Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

The Future is in the Hands of Young Women

–submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Mike Engelberger

Tory Miller 1 24 2018Tory Miller, Madison’s most famous chef, loves rice crispy bars, started cooking as a child in his grandparents’ café in Racine and beat Iron Chef Bobby Flay in the Iron Chef Showdown last month.  What’s next?

Miller, co-owner and chef of some of Madison’s best restaurants (L’Etoile, Graze, Estrellon and Sujeo) sees a bright future for Madison’s food scene in the hands of young chefs who have a passion for local food and a willingness to work with the community.  He notes that a national magazine naming Madison the best foodie scene in the Midwest would certainly help raise the city’s culinary profile.

Raised in Racine, Miller went off to New York to study at the French Culinary Institute.  While stumbling at first, he found his way into the kitchens of many of the country’s best chefs.  Wanting to be closer to the food producers, he came back to Wisconsin and into Odessa Piper’s L’Etoile kitchen.  And so they say, the rest is history.  A James Beard Midwest Best Chef Award winner, Miller credits Piper for showing him that all people in the kitchen, in the house and guests should be respected and treated fairly.  In the past, women and folks on the lower rungs of the kitchen were not treated well, but today these folks are now running restaurants, leading chefs and a more respected part of the community.  Miller has also been instrumental in the start up Madison Area Chef’s Network (MASN) helping the community with food needs and helping each other to be more successful in an industry where cooperation was not the norm in the past.

So, what about Iron Chef Bobby Flay?   “The meat of it”, Miller laughs, “is that Bobby Flay is not super nice. Being on the show was nerve wracking, but I was happy with the way it turned out.  I’m weird and quirky, but we always want to be the best!”

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

Charlie Sykes on How the Right Lost Its Mind

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Valerie Renk

Charlie SykesSelf-identifying as the “Benedict Arnold of conservatism,” Wisconsin conservative radio talk show host and author of several books Charlie Sykes addressed members of the Rotary Club of Madison on Jan. 3 to promote his book “How the Right Lost its Mind.”

“I left (the conservative radio talk show circuit) on my own, but I have been excommunicated from the conservative movement,” remarked Sykes, who now works for MSNBC. But Sykes was rather firm in proclaiming that “I have not changed, but the Republican Party has,” indicating that conservative values are still very much part of who he is.

While the vast majority of Sykes’ comments centered on the performance and behavior of President Donald Trump, Sykes made it clear that “I am less bothered by Trump himself, but rather the normalization of his behavior.”

Sykes identified three specific current political thought movements afoot in our country. Firstly, there are those who are “horrified by everything – both the policies and the behaviors.” Secondly, there are the MAGA Republicans, those who want to Make America Great Again; and thirdly, there are what Sykes termed as “mainstream Republicans,” who are looking the other way as regards to the President’s behavior, since his policies represent wins. “You get what you want (in terms of policies), but the price is too high,” he said.

The price is too high because one has to ignore behaviors such as name-calling, bullying, withdrawal as a world power, or classifying the media as fake news, said Sykes. But the most important litmus test on whether the price is too high is that “we have to accept the indifference on our democracy by the Russians.”

Sykes included several other items one must ignore such as the endorsement of Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, as well as the President’s erratic behavior in regards to the escalation of the potential of a nuclear war in the showdown with North Korea.

“The bottom line is that we have to realize that our political culture is more fragile than we thought,” said Sykes. We could go down the path of other democracies,” said Sykes. He characterized Trump as a cause of our current situation, but also referred to the President as “a symptom of a pre-existing condition.” While Sykes did not directly identify the pre-existing condition, he implied that it is our current tribalism that is at the root of the current political climate. Disagreement has turned to hate, he said, resulting in a “binary, polarized culture.”

In offering a glimpse of improvement to the current political landscape, Sykes offered that the current modus operandi may lead to a revitalization of democratic norms. Potentially, a coalition of Center Right and Center Left could restore the norms.

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  You can watch the video here.

“The Little Trickle That Becomes the Mighty River”

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Dennis Cooley

Dennis McCann 11 29 2017The river that stretches 2,350 miles dissecting the United States has earned many monikers throughout its storied history– it has been referred to as America’s lifeblood, Ol’ Man River, or the Big Muddy.  Dennis McCann, who addressed the members of the Rotary Club of Madison on November 29, refers to the Mississippi as “This Storied River,” which is the title of his recently published book that celebrates particularly the Upper Mississippi’s history and role in shaping the Midwest.

McCann, a UW graduate and celebrated journalist for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, traveled the river’s path across the Midwest, including the headwaters at Lake Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota, where, according to McCann, you can see “the little trickle that becomes the mighty river.”

McCann frequently referred to the river as the feature that “divides and unites our country,” implying that its geography divides the United States into east and west and also brings us together.

A highlight of McCann’s research centered on his first-hand experience on his participation on the 150-year anniversary Mississippi cruise of the Grand Excursion, which originally sailed in 1854 in an effort to attract attention to the river as an economic engine to the towns along the river. It is during this commemorative cruise that McCann encountered the towns and cities that border the river in addition to discovering the river’s beauty, power and rich history.

Starting with the river’s earliest days as the river of native Americans, McCann particularly stressed the 40- to 50-year steamboat era, when “elegant steamboats came into town” and introduced settlers to travelers who often came from faraway places.

Throughout the years, however, the settlers of the Upper Mississippi have maintained a culture of their own, referring to themselves as River Rats, who construct shacks along the river and rebuild them following significant floods.

The Power of Resilience in America

–submitted by Dave Nelson; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Nancy Young 11 15 17

Club President Donna Hurd with guest speaker Nancy Young

When there is a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, volunteer organizations like the Red Cross, alerted by weather reports of a potential crisis, have already made preparations for the event. Food, water and medical supplies are packed and ready to be moved quickly to the disaster area by a corps of volunteers across the country who have also made their preparations in advance, and are therefore able to arrive on the scene within 24 hours.  Volunteers share space in whatever housing is available; often sharing rooms with other volunteers. One effect of shared housing is it builds “esprit de corps” among the volunteers.

Red Cross volunteers of all types arrive, including those trained in disaster mental health counseling, ready with psychological first aid for those traumatized by the loss of homes, the separation from their families, temporary housing in a Red Cross shelter, and in many cases, risks to their very lives. Volunteers commit to staying in the disaster area for two weeks, and as they are organizing the disaster relief in shelters, they are already planning for the closing of shelters.  In disasters, personal resilience is one of the most valuable assets, and the people providing disaster relief help to foster resilience by discouraging long-term dependence on volunteer services and volunteers.

In contrast to natural disasters that can often be predicted, mass murders like the recent one in Las Vegas, catch everyone by surprise and pose an even greater challenge to psychological counselors than events like hurricanes. In such events, there are often examples of great personal bravery by both victims and volunteers–strangers help to convey victims to hospitals; separated family members are cared for; and many donate blood.

What is the most important need of the Red Cross in disasters?  “Faith, hope and love” said speaker Nancy Young, an experienced Red Cross volunteer. And from the audience: “blood, money, and yourselves as volunteers.”

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

The Impossible Presidency

–submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Dennis Cooley

Suri Jeremi 11 1 2017

Rotarian Janet Piraino with Guest Speaker Jeremi Suri

Jeremi Suri, professor of history at the University of Texas-Austin, and formerly (lamentably) at the UW-Madison, gave a boffo performance today as our speaker. He used history to demonstrate that the modern presidency has gotten too complicated for any person to do the job effectively.

There have been several “models” of the presidency. George Washington created the office: he conceived of his job as uniting the people into one nation, not as policy-making or leading a political party.

Lincoln changed the office, believing his chief purpose was to develop the country economically, to use the office to push economic development through the Homestead Act, the Morrill Land Grant Act, which created the land-grant universities in the Midwest, including the UW, to educate farmers and to promote the liberal arts (yes!), and by providing federal subsidies to the railroads, which led to the phenomenal growth of the American economy in the last third of the 19th century.

A third model was created by FDR. He was born to wealth, but he developed polio, which gave him an empathy with those who suffer. He viewed the president as a healer, someone to help those who did not thrive in the capitalist system, which inevitably has winners and losers. The president, FDR believed, had to make these people feel connected, to bring people together to find solutions to problems. FDR has been imitated and viewed as a model by modern leaders, especially by every American president since.

But since the Second World War, the expectations of the people and the responsibilities of the office have grown too large for anyone. So the office has become ill-suited to the world today.

Professor Suri’s solutions: (1) Our method of choosing leaders is defective; young people are not encouraged to get into the arena or even to vote, and the money in politics is overwhelming. (2) The electorate is not well informed; there are facts that people should know, but education has been under-funded. (3) There needs to be a conversation about the values of the nation, and these values have to inform our political life and our leaders. Our best people are not in politics or in leadership positions.

Professor Suri’s talk was very well received. President Donna commented that it was the best talk she has heard since she has been in Rotary. (If you missed the talk, check out the video.) Which raises a nice question: Why is Professor Suri, a man of ideas and a great speaker, not in the arena? Or is he more valuable as a public intellectual?

“It’s Game Over”

–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mike Engelberger

Robert Stauss 10 25 17Our October 25, 2017, program presenter was Robert Stauss, one of the world’s leading experts on technical social engineering.  He has written and lectured on the practice and the mitigation of social engineering-based cyber attacks.  Mr. Stauss is the principal of Burtelson Security Labs, a company that tests private and corporate security measures as well as advising on how to correct the deficiencies he finds.

The presentation began with Mr. Stauss demonstrating the ease with which he could gain entry codes for buildings and offices from entry cards and ID badges that carry entry information using a $400 device disguised in a computer case and standing within inches of an employee.  Once gaining access to an office, it is relatively easy to unlock computers and steal the information including user names and passcodes.

To show how easily information can be found on the web, he used a volunteer from the membership and was able to determine the Rotarian’s date of birth and Social Security number in 12 seconds by simply entering the name of the Rotarian in his laptop.

Mr. Stauss also explained how easily laptop cameras and microphones can be hijacked and used as listening and recording devices for the purposes of spying on unsuspecting users.

The presentation concluded with an invitation for questions, most of which related to how individuals and organizations could protect themselves from the likes of Robert Stauss, a good, white hat, hacker.  In keeping with Halloween next Tuesday, his presentation was really very scary.

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

Who We Are as Rotarians Worldwide

–submitted by Valerie Renk

_47A2878

Joe & Tina Ruskey

After a standing ovation, Rotary District Governor Joe Ruskey shared the difference Rotarians make when we work together.

In the past 10 years, he said, we have gained 1.2 million members. Also in the past 10 years, we have lost 1.2 million members.  Why?  They report their membership wasn’t relevant.  “We know this isn’t true,” he says.  “That means those who quit in the first three years simply don’t know what we really are.”

“So my goal,” Joe says, “is to tell the clubs, 3,000 members in this district, what an amazing organization of which they are part.  I want to shift their understanding of what a Rotarian is.”

Joe reported we have 34,000 clubs making an impact in 200 countries. Members are bringing peace to conflict regions.  They meet with leaders when government officials are not allowed.  Rotary teaches members about principals to prepare expatriates to return to their countries better prepared to help them.

Rotarians are making a huge impact on health, such as the major headway we are making eradicating polio, only the second disease in the world that might be eradicated.  There have been only 11 cases year to date globally.

Rotary International’s Foundation is ranked three or five in the nation, depending on the ranking, with 94 percent of gifts going to programs.  This is possibly due to our volunteer structure, ability to leverage other donors, and generous Rotarians.    Our model is all gifts are invested for three years before spending back with clubs, such as our club’s $125,000 Ghana project funded in part by the Rotary International Foundation.

Joe closed by telling about global Rotary development projects for clean water and menstrual product donations and hearing how they transformed the lives of young women. This is when he really felt the huge transformational power of Rotary for people around the globe.

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