Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

Jorge’s Last Stand

I’m not a sentimental guy, but I have to think back to the time I was selected to be our Club’s next President.  It was a great honor, but it also made me wonder how I could become the one President Rotarians would remember the most.  What if I doubled the amount we raise for the Foundation?  Reached one thousand members?  If only Godzilla came out of Lake Mendota during my Rotary year and I fought him off, that would make my presidency unforgettable.  Well, nowhere in my wildest thoughts did I think that I would have to deal with a once a century pandemic.

So I became the very best virtual president this Club has ever had.  It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, to be honest, but at least it had its perks [photo of Jorge in suit jacket, tie, sweatpants/shorts during Zoom]. 

Of course you must remember that even though things seemed to come to a standstill, they never really did.  Our Rotary office staff got our Club up and running in short order; they even went to members’ homes to show them how to join our virtual meetings.

Brian Basken and Jason Beren gave their time, expertise, and even facilities to ensure we could live stream meetings.  Granted, we told them they could invoice the Club for their services, but we never told them we’d pay the invoice.  We owe them a great deal of gratitude for their year-long effort and tremendous contribution to the club. 

At the same time, our Committee chairs made sure the work of the Club went on, and the Fellowship chairs made sure the fun of the Club went on.  It wasn’t easy to do, and it was especially important at a time when lockdowns and uncertainty resulted in a great deal of stress for all of us.  The Board was able to revise our Strategic Plan and put together four task forces whose work will help our club thrive in the long run. 

And of course there’s all of you: Despite a once in a century pandemic our Club donated over $750K worth of community grants, programs, and scholarships.  We continued to mentor Scholars whose life was turned upside down by COVID.  We expected the pandemic to reduce our membership to 400, and 419 of you stayed on board, attended our meetings and participated in the life of the club.  Rotary was there for the community when it was needed the most, and all of you refused to give up on Rotary when Rotary needed you the most. 

And you still refuse to give up.  You are our future.   There’s still a lot of need in the community; need for basic services like food and shelter, need for education, need for reconciliation and unity.  It is not going to happen unless we make it happen.  So I call on you to reach out to other Rotarians and encourage them to come back to in-person meetings, keep building goodwill and better friendships right where we left off.   Our work is not done.  It has gone on for over a hundred years, and we stand on the shoulders of giants.  Let us live up to their legacy for another hundred years or more.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.  I bid you a fond farewell.

New Police Chief Brings His Goals for a Better Community to Madison

  

Why would Madison’s new Chief of Police of four months, Shon Barnes, spend most of his allotted speaking time presenting his journey from child to Chief?

   By doing so, Barnes not only shared his vision for our Madison force, but also how this vision became to be.

   Barnes wanted to serve in order to help others.  This he learned from his father, an automobile mechanic who developed a successful small business without advertising but on trust:  repair costs without overpricing, transparency of diagnosis, dependable delivery, and word of mouth.

   His college history major and four years teaching it gave him a long-view perspective, backward and forward.  He’s still learning about the legacy and power of history.  In fact . . .

   One of his most significant life events was a personal journey to Selma, Alabama with two officer friends.  They came to Selma, read archival materials, crossed the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge of Bloody Sunday of March 7, 1965 history, and then walked 54 miles to Montgomery.

   During his walk, he learned that people want to be seen and to participate; they want to be heard; they were accountable for the welfare of the three walkers; and the world is not as divided as it is often portrayed to be.

   Barnes translated his life’s experiences into practice:  trust, active listening, transparency, accountability, the use of technology to increase efficiency, avoidance of over-policing, and—as he learned as a Rotarian— “being nice for no reason”.

   Barnes’ goal?  Madison’s police force will be the national model for exceptional policing.  

Our thanks to Police Chief Barnes for his presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/9FrhUD8GDOo.

Addressing Response to Sexual Assault on UW-Madison Campus

Curran Sattler Walsh June 2 2021 Rachel Sattler, Kim Curran, and Kate Walsh comprised a panel supplying a fast-moving presentation about the largely unaddressed scope of problems and possible solutions to sexual assault of UW-Madison women. Statistics are startling:  26% of UW-Madison undergraduate women have experienced unwanted contact, 20% have been assaulted, and 6.8% have suffered violent attacks.  The use of alcohol by men and women plays a large role in these abuses. The consequences are several and can have life-long symptoms:  rape victims often experience PTSD, depression, and substance abuse disorders. School dropouts occur. The panel agreed that responses to sexual assault are unsatisfactory because a highly functioning, systemic, coordinated, multi-agency source of physical and medical, psychological, and legal services does not exist. This problem is magnified by most victims’ lack of knowledge about these services, their sources and their unknown and disparate locations, the absence of transportation, and the lack of an advocate who could knit all of these together, provide a single point for reporting, and accompany a victim to the services. One result of the absence of coordinated services is that only 2% of the victims report an assault to the University, and very few are reported to police. The panel is deeply involved in ways to address the shortcomings described above.  A U.S. Department of Justice grant has been awarded to hire a campus advocate who can begin to connect services, provide continuous and establish an example that can encourage the hiring of more advocates. A multi-agency virtual portal is also being developed for reporting and coordination of services, to help with the connection not only between agencies but also among survivors. At the close of the presentation, President Jorge asked what we as Rotarians can do to help.  The answer:  contact foundations you know for financial support of advocates or mental health programs or make personal contributions to these initiatives. Our thanks to Kim Curran, Rachel Sattler and Kate Walsh for their presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/Fe53FRvN7R0.

Goodman Center’s Message: “Be The One”

   Letesha Nelson, the CEO and Executive Director of the Goodman Community Center, was our speaker this week. She joined the Goodman Center, succeeding fellow Rotarian Becky Steinhoff, in January 2021. Ms. Nelson has a long history of non-profit work, having held leadership positions with the Girl Scouts of America for many years. She brings to her work an obvious passion and a joy in service to others.

   She finds motivation in her belief that it takes one person to change someone or even a community for the better, a concept captured by her personal motto, “Be the One.” She has been and intends to continue to be someone who can improve other people’s lives and direct them to a rewarding future. At the beginning of her career at the Girl Scouts, when she had self-doubts, her father (who himself worked to help people in inner-city Milwaukee) told her that “You are born to do it.” It’s clear that he was right.

   After fifteen years with the Scouts, she left for a job at Idlewild Baptist Church in Memphis, where she helped parents and children deal with adverse events in their life. These were affluent people. But they needed help. She learned that the right kind of help can be important for all people of whatever level of income.

   As the new head of the Goodman Community Center, she is learning what Goodman is all about: “Strengthening Lives and Securing Futures.” During the worst of the pandemic, Goodman stayed open to serve families with meals from the food pantry, providing school not only part time but all-day, with counselling about college and other career paths. They are now facilitating vaccinations in the community, which will help restore normality. The Center is already slowly and cautiously returning to a post-pandemic operation. They are looking to increase their connections to technical education for those not considering college.

   Becky Steinhoff is obviously a tough act to follow. But there is every indication that Letesha Nelson has the necessary drive and the pleasure in serving others. She is “born to do it” and “she is the one.” She is worthy of the great Rotarians Bob and Irwin Goodman.

   Our thanks to Letesha Nelson for her presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/AT8bJ7iozdg.

“We Must Not Accept Complacency”

   On an historic day, when the Club returned to the Park Hotel for the first time in more than a year of pandemic isolation, our speaker was fellow Rotarian Jason Fields. Jason is the new president of the Madison Regional Economic Partnership. He spoke on the topic “We Must Not Accept Complacency.” The title derives from his belief that Madison is a great place to live and work, but his mission is to give his all for everyone he deals with, always. And he construes economic development to mean “to empower people.” All people. He is motivated by the question that his wife asked him: “Yes, Madison is a great place. But for who?” He briefly referred to the statistics we all know, that Wisconsin has huge disparities between its White and Black populations. He and his wife were themselves discriminated against while seeking a home here as they move from Milwaukee. This is never acceptable. Beyond the immorality of it, we have to send a message that this will not be tolerated if we really want to be competitive in attracting talent.

   Jason mentioned several issues that MadRep will be working on. One is broadband, which is not evenly available in the state, in rural areas and among minority populations. He will also be addressing the problem of unequal access to capital by various populations. A fund is being created. There is also a tension between Milwaukee and Madison that is unnecessary and harmful to development here and should be eliminated. We should unlearn Midwest modesty and learn to brag about ourselves to attract talent from Minnesota, Illinois, and the world. Another problem we face: We tend to “sacrifice progress to perfection.” Task forces talk, and nothing gets done. There has to be a sense of urgency.

   Jason is a man of diverse experiences. He has been a politician, a financial adviser, a banker, a radio show host, and a podcaster. He is a dynamic speaker. A man with passion and an idealism disciplined by reality. He will be a valuable member of the Club and the community.

   Our thanks to Jason Fields for his presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/LBCqc9c_bcE.      

Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor

   Ruben Anthony addressed our March 31, 2021, meeting on the subject of “Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor.”  He has been the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison since 2015.

   The National Urban League was founded in 1910 and now has 92 affiliates throughout the US with the Madison chapter beginning 50 years ago in 1968. It has been a champion for the poor and the unemployed as a longstanding resource for people of color that helps to rebuild their lives and give them a second chance.

   Ruben believes home ownership is the key to generational wealth, but, in Madison, only 10% of African Americans own their own home compared to 48% nationally.  He detailed how the Urban League actively works toward assisting those individuals into owning their own homes.

   The League was inspired by the Sherman Phoenix project in Milwaukee to promote and support African American small businesses in Madison.  Thus, it is working to develop the Park Street Corridor on Madison’s south side by trying to establish a Black business hub.  It has been aided by an initial $100,000 grant from Dane County followed by a $2,000,000 grant to acquire property and $400,000 in loans from American Family Insurance.

   The project is at the corner of Hughes Place and South Park Street.  Its first phase establishes core businesses, and the second phase will develop multi-family affordable housing.  It is planned to initially have 15 to 20 businesses and additional government offices with the latter on long-term leases to provide more financial stability for the project.

   We all can help this project by referring anyone we know who is looking for a business location or a place to start a new business.  Low cost capital, in-kind contributions and philanthropic support are of course very much welcomed.

   Our thanks to Ruben Anthony for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/O4pO-f0JeUk.