Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing Empowering Individuals

–submitted by Larry Larrabee

Our May 24th program was presented by Arthur Sigmund of the Fred Astaire Dance studio in suburban Milwaukee along with two of his para-dancers, Autumn Neugent and Martha Siravo.  They described the mechanics of Wheel Chair Ballroom Dancing and the three, along with the volunteer help of our own Jeff Bartell, demonstrated the basic dance moves of the para-dancer coupled with a walking partner. 

Wheelchair dancing has the advantages of building muscles and improving posture as well as learning to work with partners.  At the end of the program, Arthur and Martha performed a very intricate and dramatic dance that was awe inspiring that resulted in a standing ovation.

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

Making Their Mark in Wisconsin History

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Angela Titus shared 10 inspiring stories from 10 inspiring people in Wisconsin History at the May 10 meeting. Titus highlighted people ranging from musician Al Jarreau to surfer Tom Blake.

Jarreau, for example, started in Psychology in Ripon College, ending as a Jazz Icon on the Hollywood walk of fame with seven Grammys. 

Edna Ferber is another example.  Starting in Appleton with a love for the theatrical, she quit school at 17.  She moved from reporting to fiction, winning a Pulitzer for her novel, “So Big” and wrote “Giant” and “Showboat.” 

Inspiring others included:

  • Electa Quinney – First Wis school teacher, part of native mass removal movement
  • Ezekiel Gillespie- Led black community through voting rights movement
  • Gary Gygax – Creator of Dungeons & Dragons from Lake Geneva, inspired $97 billion gaming industry
  • George Poage – Poage graduated 1893 from UW in History as fist African American big ten champion, competing in the 1904 Olympics, first black athlete to win a medal.
  • Jesus Salas – Salas became a farmworker justice leader, forming Obreros Unidos movement, later joining UW Board of Regents
  • Kate Newcomb – One of first woman doctors in 1917, Kate practiced in Boulder Junction
  • Tom Blake – Born in Milwaukee in 1902, Blake is thought to have transformed surfing from a Hawaiian sport to a national pastime
  • Benjamin Butts – came to Wisconsin at 11 with Wisconsin military returning from Virginia. Started barbershop across from Capitol. First Black person on Assembly staff; became an influencer due to his connections.

Titus invited Rotarians to a Black History Walking Tour, Wed, May 17 following the Rotary meeting, ending at 2.30pm.  Reservations required.  Use this link to sign up:

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

April 5: Senator Tammy Baldwin: Building Support for Respect for Marriage Act

–submitted by Janet Piraino

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin spoke to our club on April 5th about building bipartisan support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in other states. 

In building support for the bill, the Senator credited the many men and women who had the courage to come out to their families and friends.  She encouraged her colleagues to talk to their loved ones about the issue because she knew every one of them knew someone they loved who was married or committed to their same sex partner.  She also credited the endorsement of faith organizations she never dreamed would support the bill, including Mormon, Christian and Orthodox Jewish groups. 

She ultimately convinced 12 Republican senators to join her Democratic colleagues in voting for the bill, something she said would have been impossible even just a decade ago.  

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our Rotary meeting last week. If you missed it, you can watch it here:

March 22: Madison Mayoral Candidates Weigh In

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

Mayoral Candidates Satya Rhodes-Conway and Gloria Reyes Offer Insightful Views for Madison’s Future

At Rotary on March 22, both Madison mayoral candidates showcased their positions, often punctuated with deep feelings, for the future of Madison.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway pointed out several areas of progress. She pointed out she was proud of Dane County’s vaccination rate (during Covid-19) as being the highest in the country.

Priorities for her administration have included increased housing and transportation choices. Another focus has been on police safety, which she gives credit to Chief Shon F. Barnes, and the 911 mental health program which was implemented during the Mayor’s term in office.

She said housing challenges have been a top priority. “We were under producing housing for years.” Recently Madison has approved 15,000 units of new housing.

She added, “Beyond just having more housing, we need to have affordable places for everyone who wants to live here.”

Mayoral candidate Gloria Reyes expressed concern for the city-wide improvements that didn’t take place when the current administration headed by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway took office four years ago. “The perceived changes didn’t happen,” she said.

Reyes, who proudly noted she grew up in Madison, framed her views around the need for a more diverse perspective and improved communications between Madison leaders in government and other sectors.

She pointed out policy projections are one thing, but there’s a need to build real-world better on-the-ground, collaborative relationships. “Plus, we need to get away from the narrative of defunding the police.”

“We need more diverse perspectives so decisions work better for those who are impacted,” she said.

She pointed out the following example around transportation decisions. “They moved the bus stop that was in front of Briarpath in Madison, exactly where young people need it.”

If you missed our meeting last week, you can watch the video here:

March 1: Print Media Today and Tomorrow

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Paul Fanlund told Rotarians March 1 print media is alive and well. Fanlund is publisher of the The Capital Times, and he served the Madison print media trifecta as Wisconsin State Journal Editor and Madison Media Partners VP Operations prior to that. 

“I’ve worked in the same building over 40 years but for three companies,” Fanlund said.

Looking forward, Fanlund consulted with leaders of all three media organizations, who report legacy media may have some areas of decline but will still be relevant. 

Statewide, 84 percent of Wisconsin adults read local print or digital newspapers. A surprising number, 28, newspapers are published five times a week or more; 194 total papers are staffed by 8,950 people.

Print news challenges include youth leaning toward digital platforms, cost/availability of newsprint, plus delivery issues. And digital offers immediacy, intimacy, and flexibility with audio and video enhancements.

Still, Fanlund says he doesn’t buy that old day journalism was better because more people were doing it. 

“A lot of the positions not there anymore were not doing the front-line reporting; you may see more typos now, but editors are prioritizing that front line reporting,” he says.  “We sometimes worked in packs covering the same story.  Good work is done today to avoid that mentality.“

Madison is lucky to have multiple excellent newsrooms and a well-educated readership. We need community support for events, consideration from advertisers, and knowing we are building our success on the size of our audience, not print circulations. 

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

February 22: Advocating and Building Community

–submitted by Jessika Kasten

This week, Camille Carter, president and CEO of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, spoke to Rotary about the history and mission of her organization. At only 10 years old, the Chamber has made a major impact, serving more than 700 Black business owners in Dane County. The organization’s mission is to promote, lead, advocate and build community, which they do by staying closely connected to their members, partners and community. The Madison Black Chamber hosts a variety of events, expos, awards and networking opportunities, notably hosting the first Black Restaurant Week in the nation.

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