Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

An Analysis of the 2018 Mid-Term Election

submitted by Andrea Kaminski

_SHR0908UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden, on February 6, gave Rotarians an overview of the November 2018 election in Wisconsin, along with an analysis of how and why voting patterns differed from past midterm elections.

The 2018 election had the highest national voter turnout rate for a mid-term election since women won the right to vote in 1920. Wisconsin’s participation in the midterm was higher than most other states’ turnout in presidential elections. Both major political parties had turnouts above 60 percent in our state, and the overall participation was 25 percent higher than would normally be expected for a midterm.

Burden attributed the high turnout to the fact that it was an “interesting election” driven by the gubernatorial race. He recalled that his students were watching the Walker-Evers race much more closely than more nationally hyped elections, such as Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid in Texas.

The 2018 Wisconsin election ended the longest stretch of one-party control in the state since the 1950s. Burden noted that former Governor Walker has always been highly organized and disciplined as a candidate, and he is a master at fund raising. However, Burden described a shift in Wisconsin politics away from the formula that worked so well for Walker in the past toward a formula that worked well for Donald Trump in 2016. Walker was first elected Governor in the Tea Party Wave of 2010, which was a good year for Republicans. In contrast, it was clear early on that 2018 would be a difficult year for Republicans.

Democratic voters were better mobilized in 2018, and they voted in big numbers, particularly in Dane and Milwaukee counties. Although Walker won 65 to 70 percent of the vote in the Republican strongholds of Waukesha and Washington counties, neither the turnout nor the Republican edge was as strong there as in the past.

Burden does not believe Wisconsin saw a “Blue Wave” in 2018. First, the results were not particularly surprising. The President’s party always suffers losses in mid-term elections. Second, the effects of gerrymandering have proven to be quite durable.

Burden explained that until recent years, collecting more votes generally translates into winning more seats in Congress and state legislatures. According to that rule of thumb, the Democrats should have picked up 30 more seats in the House of Representatives than they actually did.

Democratic voters tend to live in densely populated cities. Burden said this presents a districting problem for Democrats even in “blue states.” The other problem for Democrats in Wisconsin and some other states is that the current voting maps were drawn by the Republicans who prevailed in the “Red Wave” of 2010.

Next year will be another exciting election year. With the Census taking place next year, the state legislators elected in November 2020 will get to draw the next set of voting maps in 2021. And, according to Burden, Wisconsin is the most competitive state in the nation and we can expect the presidential candidates to spend a lot of time and money here in 2020.

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.

“How Are You Going to See Our Children?”

submitted by Ellsworth Brown; photo by Neil Fauerbach

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Judge Everett Mitchell pictured here with his mentor, Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana, who received our club’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award at this week’s Rotary meeting.

Imagine the combined power of a preacher and the authority of a judge, connected by an unrelenting mission to lift up children who stand alone.  Now imagine the twenty-minute Rotary program this produced in reflection of and response to the career challenge that Judge Everett Mitchell was given via the question above, by the day’s Manfred E. Swarsensky award winner Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana, on the occasion of his installation as Circuit Court Judge in 2016.

But we didn’t have to imagine this.  It came to life with driven speed, intensity and the best desperation to help us understand how incapable the child welfare system, often following inevitably into the juvenile justice system and ultimately the criminal justice system, are to the task of repairing damaged lives, providing help and hope to those who enter these systems with no experience, no point of reference, no one to hear, no hand to hold, no ability to move beyond a closed loop.

Using poignant examples, Judge Mitchell spoke movingly of the power of restorative justice.  His source of language and guidance in court is Trauma and Healing Guide Resource, which speaks directly to the need for courts and the public to speak to a child’s future more than the past.  The absence of and critical need for mental health treatment was a frequent theme, as was the need to keep dreams alive as a replacement for the damages done to children, giving them voices.

The Judge spoke of the Court in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, to open an Office of Youth Engagement.  He spoke of the need to raise the bar of the justice system’s practices, which are not yet equal to the focus on trauma.

The best expression of Judge Mitchell’s commitment to the power of his vision and the role of the Court was his closing word:  “I am not just their judge, I am their reflection.”  His life, once his nightmare, turned into his dream:  power of a preacher and the authority of a judge, bent to a consuming mission.

Financial Literacy for Today’s College Bound Students

submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Pete Christianson

Derek Kindle 10 31 2018

From left: Nasra Wehelie, Nick Curran, Derek Kindle and Virginia Bartelt

Rotarians celebrated Halloween on Wednesday with a topic that frightens even hardened fans of horror movies — college tuition.

Derek Kindle from the office of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison administers more than $450M in federal, state, institutional and private aid annually.  While the topic is often front and center in the press and on the minds of many parents, grandparents and college students, the reality can be far more complex than just headlines.

College costs are rising while state support for higher education is on a steep decline.  Tuition and fees in the state of Wisconsin are slightly below average in the US and compared to neighboring states.  And while official data sources consistently report that those with a degree earn more on average than those without one, the question remains: How can students and families take advantage of the benefits education offers, but still manage the costs within their means.

Annual family income for 39% of the 2018 undergraduates is less than $80,000 with half of that number falling under $39,000.  While 53% of UW undergraduates graduate without debt, the remaining students have an average student loan burden at graduation of $27,138.  So, what are the steps to mitigate the burden of education costs?

Kindle says loud and clear that FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the best place to start.  The 2020 FAFSA applications are now available. The University spends considerable resources on communicating with counselors and high schools, youth organizations and directly with students across the state.  As part of that communication blitz, student aid advisors are also touting university aid programs.

New this year, “Bucky’s Tuition Promise” covers tuition and fees for Wisconsin students with family adjusted gross income below the state’s median income of $56,000.

The “Badger Ready Program” is for returning adults and veterans with 24 credits and a 2-year minimum break in attendance from an accredited institution.

How does UW look at the success with these programs?  Kindle shared two indicators: The freshmen retention rate is 95.3% and the average time to earn a degree has been lowered significantly over the last few years to 4.03 years.

Links to all the programs that were mentioned today are listed below.

Badger Promise                                    https://financialaid.wisc.edu/types-of-aid/ftb/

Bucky’s Tuition Promise                         https://financialaid.wisc.edu/btp

Chancellor’s &Powers-Knapp Scholars    https://cspks.wisc.edu/

PEOPLE Program                                 https://peopleprogram.wisc.edu/

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.

Rotary’s General Secretary: “We Are All Peacemakers”

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Pete Christianson

John Hewko 10 3 2018Rotarians were privileged to hear John Hewko, Rotary International’s General Secretary, talk about three global issues facing Rotary in the 21st century.

First, we must finish PolioPlus, even though we have been supporting this cause for 30 years.  Today, with the help of international partners including UNICEF, WHO, and Gates Foundation, the end is in sight.  Yes, Hewko admitted, we are experiencing donor fatigue, but we cannot move on to the next big project until we are successful with this one.  PolioPlus, he continued, has really put Rotary on the international map.  The remarkable infrastructure that we developed to deliver PolioPlus can be used for the next big campaign, he noted, but admitted that no decision had been made on what this would be.

Second, Rotary’s international membership has been stagnant at 1.2 million members for the last 20 years.  This is because membership in the U.S. has been declining, but membership in Asia and Africa has been increasing.  Faced with stagnant growth, Rotary must develop new products for today’s changing marketplace including experimenting with formats that depart from the club model.  Hewko also urged Rotarians to find ways to increase our impact on the world.   For example, our club could join forces with other Wisconsin clubs to do larger scale projects.

Third, Hewko urged us to recognize that “peace is at the center of everything we do.”  We do this by providing potable water, teaching better health practices, and eradicating disease.  Rotary International has recently joined forces with the Institute for Economics and Peace to focus grant programs on those that create the most enduring peace.

Hewko directs a staff of 800 employees at the RI headquarters in Evanston, Illinois and seven other international offices, and has served as general secretary since 2010.

Members from many Rotary Clubs in Southern Wisconsin also attended the talk.

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

MSO Celebrates 25 Years

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Margaret Murphy

John DeMain 9 19 18

From left: Club President Jason Beren, club member Perry Henderson and John DeMain

Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain joined us in his first event to celebrate the 25th year of his leadership here in Madison. Twenty-five years is an extraordinary time for a modern conductor to stay with an orchestra. We have been lucky to have him here for a quarter century.

John began by very generously crediting his predecessor, Roland Johnson, for his long service to the MSO and as creator of the Madison Opera as part of the MSO. He credited Mr. Johnson with making the orchestra professional and with recruiting the services of UW faculty and students. John also explained the changes that he has brought. At one time, the orchestra performed eight single concerts a year. When Roland Johnson passed the baton to John, he urged him to build on his work developing an audience. John has tripled the audience during his tenure. Today, the season consists of a series of eight concerts, each performed three times, on Friday and Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon. The MSO has done more than increase its audience and its string section (now full-sized). In his first year, John initiated blind auditions for prospective musicians. UW faculty joined the orchestra, which encouraged their students to participate as well. The result was fine musicianship. [Anyone who has heard the MSO will agree that it is shockingly good. Its string section is vibrant and its sound has a sheen.]

John also thanked Pleasant and Jerry Frautschi for their astounding gift of the Overture Center, including Overture Hall, which has a splendid acoustic that allows us to hear how beautifully the MSO plays. John also spoke of the several associated organizations and programs affiliated with the MSO.

John concluded on a somewhat somber note. Former UW Chancellor John Wiley was in attendance. He upgraded the School of Music during his tenure. Some of his work is being undone because of funding woes: many of the faculty are no longer tenure-track. They and their students are less likely to join the MSO. However, fine musicians from elsewhere are maintaining the orchestra’s excellence.

The Maestro made one last point: Madisonians should include the MSO in their entertainment options. This reviewer agrees. As an old ad in New York once proclaimed: “Try It, You’ll Like It.”

We express a special thanks to the MSO: The Rhapsodie Quartet: Susanne Beia, Laura Burns, Chris Dozoryst and Karl Lavine.  The quartet performed a movement from the American String Quartet written by Antonin Dvořák.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.