Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Human Genome Editing

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Mike Engelberger

Alta Charo 12 5 2018The recent claim by Chinese scientist  He Jianjui that he successfully altered the DNA of twin girls to build up the twins’ HIV resistance served as a backdrop of the Rotary Club of Madison’s weekly meeting, whose guest speaker Dr. Alta Charo, a UW-Madison professor of law and bioethics, offered as a broad outline of ethical considerations concerning Human Genome Editing.

Jianjui’s actions have drawn wide condemnation by the medical, ethical, and research community as there are allegations that his work lacked an ethical compass that according to Charo at this point in time should be guided by the thought that “other than prevention or treatment” human genome editing “should not proceed.”

Genome editing, according to Dr. Charo, is best explained by “adding, deleting, inactivating, or making targeted alterations” of DNA. Genome editing is acceptable practice in research laboratories. Somatic gene therapy, in which therapeutic DNA is integrated in the genome, is a process used to treat disease that is highly regulated. “Somatic gene therapy should only be employed for treatment and prevention but not for enhancement,” said Dr. Charo. Gene therapy cancer vaccines are being developed , but among the most common uses today of somatic gene therapy are to treat cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hemophilia and AIDS.

If human genome editing is pursued for purposes of enhancement, there are obviously significant risks. Among the medical concerns rising to the very top is the potential of newly introduced genes not interacting with the existing gene structure. Dr. Charo characterized the ethical concerns revolving around the idea that human mankind may be closer to “making a step toward designer babies.” Other ethical concerns in Jianjui’s work is “the lack of consent by the affected person” and circumventing the traditional medical peer review process, instead publicizing his work directly with popular media sources. In summarizing Jianjui’s work, Dr. Charo said “two edited baby girls have been born.”

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

Let’s Embrace Inclusivity!

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Neil Fauerbach

Maria White 11 28 18.Our Rotary speaker on November 28 opened by introducing herself with her full Latina name, including her given name, her Confirmation name, her father’s last name and her mother’s last name. Then she mentioned that she married a guy named Bill White and became Maria White. Born in Havana, Cuba, White is a new member of the Toledo, Ohio, Rotary Club. She is so new, in fact, that she hasn’t even attended one of their meetings yet. It was our luck to have her speak to our club. That’s certainly worthy of a make-up in Toledo!

White is the founder and CEO of a consulting firm called Inclusity, and she has worked with more than a dozen Fortune 500 CEOs and a myriad of senior leaders, managers and supervisors throughout North America and Europe to help them successfully increase diversity in their organizations. She congratulated our Rotary club for embracing a business model to increase inclusivity in our membership.

White walked us through an evolution of inclusivity work over the decades, beginning with the seemingly homogeneous society in the 1950s. Common themes were those of the “company man” and employment for life. Women were more likely to go into specific professions that did not create the kind of leadership that was recognized and rewarded. In largely white male-dominated workplaces the mantra was, “Work hard and you’ll get ahead.” Some of the intended outcomes of this culture were realized, including outstanding productivity. However there was also the unintended consequence that women, people of color and LGBT people were excluded and their potential to contribute to society was not realized.

Homogeneity gave way in the 1970s to a period focused on assimilation. Common themes were affirmative action and increased representation of women and people of color in organizations. The intention was to increase visible diversity without changing the culture. It was the time of “dress for success” in which women were encouraged to wear suits similar to men’s suits – except certainly not with pants! The success formula was, “Be like us. Work hard and you’ll get ahead.”

“That kind of assimilation causes you to give up on yourself and breeds resentment,” White said. “They wanted me to be like them.” This was very frustrating for White, and she didn’t realize until much later that the intentions of her superiors were to help her to “fit in” and be successful. The unintended consequence was that many workers decided they couldn’t or wouldn’t, and they left. The result is a brain drain.

This eventually led to an emphasis on diversity, with themes of celebrating differences (as opposed to assimilation) and creating opportunities. Employers offered what White referred to as “Fun, Food and Flags” events. The intention was to achieve numerical diversity targets. The unintended consequence of this approach is that some majority workers feel discriminated against, while women and minority workers feel exhausted from having to work harder to attain the same recognition.

In the long run, what we need is not just diversity but inclusivity, said White. That requires that we all – whether we are in the majority or not – understand that we are part of diversity. The guiding themes of inclusivity are a focus on maximum productivity, an acceptance of intentional inclusion and an awareness of unintentional exclusion.

Under the inclusivity model, all you need is decision-making that is based on shared values along with behavioral standards which define the organizational culture, she said. As an example of a shared set of guiding principles, she pointed no further than to Rotary’s own four-way test.

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

Stu Levitan Tells Rotarians About Madison and Club Members in the Sixties

submitted by Jerry Thain

Stu LevitanThe 1960s were a tumultuous decade in the United States and certainly in Madison.  Club member Stu Levitan drew on his new book “Madison in the Sixties” to illustrate his talk to the Club on November 7th.  The book, whose genesis was 34,000 articles from Madison newspapers of the decade reviewed by Stu by digital scanning (followed by more in depth research) focuses on five major issues of the time –civil rights, University of Wisconsin, urban renewal, Monona Terrace and student unrest – but Stu’s remarks to the Club dealt with the involvement of Club members in the 1960s, not only appropriate to the audience but also a natural theme given the prominence of so many Rotarians in the life of Madison then, as always.  Space does not allow for more than a few examples of the highlights of the presentation so for a full listing one will just have to buy the book!

Among the Rotarians prominent in the chronicle of Madison in the 1960s were current member Mitch Javid, the physician who treated UW boxer Charlie Mohr after his injury, ultimately fatal, in the ring at the NCAA boxing tourney in Madison.  Two mayors during the decade were Rotarians – Henry Reynolds & Bill Dyke.  Pat Lucey, who eventually would be elected Governor, was a Rotarian and prominent realtor in the city.  He was the only realtor to speak in favor of a fair housing ordinance which eventually passed.  Other Rotarians of the time included the two Madison police chiefs of the decade and the UW football coach, Ivy Williamson.  Rotarian Arlie Mucks advocated, initially unsuccessfully, for admission of Jews to the Madison Club in the nid-1960s.  Current member Nelson Cummings joined the Club in that decade as the leader of the Madison Urban League and, as older Club members know, was able to find housing for his family in the city only after a long struggle to do so.

Rotarian Judge Joe Jackson was the presiding jurist at the trial of students charged in the disturbances related to protests of Dow Chemical conducting interviews on campus.  Jackson also was the judge in the trial of the female performers who danced nude in a psychedelic theatrical version of Peter Pan.  Rotarian James Boll was the prosecuting attorney in each instance.

Among those speaking to the Club in the 1960s were General Lewis Hershey, head of the draft, whose presence drew many protestors, and Warren Knowles, whose remarks denouncing student activism on the Madison campus apparently were well received, and came less than a month before his re-election as Governor of Wisconsin.

For greater detail, see the book!

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

Q&A Forum with AG Candidate Josh Kaul

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Pete Christianson

Josh Kaul 10 24 2018

From left: Lester Pines, Josh Kaul and Greg Everts

At the October 24 meeting of the Rotary Club of Madison, Democratic candidate Josh Kaul for the office of Wisconsin attorney general summed up his vision for the state’s highest judicial office by asserting that he would operate as an independent force “standing up for the rights of Wisconsinites” and working to make Wisconsin “stronger and safer.”

Citing his Wisconsin roots of growing up in Oshkosh and Fond du Lac and highlighting his Stanford law degree along with his experience as a federal prosecutor serving in Baltimore, Kaul made the case to be the right person for the job. He outlined various positions related to voting rights, the opioid epidemic, the Affordable Care Act, high incarceration rates of African-American citizens, school safety and the recent appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as US Supreme Court Justice.

In discussing voting rights, Kaul painted himself a champion based on his record of actively challenging any attempts to restrict voting including in Wisconsin. He also addressed the gerrymandering issue in Wisconsin that reached the U.S. Supreme Court by supporting the idea of a non-partisan redistricting model.

On the topic of the opioid crisis, Kaul pledged to follow a four-point agenda, encompassing enforcement of laws with large-scale traffickers, expanding access to substance abuse treatment, holding pharmaceutical companies accountable, and expanding Medicaid to afford greater treatment options under Badger Care. Asked whether he had accepted any campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry, Kaul answered that he had not and also had made the pledge not to accept any funds from the National Rifle Association.

Kaul pledged to withdraw Wisconsin from current and future lawsuits seeking to repeal or invalidate the Affordable Care Act, and he especially stressed the need to grant medical coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Kaul addressed the high incarceration rate of the African-American population by advocating for community policing and community prosecution, pointing to such successful efforts in Milwaukee.

In terms of school safety, Kaul emphatically declared that more common sense is needed than is evident in his opponent’s ideas to arm teachers with guns. He singled out his opponent for “criticizing gun-free school zones.”

In drawing yet another distinction between him and his opponent, Kaul said he had opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation even prior to the sexual harassment charges against him became public. “The Court is going too far to the right,” he said. “The process was not a good one.” He was especially critical of his opponent’s statement that the allegation of sexual harassment 36 years ago should not disqualify Kavanaugh.

The greatest criticism of his opponent has been the massive backlog of rape kits not being tested in an effort to bring justice to victims and lock up potential sex offenders representing further danger to public safety. Kaul said the “delay in getting justice” was a blatant example of his opponent’s misplaced priorities.

While Attorney General Brad Schimel was invited to appear jointly or on a separate date, his campaign office declined our invitation.  Per our board policy, we offered Schimel’s office to have his campaign materials at our meeting on October 24th, and our thanks to Nancy Bartlett for attending and staffing the table. 

Our thanks also to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  Watch the video here.

Lessons from Business Empress Martha Matilda Harper

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Pete Christianson

Jane Plitt 10 17 2018

From left: Rotarian Mary Borland, Guest Speaker Jane Plitt & Rotarian Joan Collins

Rotary and Martha Matilda Harper both want to make the world a better place, said October 17 Rotary speaker Jane Plitt.  Plitt highlighted how Harper, a poor Canadian servant for 25 years, became the American pioneer of modern retail franchising with 500 Harper Method Hair shops around the world catering to world royalty, US presidents, along with suffragettes.

Harper was born in Canada and put into servitude at age 7.  As she grew, she learned several business lessons.

Dream. She dreamed of success and marrying, although marriage would not release her from being a servant.

Stick to your Goals.  Her last employer was kind. He taught her about a product he designed to make hair stronger.  On his death bed, he bequeathed her the hair tonic formula.  With that formula, she believed she has the passport to change her life.  She moves to Rochester, New York, home to suffragists, entrepreneurs, and Quakers, a hot bed of activists. With about $300 in savings, she’s denied a building lease, until hiring a lawyer.

Capitalize on Your Assets. Her floor length hair, pictured on the door, drew in mothers of piano students from next door.  She offered them chairs, then drew them into to hear about her hair tonic.

 Understand and Delight the Customer.  Harper created the first reclining barber chair; this meant no soap in customers’ eyes and clothes were protected.

Create Buzz.  Famous customers such as Grace Coolidge and Bertha Palmer kicked off her fame.  Bertha drew her to open a second store in Chicago.

Commit the Customer.  Harper asked Palmer to come back with a list of 25 friends on a petition for her to come to Chicago.

Thinking Outside the Box.  Today we call this franchising, from the French “free yourself from servitude.”  After success franchising, she rethinks her anti-male beliefs and marries at 63 to a 39-year-old. She ends up with 500+ shops, two in Madison, five training schools, one also in Madison, and two manufacturing centers.

Treat Your Staff Well.  She advised franchisees to start staff meetings listening.  She believed it important to celebrate achievements.

In 1935, when Fortune Magazine was saying “a woman’s place is not in the executive chair,” Harper was proving she could make real money and success for her organization and her franchisees.

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

“…Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”

submitted by Jocelyn Riley

Potter_Ken_

This week’s Rotary meeting opened with the singing of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, a suitable lead-in to UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Ken Potter’s presentation, “Responding to Increasing Yahara Lakes Flood Risk.”

Professor Potter pointed out that this past summer was the “wettest summer since I came here over forty years ago.”

He said that what he called “extreme rainfall” is only one aspect of alleviating flooding risks in Dane County.  Urbanization is even a more important factor, he said, pointing out that in 2017 there was twice as much development in the Yahara Lakes watershed as there was in 1970.  “But most of the Yahara Lakes watershed is not yet developed,” he said, and made the case that we need to oversee more thoughtful development that will improve water movement in the area.  “We are not going to stop urbanization,” he said, “but we need to find ways to plan development more strategically.”

There are some state regulations and laws in place currently that are helpful, but Dr. Potter also pointed out that some state laws recently passed undermine efforts to control flooding.

In answer to a question of what we as individuals can do to help with flood control, Dr. Potter made some specific suggestions, including constructing rain gardens and moving downspouts to send water onto grass or a garden area and not onto a driveway.  The goal should be to “keep as much water as you can on your property.”

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

Straight Talk on Civil Discourse

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Margaret Murphy

Michael Schuler 9 26 2018

Pastor Michael Schuler pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Rotary’s Sept 26 guest speaker, Michael Schuler, asked, “Is there is an antidote to toxic talk?”

Schuler recently retired as senior minister of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

Researchers gather data, test hypothesis, operate on provisional truths, demanding scientists have open minds.  However, even scientist succumb to civil discourse.  Debate over what killed dinosaurs is one example.

The book, “Politics of Resentment” by Kathy Cramer documents this resentment.  People in common conversation treat each other like enemies, even in rural America known for niceness.  Cramer contends political leaders are often to blame for our divided experience.  For example, trash talk, and rowdy events held by Trump’s campaign where dissenters were ejected.  “This is fun,” Trump said.  We are receptive to this bravado.

Rural citizens interviewed by Kramer felt their communities were losing to urban communities, despite data showing otherwise.  Perception matters, and politicians exploit this.  Polls focus on winning and losing, so voters overinvest in winning.  We need to focus less on winning and focus more on what government is doing for everyone.

Schuler outlined strategies to increase the quality of our conversations:

  1. Step out of our comfort zone. Invite interaction with people who don’t share your moral narrative.
  2. Think like a good scientist. Hold your ideas as a tentative theory rather than a final fact.  Apparently, it could well be, it seems, are all good phrases to use.
  3. Be more curious. Ask more questions rather than share your convictions.
  4. Be patient. Sit with discomfort until you have more clarity.
  5. Become more self-aware. Is your tone inviting or challenging?

Michael Schuler served 30 years as senior minister of First Unitarian Society of Madison, one of the largest UU churches in North America.

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