Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

The 2019 Wisconsin Book Festival

submitted by Rich Leffler

Conor Moran   Conor Moran, the director of Wisconsin Book Festival, spoke to us today. Conor has been the director of the Festival for the last seven years, since it has been presented by the Madison Public Library and Foundation. He updated us on what has been happening with the Festival since his last appearance before us five years ago. The Festival has become a year-round event, which has made it more prominent among publishers, and they are now eager to participate. As a result, the Festival is able to attract some of the best authors of the most important books in the country, with many from the New York Times Best Sellers list. In addition, C-Span now programs the Festival.

In the last seven years, the Festival has doubled its attendance. As the Festival kicks off its new year, the first program will be Friday, September 13. The speaker will be Christopher Leonard, the author of “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.” His talk will be at the Central Library. Following on that, on September 19, Bud Selig will speak at the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium about his new book, ”For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball.” And then on September 24, Samantha Power will speak at the Central Library about her book “The Education of an Idealist.” Ms. Powers’ appearance is sponsored by Cheryl Weston, who was a member of the Club.

On October 17-20, there will be the annual four-day Wisconsin Book Festival Celebration, which used to be all there was. As should be apparent, Conor has transformed the Festival into a major literary event of national importance.

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

Changing the Study of Native American History and Culture

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Margaret Murphy

Patty Loew 9 4 2019

Patty Loew, Ph.D. is a well-known Wisconsin broadcast and print journalist, producer, educator, writer and proud member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  After retiring as a professor from the University of Wisconsin, she accepted a position as the inaugural Director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

When she accepted the position at Northwestern she wanted to change the paradigm that Native American studies had typically been carried out under; that is, in the framework and context of academic study and peer review, and then describing what eras and influences affected the life and culture of the Native American through history.

Dr. Loew’s concept was to build relationships and draw in related and disparate disciplines to bring a fresh perspective on contributions that Native American cultural knowledge brings to our understanding of the world.

In a convergence of science and cultural history the story was told of a fish warden that oversaw when spear fishing could be opened on certain lakes.  He approached his task from a strictly scientific benchmark methodology:  When the lake temperature hit 48 degrees it was time to open spearing season because spawning was about to begin.  A Native American friend of his had a different method handed down from his ancestors: “Frogs chirp before spearfishing in the spring”.  Over time he discovered the results were much better when he melded the two methodologies, but the real trigger was waiting until the frogs chirped!

Dr. Loew related that there are many other ecological heritage stories that have as much validity as western science methodologies.  She has created a minor in Native American & Indigenous Studies to build on the knowledge of historical, scientific and cultural contributions of Native American populations.  Learning in this context is expected to be experiential in nature by building relationships through tribal and Native American institutions.  She also hopes to raise the visibility of Native American culture and language as indigenous cultures become increasingly rare and dormant.

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

US Rep Mark Pocan Addresses Club

submitted by Jessika Kasten; photo by Karl Wellensiek

Mark Pocan 8 28 2019

From left: Club President Andrea Kaminski; UW Rep Mark Pocan and Mike May

Today, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan shared updates and insights from Washington D.C. Rep. Pocan began by giving some background on the Second Congressional District which is much larger than most assume, including Dane County as well as more rural counties surrounding Dane. This array of both metropolitan and rural areas greatly impacts Rep. Pocan’s areas of focus in Washington.

This fall, Rep. Pocan is hopeful to see movement in a few major areas: investment in infrastructure, prescription drug pricing (more generic drug equivalents) and gun violence prevention (background checks). He also anticipates that there will be a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would bide leaders some additional time (November/December) after the September 30 fiscal year end to develop an omnibus house appropriations bill and hopefully avoid a government shutdown.

Rep. Pocan finished by answering some submitted questions from Rotarians, including:

Q: What opportunities to do you see for bipartisanship?

A: There are a few areas called out above where we could see movement ahead of the Presidential election cycle. The biggest threat to bipartisanship is gerrymandering, which creates non-competitive districts. Competitive districts would force candidates to speak with all of the district constituents, encouraging additional voices to be heard.

Q: How do you feel Medicare for All would work?

A: The U.S. is the only industrialized nation to not offer universal healthcare. He believes we should focus on the value of having healthcare for all first, and then dig into the how best to accomplish it. Healthcare is the number one concern of his electorate.

Q: Why hasn’t Congress started impeachment proceedings?

A: Congress has requested testimony from those involved, but invitations have been declined. They have now begun an impeachment investigation in order to compel witnesses to come forward and share their honest stories. After these testimonies, next steps will be developed.

We thank WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

A Good American Family

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo my Margaret Murphy

David Maraniss 8 21 19

David Maraniss pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

David Maraniss, Associate Editor of the The Washington Post and seasonal Madisonian, in his latest book, A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father, described the issues that his father faced as a result of becoming radicalized in the 1930s. To gain a better understanding of the history of his career, David visited the National Archives in D.C. in 2015. He found the transcript of a statement that his father, Elliott, wanted to read in an appearance before the House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1952. The title of the article was “What it means to be an American.” For the first time, David understood how difficult life was for his father in the subsequent years. He said that, of his twelve books, it was the most difficult book to write.

Elliott was born in Brooklyn during the depth of the Depression. At this time, many “isms” were arising – communism, fascism, anarchism, etc. During this time, Elliott became radicalized. Later he entered the University of Michigan where he became an accomplished writer. In 1944, he enlisted in the Army for Officer Training, and upon completion, he was assigned to lead an all-black unit. From his experiences in this assignment, he gained insight into one of the most serious wrongs that still persists in our society.

Elliott’s journalist career was affected by his early history as a radical, causing him to be fired from several newspaper editorships. These included the Detroit Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a small paper in Iowa. During his work at the Iowa paper, he became a friend of William Evjue, editor of The Capital Times in Madison. Evjue invited Maraniss to join the staff in Madison, which he did in 1957.

David gave a brief thumbnail sketch of his latest book, which deals with how the lives of Elliott and his family dealt with all the many disruptions and problems affecting their collective and individual lives. Downtown Rotarians have been fortunate to have David as a summer Madisonian. This was his eight talk to Rotary.

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

What Does Madison’s Transportation Future Look Like?

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Neil Fauerbach

Tom Lynch 8 14 2019   Tom Lynch, Director of Transportation for the City of Madison, began his presentation by acknowledging the significant contribution of 13-year Director of Metro Transit, Chuck Kamp, for his energy and foresight in bringing the system into the future.  Mr. Lynch then shared important aspects of Madison’s transportation system and its future.

First there is the need to prepare the city and county for 2050 with a projected population of one million people that will require doubling downtown parking to 20,000 spaces and two additional traffic lanes in each direction on East Washington Avenue.

The director then explained the direction the department is taking in developing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).  BRT is defined by buses being no more than 15 minutes apart, off-board payment and the use of dedicated bus lanes with their own traffic signals to avoid congestion.  Light Rail (LR) is no longer being considered because of the significantly greater cost.  Fifteen miles of LR in Madison would cost one billion dollars while BRT will cost $128 million.  Twenty larger cities have chosen BRT over LR.

Tom stressed the benefit of BRT based on numerous studies of other cities using that system.  Every dollar spent on RBT produces four dollars of investment by corporations and boosts employment for a half a mile around each bus stop.

His department anticipates construction for Madison’s BRT to begin in 2022 and to be complete in 2024.  The challenge will be dealing with current inadequacies in the bus barn and stagnant funding from the state.

He concluded his presentation by challenging those present to make use of the two free bus tickets Metro Transit was providing after our meeting and take a ride in the next two months with the idea that those who do so will become supporters for the bus rapid transit concept.

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

Trent’s 10 Principles

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Mike Engelberger

Trent Jackson 5 29 2019   After congratulating 2019 Rotarian scholars, UW Foundation Sr. Director of Development Trent Jackson shared his Principles of Life.  Many Rotarians remember Jackson as the sixth all time leading scorer of the UW Badger basketball team.

These principles have helped Jackson through adversity ranging from childhood stuttering to a 2017 hate crime attack. His principles include:

  • We’re told to love, not like, your enemies.
  • Draw this from deep inside…or from above.
  • Have peace in mind and spirit, with your family and at work. Peace is related to integrity and honesty.  Make sure to live it.
  • Have faith; are you ready for good things to happen?
  • If you squeeze compassion, out comes kindness and friendless.  Squeeze harder and you’ll find grace, mercy and forgiveness.  Jackson coined the term “forgetness” which is important as so many people think they can forgive but not forget and forgetness is possible.
  • Wisdom is ROUGH: Reach Out, Up and Get Help!
  • What is the why behind what we do?  Why did this happen?  But we don’t need to understand everything.  Love, Obey and Trust (LOT).
  • If understand is the what, knowledge is the how. Ask how to get done what you want.
  • Jackson has a long list of Ds, both positive and negative.  Positive words that begin with D include discipline, determination, drive; he encouraged Rotarians to meditate on those Ds. Negative Ds to avoid include distraction and disunity.
  • Finally, have courage to work on all these principles in your life.

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

“History Inspires People to Build a Better Future”

submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Mike Engelberger

Christian Overland 5 22 2019Christian W. Overland has been the Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society since his appointment in February 2018.  He came to Madison from sixteen years in various positions at The Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan.

Overland has stepped into the position at an exciting time.  He and the Wisconsin Historical Society are planning to develop a new museum that would nearly double the square footage of the current facility on the Capitol Square at Mifflin and State Street.  It will be a $120 million public/private funding effort with the state funding $70 million and private funds providing the remaining $50 million. The story is unfolding in several chapters.

Chapter one started with the recently completed Wisconsin Historical Society archive facility on the east side of Madison that houses more than 200 million artifacts. It includes a large North American history collection that is second only in size to the archives in the Library of Congress.

Chapter two now connects that history through events and digital access for every citizen in the state. The new museum will be transformational by boosting access to many thousands more visitors.  Those stories will be shared around the state and around the world.

With additional space, Overland believes that exhibition and educational activities could be expanded with new state of the art technology providing visitors and students a unique ‘Wisconsin experience’.

Overland said that public input into the ideas, plans and content is critical to a successful project.  To that end, the Historical Society is setting up multiple events across the state to get input. “Every community needs a voice,” Overland said.

For more information visit www.wisconsinhistory.org.

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week, and if you missed our meeting, you can watch it here.