Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

Club Learns How Climate Change Affects Local Weather

submitted by Jerry Thain

ankur_desaiDr.  Ankur Desai, professor of climate, people and environment at UW-Madison, addressed the first ever virtual meeting of the Club on the effect of climate change on local weather.  He stated that climate is personality, and weather is mood.

Looking at weather over the years, he noted a global trend, beginning in the 1980s, of higher temperatures.  This is caused by CO2 emissions which are raised by the use of fossil fuels.  He said CO2 is to climate change what steroid use was to baseball.  An increase in temperature up to 2 degrees Celsius has only modest impact, but above that level, it leads to significant and harmful consequences.  Policy changes could mitigate the damage by “flattening the curve” much as health experts urge us to do in attacking the current pandemic.  A major difference is that it will take decades to flatten the climate curve.

Turning to the influence of climate change on local weather, Dr. Desai showed the global decline of snow cover which, in itself, affects the temperature.  The meeting of snow/no snow lines influence weather fronts and increases the severity of storms.  Lesser snow over North America means most places get wetter and rainier–rain on frozen ground is more likely to cause storms than snow. Southern Wisconsin has seen wetter and rainier weather in recent years while northern Wisconsin has been drier. Some cold winter weather will still occur but at a much lower rate than in the past.

The problems caused by this will need to be addressed either by adaptions (such as moving homes from frequently flooded areas)  or by mitigation (reducing emissions significantly).  Unfortunately, there is no single “silver bullet” to solve things so all alternatives must be pursued by policymakers.

Dr. Desai cited recent research indicating, contrary to some beliefs, that climate change deniers are a very small proportion of the populace. Moreover, among people aged 18-30, climate change is either their first or second highest policy priority.  It is not possible to prevent all adverse effects, but we must take actions that will have some effect or be overcome by the problems.

He ended on a hopeful note, showing the sprouting of tree plants in an Australian forest area recently consumed by wildfires.  Earth will survive, but we need to help heal it for our own good.

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

Q&A with Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Judge Jill Karofsky

submitted by Ellie Schatz

Jill KarofskyOne candidate accepted the invitation and spoke to our club about her background and plans for serving as Supreme Court Justice: Jill Karofsky. Having been a judge, a local and state prosecutor, and director of the state’s Office of Crime Victim Services, she has advocated for victims’ rights across every court in Wisconsin. She convincingly tells how she has the experience, values, and toughness to lead a legal system that works.

Supreme court cases have consequences for now and the future. To name a few, consider gerrymandering, women’s access to healthcare, and gun control. Whatever the case, following the rule of law is the bottom line, and Karofsky says her record of being fair and impartial is clear.

Her values include upholding laws to protect the environment. She is concerned about climate change but will follow the rule of law. She is strong on individual rights, attacking problems of racial disparity by informing policy makers of what she sees in the courtroom day after day. She says judges need to inform the legislature, have a dialogue with them, but are not there to legislate. More than anything, our courts are about constitutional rights and through the court systems she has fought for the needs of crime victims, stood up for racial justice and civil rights, and protected the right to marriage equality, never allowing for the rights of women to be rolled back. Her goal is to be collegiate on the court, to help pull all sides together under the rule of law. Right now she sees political forces seeking to roll back advances made in civil rights. We must not go backwards, she stresses.

As the Wisconsin Chief Justice is drawing up her budget, Karofsky is pushing for her to put treatment courts at the top of the list as opposed to a business court, which is essentially two courts – one for businesses and one for the rest of us.

When asked about the perception that she is a progressive candidate, she responds: “I am clear about my values, and I have support from Republicans and Independents. I ask for support as someone who follows the rule of law.”

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

The Wisconsin Civics Games: An Important Competition

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mark Moody

Eve Galanter 3 4 2020

Eve Galanter (right) pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

Eve Galanter told of why and how she founded The Civics Games, an annual competition among high school students from all regions of Wisconsin.  A few years ago, she became concerned when learning that research demonstrated the profound lack of knowledge of civics and the very poor level of participation in civic affairs among citizens of America.

Thirty-two percent of Americans cannot name the three branches of government.  A high percentage of elected offices at the local level are either uncontested or lack any candidate at all.

Because teens like competition and “to know more than their parents,” Ms. Galanter developed a contest similar to the old College Bowl television series.  Her approach to the Wisconsin Newpapers Association Foundation for sponsorship was met with enthusiastic approval.

For the first time, last February, students at all Wisconsin high schools were invited to form teams and compete at regional contests held at state universities throughout the state followed by the championship round at the State Capitol.  Each round consisted of teams competing to answer 100 questions.

To demonstrate, she provided Rotarians the opportunity to answer five questions from last year’s championship round.  If you were with us, you would know how we fared.  Let’s just say, it was not a slam dunk.  So as to include our honored ten spelling winners, she asked them to spell “emoluments,” a topic that will be addressed at this year’s Civics Games in April.

Most Rotarians were surprised to learn that civics is not required for graduation in Wisconsin, also true of most states.  However, Wisconsin does require all graduates to pass the naturalized citizenship test with a score of at least 60%.

For more information about the games, please go to

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

Taking the 2020 Census

submitted by Jessika Kasten; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Becky Schigiel 2 19 2020On February 19, 2020, Becky Schigiel, Sr. Partnership Specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke to Downtown Rotarians about the upcoming 2020 United States Census. Becky spoke to us about the three top reasons that the Census is so important: 1) It’s the basis of our democracy. The Constitution specifically calls out that everyone in the United States will be counted every ten years so that we can determine representation, 2) It the basis by which $675 billion dollars are distributed by the Government annually. Census data is used to determine the amount of funding for important things such as roads, school lunches, foster care, special education and much more. It’s estimated that for every person missed in Dane County, we lose about $2,000 annually for each of the next 10 years, and 3) Census data is heavily relied upon by leaders (community, faith, business) when making decisions that impact our local communities.

The three takeaways that Becky wanted us to take with us are that the Census is safe, easy and important. All household data is confidential, and the government has been working for years to ensure that the data gathered through the online process is secure and encrypted. In terms of being easy, the survey is available online, by phone, by mail – or in person once the door knocking campaign begins in May. The survey is also available in 13 languages and there are guides for many additional languages.

Mailings will begin in mid-March, encouraging people to start taking the census. Paper forms will arrive in April, and in-person door-to-door outreach will begin in May for anyone who has not responded. In 2010, Wisconsin had the highest response rate (83%), which we are looking to repeat in 2020.

Becky asked the group to help share census information with our connections/groups, especially those groups most likely to not self-report (children under the age of 5 were the most under-reported group in 2010), as well as to spread the message regarding employment opportunities. Dane County needs to recruit about 4,000 additional census takers over the next two months – a position which pays $22/hour.

For additional resources, or to apply for position, please visit

Creating Life From Loss

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Joshua Mezrich 2 12 2020At this week’s Rotary meeting, we heard from Dr. Joshua Mezrich and how he creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. He spoke about his desire to write a book, a little about the process to write a non-fiction book and some tips his famous author brother gave him. His book was released last year, When Death Becomes Life: Notes From a Transplant Surgeon, and in it he illuminates this extraordinary field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.

Dr. Mezrich comes from a family of readers and really enjoyed the process of writing his book. His brother, Ben, helped him be a writer by helping him obtain an agent; reminding him it takes a team; and for non-fiction books, about the need to write a proposal first and sell it to an editor. (Fictional books get written by the author and then they try to sell it.)

Ben also gave Dr. Mezrich three pieces of advice:

  1. Just write!
  2. When ending a writing session, don’t stop at the end of a chapter; instead stop in the middle of a story or sentence as when you return to the page, you can keep going and sustain momentum.
  3. Write a certain amount each day.

Dr. Mezrich wrote for a year early in the morning, evenings and weekends — 300K words worth!  He then spent another year editing it down with his editor.

Dr. Mezrich shared some excerpts from his book. As Dr. Mezrich shared stories about patients and donors, he sprinkled in humor. He spoke about how donors are heroes and join the recipient patient in their journey by bearing risk with them (though relatively low risk, there is risk). He spoke about how often donor family members and the donor recipient want to connect with each other and what a beautiful thing this is. Donors give the gift of life that gives on, and recipient patients also know that someone passed away in order for them to live. Being a part of these conversations is emotional, and Dr. Mezrich shared how he has to set his emotions aside when it comes time for surgery. He said each operation is like solving a puzzle – a task.

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

Coach Kelly Sheffield Addresses Rotary

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Kelly Sheffield 2 5 2020

Coach Sheffield pictured with today’s Rotarian Speaker Greeter Mary O’Brien

Kelly Sheffield, the coach of the UW Volleyball Team, did not speak at all about the game of volleyball. Rather, he presented his remarkable insights into human nature and the way to motivate gifted athletes to perform well despite the adversities of sport and life itself.

His talk began with a brief video of his team in action: it displayed intensity, beautifully graceful athleticism, and players having fun. The Coach then explained that his most important job was to create a culture of success. He seeks out players who are talented, but who are also willing to hear criticism and work hard to improve themselves. There are many possible excuses for failure. But fine athletes (and obviously this is not limited to athletics) will accept coaching advice and criticism and will do what is necessary to succeed. A motto he uses is: “Be a participant in your own rescue.”


Annemarie Hickey (Technical Coordinator) and Grace Loberg (rising Senior on the Volleyball Team)

Coach Sheffield and his team did not win the NCAA Tournament this year. But he and the team subscribe to an insight offered by the late Kobe Bryant: In addition to being painful and disappointing, losing can also be “exciting.” It can inspire self-examination and a dedication to improvement. When he asked one of his players at this lunch if she had ever won an NCAA Tournament, her reply was telling: “No. Not Yet.” It seems likely that this player will win the NCAA Tournament. It also seems likely that she will win in the game of life. Kelly Sheffield is one of the greatest coaches in UW history.

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

Gold Medal Curler Matt Hamilton Visits Rotary

submitted by Jessika Kasten; photo by Valerie Renk

Hamilton Lepping 1 22 2020On January 22, USA Curling Interim CEO Rich Lepping and Olympic Gold Medal Curler Matt Hamilton spoke to the group about the sport of curling and Matt’s experiences as an Olympian. USA Curling was established in 1958 and is a non-for-profit headquartered in Stevens Point, WI. The organization consists of nearly 200 clubs and 26,000 members. After the Gold Medal Games, the organization saw a rise in membership and interest, resulting in a 12% increase in membership. USA Curling is already beginning to think about the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games and is starting trials. The USA Olympic Curling Teams will be chosen about a year in advance.

Rich and Matt took part in an interview style presentation where Matt reflected on his “wild media ride” that occurred in the two years since the Olympics. He’s gotten to throw out first pitches at MLB games, drop the puck at NHL games, announce the 2028 Ryder Cup as well as make appearances on Jimmy Fallon and TKO.

Matt was introduced to curling by his father and then again by a friend when he was 15. He spent much of his high school years at the Curling Club playing in leagues or substituting whenever someone needed another player. One of the pivotal points in his life is when a mentor shared with him that “Curling isn’t about making all of the shots, but rather making the right shots at the right time.” This advice has stuck with him throughout various parts of his life.

Matt also talked about his role as the “energy” on the team, and how important sports psychology and teamwork is to the game. He also reflected on how lucky he is to be able to share the world’s stage with his sister, Becca, in mixed-doubles curling. Matt’s very appreciative for the experiences he’s had, and would tell anyone who has their sights set on the Olympics that it all comes down to putting in the time.