety and sleep difficulties while increasing psychological well-being and overall quality of life. The three steps Dr. Nijhawan proposes a person follow to secure their own happiness are to 1) Remove oneself from the roller coaster of destruction by realizing that self-esteem and “status” markers we are socially taught to exalt are not important, 2) Get on to the rocket ship of the higher brain and 3) Teach to others these learnings and ultimately . . . save the world.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

“More Than a Store”

submitted by Carole Trone; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Maldonados 6 12 2019  “More than a store. It is a gathering place,” was how Joe Maldonado summarized the special role of Luna’s Groceries in its first year of operations. Luna’s Groceries is the result of the inspiration, research and hard work of Joe and wife/business partner Mariam Maldonado, longtime residents of Madison’s Allied/Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood. As of last fall, they are owners of the only full-service grocery store in this diverse, working class neighborhood.

They love this neighborhood but recognized how residents have struggled to find nearby affordable and healthy food since the area’s only grocery store closed in 2009. Joe and Mariam both recounted rich childhood experiences of daily visits to the local store in their respective upbringings in Milwaukee and the Dominican Republic. Joe explained how “food deserts”—defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as the lack of convenient access to nutritious fruits, vegetables, meats and grains—hit low-income communities of color particularly hard.

Luna’s Groceries was preceded by a year of research into national, regional and local data on troubling patterns of food deserts located in low-income neighborhoods with correspondingly high numbers of chronic health problems. The Allied/Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood was one of ten identified food deserts in Madison, further challenged by its location squeezed into a growing and massive road and highway interchange on Madison’s southwest side.

Nine months after opening, Luna’s is on target to exceed sales projections. Perhaps more importantly, Luna’s has become the answer to isolation, with an unexpected booming social media engagement, monthly cooking classes, demand for hot specialty foods, and a bi-monthly “Coffee at Luna’s” interview-format gathering on education, health and social issues that affect community members. With Luna’s Groceries, Madison residents can feed body and soul.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Opening Doors to Great Futures

submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

IMG_0047Michael Johnson, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, delivered on his promise to share “The Ten Characteristics of Successful Non Profit Leadership” with the Rotary Club audience on June 5th.  He was profiled in last week’s Rotary News and as Rotarians and guests learned, he lives his commitment to improving conditions for young people through his own successful leadership of a major non profit organization.  Sharing statistics of the impact of non profit organizations and position in the U.S. economy, Johnson had some eye-opening information for us.  But he focused on the challenge of keeping the current situation in focus and emphasized the challenges of adequate employment and educational opportunities.

Johnson pointed out the success of the AVID-TOPS program and drew attention to a soon to be released evaluation of records of students from this program as they proceed through graduation from high schools and enter colleges.  The records demonstrate the value of these programs supported by donors and service to the community when there is adequate support.

Those 10 characteristics of effective non profit leadership are:

  • Board and Executive Alignment
  • Passion for the Organization’s Mission
  • Empowering Team and Volunteers to Execute w/purpose
  • Keeping up with Trends w/ Effective Communications
  • Attracting & Recruiting A Diverse Workforce
  • Showing Confidence and Humility
  • Having A Positive Attitude & Long Term Vision
  • Being Persistent & Financially Astute
  • Inspire Others to Achieve Greatness
  • Accountability, Transparency & Fundraising

Johnson also emphasized the need for a non profit board to meet regularly, review the performance of the CEO, empower teams and assure staff proper training in communication, planning, and the need for a diversified workforce.  And, many in the audience could measure themselves against these characteristics in their work in non profit organizations whether as staff or as volunteers.  The board and executive leadership of the Rotary Club of Madison is, in my opinion, a great example of what Michael Johnson advocates!

Housing Stability

submitted by Jerry Thain; photo by Mike Engelberger

Marah Curtis 5 15 2019

Marah Curtis (left) pictured here with Club President-Elect Stacy Nemeth

Marah Curtis, assistant professor at the UW School of Social Work, addressed the Club on May 15th on the current state of knowledge on addressing homelessness nationally and statewide.  She began by emphasizing that housing exists on a continuum from those who have consistent, stable housing to those who are homeless.  Most of the homeless experienced poor housing conditions before becoming homeless.  Professor Curtis noted that concern about homelessness involves the related issues of labor market success, health and education – not just shelter alone.

In Madison, low income rentals are very hard to obtain for those with poor credit, records of  incarceration or inconsistent earnings.  There are four approaches to addressing homelessness: Usual Case: Subsidy; Community Based Rapid Relocation and project Based Transitional Housing.  A major HUD study indicated that subsidy provides not only housing but lower rates of psychological duress, domestic abuse and number of schools attended by children.

“Housing First” is the most wide-spread program in the world to deal with homelessness and is used in Madison.  Studies of the program show that in 11 of 12 widely varied areas using the program, it produced greater housing than other approaches but results differ as to whether the program had a beneficial impact on amount of drug and alcohol abuse and other problems.  There was no indication that these problems were any worse than with other efforts to address homelessness.  Professor Curtis concluded her remarks by answering a number of questions from members focusing on the situation in Madison.

Her talk left members with much food for thought as well as specific information on one of the major issues of our time.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.