Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

Call for November 3 Referenda

This week, Rotarians heard from new Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins that there is a critical need to pass referenda on the November 3 ballot. Board Chair Gloria Reyes was also in attendance. 

There are two referenda questions. The first seeks $33 million for operations such as full day 4K education; language classes, arts/music/science, and strategic equity projects.

The second questions seeks $317 million to replace aging facilities. This equates to $50/year for every $100,000 in home value. Overall, the referenda totals $350 million over all years.

If the referenda fails, Jenkins says they will continue to work with reciprocal accountability to seek the resources needed for the job.    

Jenkins said, “We look to collaborate with One City School and others.  We have reciprocal accountability, and we will build on those relationships.”  He reported over 100 MMSD science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students are collaborating with Madison College and also looking at skilled trade and other pathways.  “Children are interested in many programs, he said.  “We want to give them the skillsets they need to have a choice of what they want to do in the future.”

Community collaboration plans from food distribution to college planning were also shared.

When asked if he would build on plans of the previous administration or make his own plans, Jenkins said he has read existing plans, will build on them and quoted Maya Angelou, “When we know better, we do better.”

Before coming back to MMSD, Jenkins previously served as Superintendent of Robbinsdale School District; prior to that served as Chief Academic Officer for the Atlanta Public School System. He earned his PhD and MS degrees from UW-Madison. He holds a BS degree from Mississippi Valley State.

If you would like to learn more about the referenda, visit:

Our thanks to MMSD Superintendent Carlton Jenkins for speaking to our club this week.  We also thank Valerie Renk for preparing this review article, and, if you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

Pivoting for Change and Adaptation

In the Q&A following Chazen Director Amy Gilman’s presentation, she was asked if pandemic adjustments have had any benefits.   She replied that as the continuum suddenly ended, stillness enabled the Chazen—actually, all of us—to pivot from thoughts about how to return to normalcy and about how the museum can be more intentional about the future fulfillment of its mission.

The Chazen, a UW-Madison museum, has turned its attention to digital/virtual communication, foregoing written communication; alignment of resources (and possible shortages of tax income) with programs; expanding attention to donor communications; creating virtual programming; development of collections; the rejuvenation of the original Chazen facility to more reflect change over time; and applying the measures of diversity and inclusiveness to all elements of its work.  In particular, she recommended to us Parkland: Birth of a Movement by David Cullen.

Two programs are illustrative:  First, virtual tours are in development in support of the UW Art History program, which was accustomed to using the museum’s galleries as part of its activities.  And the Chazen asked 100 Black Men of Madison what is needed by those whom they serve and that the museum could provide.  The result was 1,400 complete kits for two “making art” projects, complete with instructions, examples and necessary supplies . . . part of a significant museum pivot.

Extensive and significant responses to questions followed.  Several focused on the Alliance of American Museums’ forecast that 30% of the nation’s museums—not just art, and usually smaller and more fragile—might fold.  Gilman provided professionally accepted ethical standards for care of collections including their disposition to other museums with shared missions or use of funds from sales of collections for the care and growth of collections rather than for operations.

This was a thoughtful, introspective and constructive presentation informed by a continuing history of service to a variety of audiences—and complete with an invitation to virtual services now and to return to visits when possible.

Our thanks to Amy Gilman for her presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

First African American Woman Made Her Own Road Map to Major General

Major General Marcia Anderson was introduced by a humble President Jorge, who noted the number of ranks between his of captain when he was in the Army, and major general.  But good introduction, carefully done, Jorge!

Major General Anderson’s presentation was complete, very clear, extremely well-presented.  It discussed her personal path to success through self-motivation and discovery, and crisis management as practiced by the Army.

Anderson began her career as an attorney and has served in the National Guard and the Army, with which she stayed because she thought that, as an African American woman, she could provide a different and necessary perspective.  Upon joining she discovered an organization of tradition and hierarchy and that it was largely a men’s organization. 

Anderson also found that there were no “road maps” to becoming an officer.  The methods she employed were exceptional in their fundamental nature, applicable not only to her military experience, but also to those in civilian organizations:  hard work, competence (essential in the face of dangerous military practices), the power of team support, tactical meeting skills, a focus on communications and the needs of people above and below her, curiosity, giving credit where it is due, telling the truth, and never compromising one’s ethical standards.  She offered personal examples.

Crisis management shifted the presentation to military practices.  These too can apply to civilian planning:  Training opportunities—in the military, up to 50% of the job—followed by practice, and then execution.  Planning is, Anderson posited, a collaborative process that should involve all who will be active in the plan, top to bottom.  A good plan is thorough but not overly elaborate, since virtually all plans will change in the face of execution.

The presentation was on the one hand complete and clear.  On the other hand, it spoke of profoundly simple basic tenets.  Her formula would work in anyone’s world and reminds me of Albert Einstein’s belief that “Everything should be as simple as possible, and no simpler.”  

Our thanks to Major General Marcia Anderson for her presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

“What Good Shall I Do Today?”

First, the surprise news:  District Governor Bill Pritchard asked the president of each club in our district to select a “Yes Person” for recognition by Governor Pritchard, a person who always says “yes” when needed.

President Jorge selected Brian Basken, who assembles weekly the YouTube meetings we view as a cohesive whole.  Each club’s recipient will receive a journal imprinted with Benjamin Franklin’s words “What good shall I do this day?”  And one among the many named recipients will be given a free trip to the June 2021 Rotary International conference in Teipei, Taiwan.  Congratulations and thanks, Brian!

Governor Pritchard is no stranger to our club.  A “numbers guy”, he recited statistics of our attendance, membership decline, and diversity, as well as key metrics of exemplary participation in fellowship groups, charitable giving and community support, and generous contributions to District 6250 and Rotary International.

He addressed the current “new virtual normal” and the need to pivot in our long-term approach to club needs with a “hybrid future” that may provide useful flexibility in our operations. 

Governor Pritchard also urged us to hold new members’ attention into the critical three-year member mark that cements interest, by ensuring that each new member’s expectations are deliberately discerned and addressed.

If you haven’t seen the Governor’s speech yet, it’s worth watching.  Those with questions for Governor Pritchard may send them to Jorge or the Rotary office so that they may be shared with the Governor next Tuesday when he attends our club’s Board meeting.

Our thanks to District Governor Bill Pritchard for his presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:     

Building a New Vision for Downtown Madison

Club President Jorge Hidalgo (left) pictured here with guest speaker and fellow Rotarian Jason Ilstrup (right)

The recent protests calling for social justice and racial equality have awakened many to the challenges people of color face daily that create barriers to business ownership and feeling safe and welcome downtown.

Downtown Madison, Inc. President Jason Ilstrup defined the “downtown” footprint adding that the Business Improvement Impact’s footprint is more centrally focused around the square. Eighty-five percent of downtown residents are 18-34.  Many are college students who may not return to living downtown at this time. Also, many employees are working from home. Events and tourism are also on hold. Thus, the footprint of people living, working and visiting downtown has shrunk.  Seventy percent of revenue for shopping/retail comes from events and tourism; our economy is challenged.

COVID-19 has shed light on the racial disparities that exist in our community – including business ownership, employment, transportation, health care, education and safety. Now is the time for us to address these issues and be change agents to create a downtown that is truly welcoming. Dense cities have creative centers, employment opportunities and create the environment for regular collaboration to meet diverse needs. We need to invest intentionally to create a thriving, diverse center.

DMI has assembled a Downtown Recovery group to develop short- and long-term actions to support economic recovery and a welcoming environment that breaks down racial disparities. Goals include mitigating business closures, supporting entrepreneurs of color, increasing safety, making use of public spaces and finding ways to support safe outdoor and indoor retail/dining options. It will take a collaborative effort from businesses, the city, individuals, non-profits and the entire community to build this new vision.

Please send Jason your ideas for downtown’s future, order take out from local restaurants and buy local to support local jobs.

Our thanks to club member Jason Ilstrup for his presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:   

Meeting Some “Extraordinary Ordinary” People in Dairylandia

Born and raised on the east coast, Steve Hannah (right) fell in love with the Midwest years ago when a planned cross-country trip was detoured then cut short in Wisconsin. At our meeting this week, Brady Williamson (left) interviewed Steve about his new book, Dairylandia: Dispatches from a State of Mind, that captures the charming, extraordinary “ordinary” people of Wisconsin. Dairylandia features 30 of Hannah’s profiles he collected from around the state during his career as a journalist.

Hannah describes Wisconsinites as modest, humble and seldom “get too big for their skis.” He gave an example of a New Jersey lottery winner who spoke loudly of his “huge luck” and long list of expensive purchases he planned to make. By contrast, when he interviewed lottery winners on Fond du Lac’s “Miracle Mile,” a $1 million winner decided he’d purchase a Kitchen Aide mixer because he “liked to cook” and a teacher who won $100 million remarked quietly “it’s not too bad” to win such a sum after years of working hard for a teacher’s salary.

Hannah was struck by the open, candid, unfiltered stories people told him, especially elderly people who had lived extraordinary lives that seemed completely uninteresting to themselves. Hannah entertained us with a taste of these stories: words of wisdom from an elderly woman (try not to be boring, don’t tell others if your friends or neighbors are going out of town or you’re inviting a robbery), philosophies of a rattlesnake hunter and a woman who froze her pet robin because she just couldn’t bear to part with him. These were some of his favorite assignments that drew him closer to his adopted state and the people who quietly make it a wonderful, interesting place to live.

While we couldn’t offer Steve’s book for sale at the meeting as we normally would, it is available for sale on Amazon.

Our thanks to Steve Hannah and Brady Williamson for their presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: