Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Andrea Kaminski’s Reflections on Year as Rotary President

Kaminski Picture1The past year has been a whirlwind of challenge and of change, starting with my unexpected appointment as club President and ending with our Rotary Club poised to transition back to in-person meetings as the pandemic continues. It has been my honor to be club President through this time. I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand our Rotary Club as a place where members CONNECT, SERVE and GROW.

Since I joined Rotary in 2013, I have valued the many new CONNECTIONS and friendships that have enhanced my life, whether through committee work, the hiking/skiing fellowship, community service projects, or my time on the board and as President. I’ve found that the more engaged I’ve been, and the more people I’ve worked, sung, chatted and laughed with, the more I’ve been able to learn and grow.

In my SERVICE to the club, I’ve learned that in Rotary you never have to meet a new challenge alone. As soon as I became President, several Past Presidents stepped up and offered their support. I would have been lost without the assistance, in particular, of Jason Beren and Pat Jenkins. And I want to give a special shout-out to Stacy Nemeth for setting the stage for this Rotary year through her diligent strategic planning work last year as President-Elect. Club service is a great way to get to know people and to help make our club a better place for a diversity of community leaders to connect, serve and grow.

I have GROWN through Rotary, especially in this past year. Here are some things I had to learn as President:

  • I’ve learned that you need to hit the wider bottom part of the Rotary bell, not the narrow top part, if you want people to hear it. Not a big deal — it was just embarrassing!
  • I’ve learned there are two strong stances represented in our club membership regarding singing at Rotary. I became President just when it was decided to try cutting back on our music. I hope we have arrived at a compromise that all members enjoy.
  • The same goes for the Question & Answer periods with our speakers. That was a hot topic last summer, but I hope members are comfortable with our current approach.
  • I’ve learned some technology, in particular how to pre-record my portion of the weekly meetings, so we could continue to meet online through the pandemic. Brian Basken and Jason Beren have done yeoman’s work to develop the technology needed to uphold the professional standards our weekly meetings are known for. This month Brian and Jason moved to live-streaming the meeting from Pearson Engineering, where they work. Next month we plan to live-stream our meetings with a limited number of members attending in person, abiding by good social distancing, while all others may participate from home.
  • I’ve also learned from Teresa Holmes, Charles Tubbs and others about complex racial justice issues facing our community. I’ve learned from Karen Kendrick-Hands and Larry Hands about environmental sustainability. These are important issues we must address, and I value the opportunity to connect with people who know far more than I do.

Going forward, I believe the most important goal for our Rotary Club is that of striving to be more actively welcoming to all leaders in our community. In a few minutes you’ll hear from the Racial Equity and Inclusion committee that our intentional efforts in that area are working.  To continue that progress, we need to accept that what has been comfortable in the past is not — and was not — comfortable for everyone. Good intentions are not enough. I’ve learned that we need to actively educate ourselves and speak out when we see injustice or hate. For white Rotarians like me who have benefited all our lives from the privilege of our race, this requires some humility to understand that there is a lot we don’t understand. The hard work is still ahead of us, and it’s good that we’ll have the steady leadership and vision of Jorge Hidalgo and then Mark Moody in the years to come.

With intention, patience and kindness as we work toward change, we will come closer to the Rotary Four-Way Test and build a club that is fair, that builds goodwill and better friendships, and is beneficial to all concerned.  Thank you.

Wrapping Up Our Rotary Year – Virtually!

submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Thump5Well!  This was quite a meeting.

It was more of an elegant hand-off than the usual changing of the guard from President Andrea Kaminski to new President Jorge Hidalgo, featuring inspiring reports of accomplishments well-earned by the Club and well-directed by President Andrea.

But first . . . this recap only suggests the substance of the meeting, which was recorded and is available at https://youtu.be/MoH8PYLW__E.

President Andrea began with an uplifting recital of six new members and their credentials:  LaVar Charleston, U. W. Madison; Sara Eskrich, Democracy Found; Amy Griffin, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Rob Roquitte, eCIO, Inc; and Angela Trevino, UW Health and Clinics.  It was especially nice to see the swelling stream of welcoming messages in the presentation’s adjacent comments box.

The second opening order of business was the presentation our Rotary Club’s International Service Award—pin and plaque—to Joyce Bromley for her engagement in international service projects of the club.  Congratulations, Joyce!

In her formal closing remarks, President Andrea recognized the continuing tech work of Brian Basken and Jason Beren, who silently present what we view each week.  She also listed a series of personal take-aways from her presidential year, among them “hit the bell at the bottom, not the top, to make it ring,” how to compromise on matters of music and program Q&A, how to master tech from home, and especially how much her presidential experience has given her joy and broad connections.

Many were thanked, reinforcing her primary revelation that willing help was always available.  Please read President Andrea’s remarks for a list of key people for the past year.

Also read Jorge’s remarks, which were constructive, thoughtful and clear.  They were preceded, direct from Florida, by unexpected comments and congratulations to the club’s first Latino President by former member Dora Zuniga, who asked Jorge to join the club six years ago.

President Jorge (sounds great, doesn’t it, Jorge?) introduced himself—born in the Dominican Republic, a West Point economics graduate who served in the Army for eleven years, a resident of New York City and now the well-known owner of an award-winning Honda Dealership.  Only President Jorge could make this list of achievements sound humble!  He pledged to try new things, further the consideration of large questions before us all now, ensure a wide variety of programs, and move through the coming year on the platform of respect for the individual.  This platform is linked to Jorge’s assertion that in addition to club members’ immediate work, we bring a vast array of additional experiences, knowledge and achievement that should also be shared.

Other reports included Mary Thompson’s PowerPoint presentation of our very important membership satisfaction survey; and Bog Sorge’s presentation of the membership development committee, which has introduced several new ideas and a comprehensive concept of how to gain new members from a position of strength (great video, Paul Ranola, who created the video, and you can view it at the same link above.

Of course, the meeting included the usual array of past presidents, pin presentations, and a very nice gift certificate to Andrea (sorry, no longer president . . . but “didn’t I see you on the Internet?”) for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art store.

Oh, and Melanie Ramey spoke about things she has learned during the pandemic . . . NOW will you connect to the link above?

Well done, Andrea and Jorge!

Our thanks to past president Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article and if you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here:  https://youtu.be/MoH8PYLW__E.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the 2020 Elections

submitted by Jessika Kasten

Michael WagnerThis week, UW-Madison School of Journalism Professor Michael Wagner spoke to the Downtown Rotarians on Pandemic Voting: Information, Geography and Polarization in the 2020 Elections. The J-School has done a lot of research on the impacts of media and voting and has tracked the polarization of Wisconsin voters since 1996. Since that time, we’ve seen a decline in local newspapers and local news reporting, a rise in talk radio and social media, as well as a stark rise in the amount of political advertising in our state. The School of Journalism has done a lot of research on the impact of changing information channels and has found that the broader your media diet, the more likely you are to vote outside of party lines. As an example, those who viewed a wide range of information sources were 50% more likely to split-ticket vote in an election (i.e., choose candidates from more than one party on the same ballot). Those who consumed a narrower range of media had nearly no likelihood of splitting a ticket.

The researchers also wanted to compare whether Wisconsinites were move divided on politics from other swing states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. The results were true that Wisconsinites’ attitudes around politics and social trust were more divided than other swing states. One researcher felt that those in rural and suburban areas of Wisconsin had long felt neglected and under-represented. Governor Walker’s campaign spoke to those people by denouncing Madison and Milwaukee influences, which could have had an impact in the attitudes of those outside the more metropolitan areas.

Ultimately, Professor Wagner summarized his talk by saying that Wisconsin remains divided due to partisanship, geography and the information we consume. He also made clear that these divides fracture our political and personal relationships in many cases. The good news is that a varied and wide media diet can influence these views and offer opportunities to work across party lines.

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

Moe Offers Response Ideas to Community Unrest Over Racism, Police Use of Force, and Protests

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Renee Moe 6 10 2020Renee Moe challenged Rotarians June 10 to improve race relations by being more willing to talk about the issue. Moe is President and CEO of United Way of Dane County, where she has held a variety of positions.  She shared some of her personal challenges growing up bi-racial in rural Wisconsin.  She said, “At 12, I remember praying to be killed, but as a teenager, thankfully, I knew it could be different from my early years abroad. Please know people are hurting because of how society comes together.”

Moe indicated several studies have shown workplace diversity contribute to productivity, resource generation and customer insights.

“It’s about relationships,” Moe said.  “And proximity is what builds relationships.”

Moe indicated it may be helpful to think of Black Lives Matter as “Black Lives Matter, Too” using the analogy that everyone at your dinner table gets a serving of meatloaf.  You don’t get a serving, yet you deserve one. But you still don’t get one.

Recalling a past conversation with a Rotarian, Moe remembers telling him about racial equity, “You don’t have to understand everything, just believe and it will all fall into place.”

Moe was our 2013-2014 Rotary Club President and has both and JBA and an MBA from UW-Madison. She was introduced by Teresa Holmes, Club Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair.

For additional information on this topic, you can visit the following links:

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/0zCOTRubYmw.

“Tiny Earth” – The Need for Antibiotic Research

–submitted by Jessika Kasten

Jo HandelsmanThis week, UW-Madison Professor Jo Handelsman talked virtually with the Downtown Rotary about a project she began while working at Yale University in 2012 called Tiny Earth. This important project was developed to increase the number of students pursuing STEM degrees as well as address the growing antibiotic crisis. Researchers estimate that unless we do something soon, by 2050 the leading cause of death will be related to bacteria-related illness.

Over time, humans have become resistant to many antibiotics that treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, ear infections, strep throat and the like. At the same time, there have been far fewer new antibiotics put on the market. Antibiotics are simply not as lucrative to pharma companies, and many pharma companies felt as though the vast majority of known antibiotics (99%) had already been identified through the soil. They were generally not willing to put in the time and resources needed to find the new 1%.

Tiny Earth began with just 6 students at Yale but has now grown to participation by more than 10,000 students per year. All of the students are working towards the same goal of making antibiotic discovery cheaper and more efficient for pharmaceutical companies. Specifically, they are developing new screening methods and new targets to find that 1% of antibiotics that are either new or different than previously discovered. They will then share those with pharma companies, thereby reducing the cost. This form of crowdsourcing most recently has discovered three new chemical structures that are currently underway. The COVID pandemic forced the research to stop earlier this year, but students are looking forward to getting back into the labs soon to continue their research.

Tiny Earth is harnessing the power of crowdsourcing, a student workforce and the need for antibiotic research, in the hopes they can make a significant impact on bacterial resistance in the future.

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

On the Significance of Memorial Day

–submitted by Jessica Giesen

VA Sec Mary KolarOn May 20, 2020, VA Secretary Mary Kolar gave an insightful presentation regarding the significance of Memorial Day. She first offered information regarding the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the services and benefits provided for service members in Wisconsin, where 345,000 veterans reside. The WDVA works hard each day to ensure that veterans have access to all benefits available to them. The programs the WDVA oversees extend from administering the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (a Smithsonian affiliate that welcomes 90,000+ visitors each year), where it continuously educates the public with unique stories and histories of Wisconsin’s veterans, to veterans’ cemeteries where our veterans receive honorable burials, to providing access to mental health and housing assistance.

Sec. Kolar then turned to Memorial Day, a holiday dedicated to remembering those who lost their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The day’s meaning and purpose, she explained, “is profoundly rooted in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and the inherent desire of veterans to remember their comrades who never came home.”

The individual stories Sec. Kolar told of Wisconsin servicemen who lost their lives in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War were equally inspiring as they were heartbreaking; they brought this author, for one, to tears: Stories such as that of Morris Togstad, who was the last from Madison to die in World War I and Victor Glenn, one of the first to die in World War II — two men for which the street “Togstad Glenn” in Madison was named. Then there were the Barber brothers – Malcom, Randolph and LeRoy – whose father wrote to their leaders and asked that they be separated and assigned to different ships should anything happen. Unfortunately, prior to that happening, all three remained together aboard the Oklahoma on the fateful Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 – the attack on Pearl Harbor– and all three lost their lives. The USS Barber is named in their honor.

We all reflect together on Memorial Day each year, but it is important to also honor those who serve to protect us throughout the entire year, as well as their families who support them and have been left behind. We can honor these memories through acts of kindness and acts of citizenship – by sharing stories, by voting. Sec. Kolar reminded us that we can never, ever honor our fallen service members enough. This year, as Memorial Day approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, our community will be unable to gather in person across the state at veteran’s cemeteries. However, a Wisconsin Virtual Commemoration will be held on May 25, 2020, to honor and reflect. Please visit www.WisVetsMemorialDay2020.com to be a part of that special program.

If you missed our online Rotary meeting this week, you can watch it here.