Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

Right-versus-Right………Toning Up our Ethical Fitness®

–submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Mike Engelberger

Anthony Gray 6 13 2018Fellow Rotarian Anthony Gray challenged and enlightened us on his life’s work in applied ethics.  While it can sound abstract, Gray brought us into the work of his team at the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE), the nation’s oldest think tank dedicated to bringing ethical decision making to our workplace and everyday lives. Gray is the President and CEO.

“Ethics” in Gray’s world is much more than the need to follow rules, guidelines and laws, or knowing right from wrong.  He calls these activities “compliance” not ethics.  Ethics, he said, are what you do when no one is looking, or resolving moral dilemmas that are not easy, straight forward or solely based on the law.  Ethical fitness is making good decisions when there are no rules or when something happens quickly and without warning.

In the training, IGE provides to individuals, corporations, schools, government organizations and other entities, emphasis is put on practical ways to get ethics into everyday decision making. Ethics is a skill set that can be acquired with proper training and personal practice.   Gray praised the “Rotary 4-way test of the things we think, say and do” by saying most organizations don’t include the word “think” in their ethical guidelines.   IGE helps people and organizations make effective decisions in difficult situations where two or more values are in dynamic tension — for example how do you choose between two right choices.

IGE’s international research into applied ethics has discovered five universal values: truth, respect, responsibility, equity and compassion.  These values can be the foundation for sound ethical decision making regardless of culture.

Gray is the incoming chair of the 2019 Rotary Ethics Symposium Committee.

Admittedly a meaty topic for a 20-minute presentation, you can find additional training and information at IGE’s website, www.globalethics.org.

Summerfest–Join Us for our 50th Anniversary Celebration!

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Jeff Burkhart

Bob Babisch 6 6 2018

Bob Babisch with Club President Donna Hurd

Bob Babisch, of Milwaukee’s famous Summerfest, shared the history and stories about the annual music festival held on Milwaukee’s lakefront park.  This year it runs for 11 days from June 27 to July 8 and is expected to draw 850,000, making it one of the largest music festivals in the world.

Summerfest started in July 1968 to bring Milwaukeeans together during a period of racial and civil strife and was modeled after the German Oktoberfest in Munich.  Initially, it was a city-wide event held at various public venues but was eventually consolidated at the current 75 acre lakefront site near downtown Milwaukee at a former Nike missile facility.  It is also the site of many ethnic festivals held during the summer.

Milwaukee World Festivals is the umbrella organization and has 43 full time and up to 2,500 seasonal staff.  Summerfest has gained a worldwide reputation for the excellence and variety of musical talent and performances.  The facilities have been consistently improved and upgraded to keep pace with the growing professionalism and standards of the live music performance industry.  Between 2005 and 2016 they invested $69.2 million in new stages, entry points, food venues, and facilities.

Mr. Babisch gave us a quick overview of the business model and economics of Summerfest and the facilities.  First, they have many corporate sponsors that support and upgrade the performance stages and venues.  Without this support they would not be able to have first-class amenities and keep the base one-day ticket price at $21.  Second, one might assume that ticket prices provide the bulk of revenue used to run the enterprise.  However, in order to attract and incent the best talent, the performers usually receive up to 90% of the net revenue with a guaranteed minimum.  Although this exposes Summerfest to some risk, it helps attract the best headliners.  The bulk of the revenue and profit that accrues to Summerfest comes from the ancillary sales of food, beer and other beverages.  Their goal is to make Summerfest a people’s festival by keeping entry costs affordable and the standards high.

So, with 11 days, 11 stages and 12 hours of non-stop entertainment each day there should be something for everyone!

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

The Latinx Story: How They Came to Wisconsin

submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Sergio Gonzalez 5 30 2018

From left: Dawn Crim, Sergio Gonzalez and Club President Donna Hurd

Professor Sergio González of Marquette University gave a lively and informative presentation chronicling the growth and importance of the Mexican population in Wisconsin, using his family as one example of how that evolution took place.  The journey for this group of people – not an easy one – began in the 1920’s when laws were passed that limited immigration from Eastern Europe and resulted in an increased need for factory workers, particularly in and around Milwaukee.  These early Latino workers were considered “scabs,” and integration into the greater community was largely non-existent.

Subsequently, these immigrants established their own communities, which grew as the demand for agricultural and other workers increased.  In the 1940-1950’s, an average of 15,000 immigrants came to Wisconsin for each growing season, and, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a much larger population began to unionize and advocate for basic rights in housing, schools and treatment by police.

By 1980, the population of Wisconsin residents of Latino descent was less than 70,000 but mushroomed to over 400,000 by 2010.  In 2016, state legislators proposed a law to tighten this immigration pattern, but their effort was met by large public protests and an outcry by Wisconsin’s dairy industry which was dependent on this Latino labor pool.

Today, Wisconsin’s Latino population is over 420,000, and contributes greatly to Wisconsin’s economy and culture.  Although many of them live with uncertainties created by the US’s fractured immigration policy, this vibrant community is critical to the future of Wisconsin and is doing everything possible so they can be considered “true Wisconsinites.”

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

Alumni Park – A Must See on UW Campus

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Paula Bonner 5 2 2018

From left: Regina Millner, Jeff Bartell, Roberta Gassman, President-Elect Jason Beren, Paula Bonner, Angela Bartell, Kristen Roman and Steve Wallman

Paula Bonner, former Wisconsin Alumni Association President and CEO, stepped out of retirement May 2 to talk to Rotarians about Alumni Park. This new lakefront gateway has had more than 21,000 visitors since it opened last October. Its purpose is to be a welcoming green space for students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members. It is not a big space but it features several distinctive and attractive exhibits that tell alumni stories. Bonner is particularly inspired by these in a challenging time for higher education.

The park is a gift to the University from its alumni and friends, Bonner said. More than 150 years after the University’s first campus master plan called for a green space in the area, the park completes the recent East Campus Mall development. It replaces an ugly surface parking lot between Memorial Union and the Red Gym. The land was initially part of the Ho Chunk Nation, which was recognized at the opening ceremony. Bonner thought of the development of the park as the reverse of the old Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, with lyrics that said, “They paved paradise and put in a parking lot” – and that became a marketing theme for the venture.

Approaching from Langdon Street, a visitor first sees the backlit granite fountain where water falls over ripples carved in stone. Then there’s the 80-foot long Badger Pride Wall depicting stories – some well-known and others quirky – from UW and state history. The Wall was designed by Nate Koehler and made in Green Bay. The Alumni Way exhibit has five 18-foot panels representing the five pillars of the Wisconsin Idea – service, discovery, tradition, leadership and progress. Alumnus William Harley (1908) is recognized with a sculpture of a vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle that visitors can “ride” for a photo. The multi-media Bucky Badger sculpture by artist Douwe Blumberg is contemplative yet still whimsical, said Bonner. At night it is lit from within.

The park is designed to celebrate Wisconsin. It has 75 trees and plantings of many native species. To the extent possible, the exhibits feature Wisconsin materials crafted by local artists. For example, Bonner recalled a cold February day when she went shopping up north for a big limestone slab, which was then carved by Madison’s Quarra Stone Company.

Information about the park, the exhibits, and upcoming educational and celebratory events can be found at www.alumnipark.com.

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

  

The Complexities of the Immigrant Journey

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Mike Engelberger

HO7A6120An important theme of today’s meeting was the impact, experience and contributions of the immigrant on society and their journey from their birth home to making a new home in the United States.

From the Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award–named for Manfred Swarsensky, a German Jewish immigrant who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 — awarded to Dr. Suresh Chandra, an immigrant from India, for his work locally and internationally with Combat Blindness International to our speaker today, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, who is an immigrant from Iran by way of Spain.  Her family fled Iran during the Revolution for safety, and she came to the United States in 1991 to attend graduate school.  She is now a naturalized citizen and Chief Diversity Officer at UW Health.

She painted the immigrant experience as shaped by loss and complexity – loss of home, family, job, culture, language, community, the familiar, etc.  She also reinforced the positive outlook of the immigrant.  The quest for opportunity, choosing goodness over evil, the desire for one’s children to do better than the parent, the strengths of cultural integration into society (as opposed to the Euro-centric notion of melting pot assimilation), the principle of building bridges instead of walls, and developing extended family-like connections within the community.

Addressing questions posed about the immigration issues of our current time, Bidar-Sielaff felt that we are in a time of persecution of the immigrant.  She urged us to remember our Rotary Four Way Test and to advocate for common values, and good thoughts, words and deeds.  She encouraged us to be allies, and be present with the immigrant community when there are issues.  It is less easy for policymakers to dismiss concerns when there is broad-based support from all manner of skin color, culture and station.  And, of course, vote!

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

New Research in Treating Childhood Cancer

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

Ken DeSantes 2 28 2018

Ken Desantes pictured here with Club President Donna Hurd

Dr. Ken DeSantes presented us with a hopeful account about the modern treatments for a dreadful, heartbreaking disease: childhood leukemia. Dr. DeSantes is Clinical Director of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology program, and Director of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant program, at the American Family Children’s Hospital. So he knows of what he speaks.

Childhood cancer is not common, but even so, it is the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. Dramatic progress in treatment has been made in the last 70 years in treatment. In 1947 doctors (were they called oncologists then?) began to use a single drug that delayed the progress of Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia. About 10 percent were cured. Today, using more sophisticated treatments, the figure is 80 to 85 percent. Yet that still leaves 15 to 20 percent who die. Current chemo treatment is rough and sometimes toxic and can take several years. Now, researchers at the AFCH, like Dr. DeSantes and Dr. Paul Sondel, are attacking leukemia with immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own T-Cells to kill cancer cells. They are using truly incredible, sci-fi techniques like inserting specialized DNA into cells that will enable T-Cells to overcome the cancer cells’ defenses. They can create an army of T-Cells that can kill leukemia cells. This “CAR Therapy” has now been approved to treat not just relapsed cancers, but newly diagnosed cases.

Another cancer, Neuroblastoma, has a bad prognosis. But a new technique that combines a genetically redesigned antibody with the body’s natural killer cells has shown a 20 percent better result than standard treatments. This MIBG therapy, which allows radiation to be taken up only by cancer cells, is still not curative, but work is being done by Dr. Sondel to improve the effectiveness of the treatment: a combination of immuno- and radiation therapy. Clinical trials are going on here.

Other cancers are being attacked using Haploid, half-matched stem-cell transplants. Techniques allow removing T-Cells that attack the transplants, leaving only the T-Cells that attack the cancer. In one recent Neuroblastoma case, a boy aged 6 was treated successfully, only to have the cancer return at age 11. Relapsed cancer cases are bad. But using the Haploid treatment, this boy has been in complete remission for two years.

In answer to a question, Dr. DeSantes noted that a very important amount of their funding for research came from relatively small gifts. And one questioner violated Club policy by making a statement: the staff members at Ronald McDonald House consider Dr. DeSantes and Dr. Sondel to be heroes. True enough.

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

From Washington to Wisconsin

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mike Engelberger

Jo Handelsman 2 21 2018During the February 21 Rotary meeting, we heard from Dr. Jo Handelsman. She spoke to us about her time serving in President Obama’s administration as the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in Washington D.C. and her return to Madison to become the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at UW-Madison. In Washington D.C., her area included the following:

  • Office of Science & Technology Policy
  • Science Division
  • Levers for Change
  • Initiatives, most notably the “Precision Medicine Initiative”

She advised President Obama about science, which he is passionate about; managed science and technology in crises, the Ebola and Zika crises occurred in her 8 years in D.C.; managed her budget; scanned for gaps and opportunities; championed new ideas; increased visibility of science and technology; led committees/task forces (26 agencies were on the Ebola task force!); and recommended candidates for the Presidential Medals for Science and Technology.

Dr. Handelsman stated how fortunate she was to work for and with John Holdren, OSTP Director, and President Obama, given both of them digest information quickly and are able to articulate it in summary form extremely well. She also shared that diversity in the agency was extremely important for better outcomes.

The levers utilized to accomplish advancements included:

  • Executive orders
  • National monuments
  • Proclamations
  • Presidential Messages
  • Presidential Speeches
  • Event Commitments
  • Federal Agencies
  • Formation of Commissions
  • Compelling Arguments + Stature of White House

Regarding the Precision Medicine Initiative: the 21st Cures legislation contained $4.8 billion for this initiative, had bipartisan support and passed both houses in Dec. 2016.

Now at the WI Institute for Discovery (WID), she is able to continue many things she worked on in the White House.  WID is currently experimenting with new ways to catalyze interdisciplinary research; generate new research collaborations across campus; and build connections with the State of WI. It is exciting to put the word out to the entire campus to obtain ideas and input on particular issues – it elevates creativity and collaboration!

WID has a “Small World Initiative” course, which is a fusion of research and education to crowdsource antibiotic research in the hopes of discovering more antibiotics. Across the world, 10K students are taking this course and providing research to solve global problems.  This includes collecting soil samples in support of developing new antibiotics. Dr. Handelsman encourages us all to visit the WID.

Our thanks to Dr. Jo Handelslman for her presentation and to Mary Borland for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.