Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

January 18: An Education on Cryptocurrency

–submitted by Jessika Kasten


Spencer Smith, founder of AmpliPhi Digital, visited the club on January 18 to help us better understand cryptocurrency. Spencer broke down the tenants of crypto by comparing it to a batting cage token. You purchase a batting cage token, but the token technically has no value. The value is the access to the batting cage. The same is true for crypto: the money you invest gives you access to a blockchain (a super database that is so secure it cannot be altered), but has no monetary value. Smith’s best advice? Never invest more than you can lose.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/tmj6JOC2MnU

January 11: The Taiwan Straits Conflict

–submitted by Jessika Kasten

Fellow Rotarian CHRIS KOLAKOWSKI, Director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, provided members and guests with history and context around the Taiwan Straits conflict.

The roots of the conflict go back to the Chinese Civil War in the late in 1940’s between the Nationalists and communists. These two sides are still at war today, as there was never a resolution. A delicate balance exists because both sides deeply believe in “One China.”

Kolakowski did not prognosticate the future but discussed some current pressures, (e.g. economic slowdowns, Covid and the Russo-Ukraine war) that could upset the balance. 

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/pq80XOvFhfA.

December 7: Ja’ Malik Talks About the Future of the Madison Ballet

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman

Before speaking to members and guests, Ja’ Malik, the Artistic Director for the Madison Ballet, treated us to a small snippet of The Nutcracker featuring three ballerinas from the Madison ballet.  He then shared with us his vision of diversity, inclusion, opportunity and exposure to the arts that he encouraged members to help facilitate as they consider their consumption and support for the arts. 

This can be a life-changing experience, just as it was for him as an 8-year-old child of color.  He was enthralled after seeing a performance of The Nutcracker with his mother and ballet ended up being his career.  It has taken him around the nation and world.  The performing arts changes lives, and his vision of accessibility to all seeks to make that a reality.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/5ekHWxRUdco.

November 9: Women Veterans Then and Now

–submitted by Janet Piraino

Jodi Barnett, Women’s Veteran Coordinator at the State Department of Veterans Affairs,  spoke to the club about the challenges of being a woman in the military.  She talked about the discrimination she faced, such as the time she was told at a veterans’ meeting that the women’s auxiliary met on Tuesdays.  Or, the time she was told at the VA Hospital that she could not sign in for her husband.  

She also highlighted the gains women veterans are making as the fastest growing demographic of veterans. She credited State DVA Secretary Mary Kolar (the first female Wisconsin DVA secretary) as helping her and other women veterans break the glass ceiling. She praised the election of Verona Veteran Denise Rohan as the American Legion’s first female national commander in the group’s 100+ year history.  She also applauded the first all-female Wisconsin Honor Flight that took 88 women veterans to Washington, D.C. in May to visit the nation’s war memorials.

Barnett praised Wisconsin services for veterans and encouraged club members to check out the I Am Not Invisible campaign currently traveling around Wisconsin to increase awareness of and facilitate dialogue about women veterans. 

If you missed our Rotary meeting last week, you can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M501l0I7aT0.

September 21: Report on South Madison Renaissance

–submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Ruben Anthony, Alex Gee, and Karen Menendez Coller presented a well-coordinated report on Madison’s dynamic South Madison Renaissance in a series of five-minute presentations and sequenced responses to queries by Past President Teresa Holmes. 

The South Park Street development, totaling $150 million dollars and with construction well underway, will change the face of South Park Street, a key freeway entrance to Madison, a central street through the community and bring dramatic affirmation to the area’s residents and businesses. 

Karen emphasized especially Centro Hispano’s greatly expanded new quarters at Cypress and Hughes Place, its affirmative effect on a fast-growing population and a heightened level of community collaboration. 

Alex noted that the initiatives complement combined leadership, a sentiment mentioned by all three panelists and an emphasis on a reaffirmed Black culture of great depth as an offset to increasing area gentrification. 

Rubin spoke about the Black Business Hub now being erected, combining new offices for established organizations with parallel training facilities for the workforce and for new initiatives. 

As one panelist said, “Madison deserves this.”  A standing ovation by a roomful of Rotarians signaled agreement!

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js2dmPxNHEk.