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Meet Our New President: Jorge Hidalgo

Hidalgo_JorgeAs we begin a new Rotary year on July 1, we wanted to share some background on our new president. 

Jorge Hidalgo joined our Rotary Club in 2014 and is president of Wilde East Towne Honda. Previously, he was a Harley-Davidson Executive.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and received his Master’s degree in Operations Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years as an Infantry Officer where he was an Army Ranger and Airborne Jumpmaster.  Jorge has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce; served as Vice President of Fisher House of Wisconsin; and has been board president for the Wisconsin Heartland Honda Dealers Advertising Association.  He is a recipient of the 2016 Latino Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce Community Business Leader Award.

In Rotary, Jorge has served on our Strategic Planning, Welcoming and Veteran’s Assistance Committees and was elected to our board of directors for a 2018-2020 term.  He also participates in the Hiking/Skiing, Scotch Whisky and Sporting Clays Fellowship Groups and is chair of the Veterans Fellowship Group.

Jorge was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and now lives in Sun Prairie with his wife, Andrea.  They have 3 adult children and eight grandchildren.  Here are some details reprinted from the Wilde East Towne Honda website that provide insights into Jorge:

“My favorite band:  The Eagles.
Three Words that describe me:  Duty, Honor, Country.
My childhood dream job was:  To be a professional baseball player.
If you could spend the day with one person, deceased or alive, I would choose:  My son, Daren, who was killed in Afghanistan (while serving his country in 2011).
Favorite TV shows:  “Walking Dead” and “Blue Bloods.”
We welcome Jorge Hidalgo as President during our 108th Rotary year!

Jorge Outlines His Plans for Upcoming Rotary Year:  “Respect the Individual”

I know that the current pandemic has affected all of us, and every aspect of our lives—so it’s natural that our Club has been affected too.  We haven’t been able to meet in person for a while, and the road to returning to full-Club in-person meetings will be slow, and it will be gradual. But we’re resilient and we have adapted, with committees, fellowship groups and even our Wednesday meetings taking place virtually.  It may not be ideal, but it’s a way to stay engaged with Rotary at a time when our Club needs our support. 

As your President, I plan to remind us all of why Rotary matters, and mention one great thing Rotary has done each and every week. I also plan to highlight Members in the News each week from the podium, to celebrate the active role we play in the community.  I want our meetings to be fun and upbeat; I want us to laugh more often.  I’m sure whatever problems we’re dealing with every morning will still be waiting for us when we get back to the office after lunch; let Rotary be a little break from that stress.  If our average age wasn’t 107 I’d call it recess—but even though “recess” doesn’t fit, you still get the idea.  We’ll try new things, and not all of them may work—but we’ll keep trying till we make it work!  We’ll even address members’ questions and concerns brought up on the member survey.  We’ll have speakers that address a broad range of topics, including not only social issues but also leadership, history, business, inspirational life experiences, scientific discovery, and artistic pursuits. 

There’s no shortage of things that draw divisions among people; different political and religious beliefs, different views on social and economic issues—and we absolutely MUST respect our differences, and respect each other, first and foremost, as individuals.  So to be crystal clear, my theme for this year is “Respect the Individual.”  We need to spend more time on discovering what brings us together:  I want us to get to know each other better, discover things we have in common, and celebrate our accomplishments: One of the many ways to do this is by asking a new member to introduce a long-time Rotarian once a month.  Among our members we have a Freedom Rider from the Civil Rights movement and someone who discovered a life-saving medical procedure, engineers and artists, veterans of foreign wars and Peace Corps volunteers; there’s a lot we can learn about and from each other.  And let’s not get all greedy; we need to give others a chance to be part of this great Rotary Club: Each of us should set a goal of recruiting one member to Rotary this year; just one, though if you bring in more I promise I won’t get mad at you. 

I want to thank you for trusting me with our Club’s leadership and let’s all work together to have a great Rotary year! 

Wrapping Up Our Rotary Year – Virtually!

submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Thump5Well!  This was quite a meeting.

It was more of an elegant hand-off than the usual changing of the guard from President Andrea Kaminski to new President Jorge Hidalgo, featuring inspiring reports of accomplishments well-earned by the Club and well-directed by President Andrea.

But first . . . this recap only suggests the substance of the meeting, which was recorded and is available at https://youtu.be/MoH8PYLW__E.

President Andrea began with an uplifting recital of six new members and their credentials:  LaVar Charleston, U. W. Madison; Sara Eskrich, Democracy Found; Amy Griffin, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Rob Roquitte, eCIO, Inc; and Angela Trevino, UW Health and Clinics.  It was especially nice to see the swelling stream of welcoming messages in the presentation’s adjacent comments box.

The second opening order of business was the presentation our Rotary Club’s International Service Award—pin and plaque—to Joyce Bromley for her engagement in international service projects of the club.  Congratulations, Joyce!

In her formal closing remarks, President Andrea recognized the continuing tech work of Brian Basken and Jason Beren, who silently present what we view each week.  She also listed a series of personal take-aways from her presidential year, among them “hit the bell at the bottom, not the top, to make it ring,” how to compromise on matters of music and program Q&A, how to master tech from home, and especially how much her presidential experience has given her joy and broad connections.

Many were thanked, reinforcing her primary revelation that willing help was always available.  Please read President Andrea’s remarks for a list of key people for the past year.

Also read Jorge’s remarks, which were constructive, thoughtful and clear.  They were preceded, direct from Florida, by unexpected comments and congratulations to the club’s first Latino President by former member Dora Zuniga, who asked Jorge to join the club six years ago.

President Jorge (sounds great, doesn’t it, Jorge?) introduced himself—born in the Dominican Republic, a West Point economics graduate who served in the Army for eleven years, a resident of New York City and now the well-known owner of an award-winning Honda Dealership.  Only President Jorge could make this list of achievements sound humble!  He pledged to try new things, further the consideration of large questions before us all now, ensure a wide variety of programs, and move through the coming year on the platform of respect for the individual.  This platform is linked to Jorge’s assertion that in addition to club members’ immediate work, we bring a vast array of additional experiences, knowledge and achievement that should also be shared.

Other reports included Mary Thompson’s PowerPoint presentation of our very important membership satisfaction survey; and Bog Sorge’s presentation of the membership development committee, which has introduced several new ideas and a comprehensive concept of how to gain new members from a position of strength (great video, Paul Ranola, who created the video, and you can view it at the same link above.

Of course, the meeting included the usual array of past presidents, pin presentations, and a very nice gift certificate to Andrea (sorry, no longer president . . . but “didn’t I see you on the Internet?”) for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art store.

Oh, and Melanie Ramey spoke about things she has learned during the pandemic . . . NOW will you connect to the link above?

Well done, Andrea and Jorge!

Our thanks to past president Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article and if you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here:  https://youtu.be/MoH8PYLW__E.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the 2020 Elections

submitted by Jessika Kasten

Michael WagnerThis week, UW-Madison School of Journalism Professor Michael Wagner spoke to the Downtown Rotarians on Pandemic Voting: Information, Geography and Polarization in the 2020 Elections. The J-School has done a lot of research on the impacts of media and voting and has tracked the polarization of Wisconsin voters since 1996. Since that time, we’ve seen a decline in local newspapers and local news reporting, a rise in talk radio and social media, as well as a stark rise in the amount of political advertising in our state. The School of Journalism has done a lot of research on the impact of changing information channels and has found that the broader your media diet, the more likely you are to vote outside of party lines. As an example, those who viewed a wide range of information sources were 50% more likely to split-ticket vote in an election (i.e., choose candidates from more than one party on the same ballot). Those who consumed a narrower range of media had nearly no likelihood of splitting a ticket.

The researchers also wanted to compare whether Wisconsinites were move divided on politics from other swing states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. The results were true that Wisconsinites’ attitudes around politics and social trust were more divided than other swing states. One researcher felt that those in rural and suburban areas of Wisconsin had long felt neglected and under-represented. Governor Walker’s campaign spoke to those people by denouncing Madison and Milwaukee influences, which could have had an impact in the attitudes of those outside the more metropolitan areas.

Ultimately, Professor Wagner summarized his talk by saying that Wisconsin remains divided due to partisanship, geography and the information we consume. He also made clear that these divides fracture our political and personal relationships in many cases. The good news is that a varied and wide media diet can influence these views and offer opportunities to work across party lines.

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

Moe Offers Response Ideas to Community Unrest Over Racism, Police Use of Force, and Protests

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Renee Moe 6 10 2020Renee Moe challenged Rotarians June 10 to improve race relations by being more willing to talk about the issue. Moe is President and CEO of United Way of Dane County, where she has held a variety of positions.  She shared some of her personal challenges growing up bi-racial in rural Wisconsin.  She said, “At 12, I remember praying to be killed, but as a teenager, thankfully, I knew it could be different from my early years abroad. Please know people are hurting because of how society comes together.”

Moe indicated several studies have shown workplace diversity contribute to productivity, resource generation and customer insights.

“It’s about relationships,” Moe said.  “And proximity is what builds relationships.”

Moe indicated it may be helpful to think of Black Lives Matter as “Black Lives Matter, Too” using the analogy that everyone at your dinner table gets a serving of meatloaf.  You don’t get a serving, yet you deserve one. But you still don’t get one.

Recalling a past conversation with a Rotarian, Moe remembers telling him about racial equity, “You don’t have to understand everything, just believe and it will all fall into place.”

Moe was our 2013-2014 Rotary Club President and has both and JBA and an MBA from UW-Madison. She was introduced by Teresa Holmes, Club Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair.

For additional information on this topic, you can visit the following links:

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/0zCOTRubYmw.

On the Significance of Memorial Day

–submitted by Jessica Giesen

VA Sec Mary KolarOn May 20, 2020, VA Secretary Mary Kolar gave an insightful presentation regarding the significance of Memorial Day. She first offered information regarding the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the services and benefits provided for service members in Wisconsin, where 345,000 veterans reside. The WDVA works hard each day to ensure that veterans have access to all benefits available to them. The programs the WDVA oversees extend from administering the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (a Smithsonian affiliate that welcomes 90,000+ visitors each year), where it continuously educates the public with unique stories and histories of Wisconsin’s veterans, to veterans’ cemeteries where our veterans receive honorable burials, to providing access to mental health and housing assistance.

Sec. Kolar then turned to Memorial Day, a holiday dedicated to remembering those who lost their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The day’s meaning and purpose, she explained, “is profoundly rooted in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and the inherent desire of veterans to remember their comrades who never came home.”

The individual stories Sec. Kolar told of Wisconsin servicemen who lost their lives in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War were equally inspiring as they were heartbreaking; they brought this author, for one, to tears: Stories such as that of Morris Togstad, who was the last from Madison to die in World War I and Victor Glenn, one of the first to die in World War II — two men for which the street “Togstad Glenn” in Madison was named. Then there were the Barber brothers – Malcom, Randolph and LeRoy – whose father wrote to their leaders and asked that they be separated and assigned to different ships should anything happen. Unfortunately, prior to that happening, all three remained together aboard the Oklahoma on the fateful Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 – the attack on Pearl Harbor– and all three lost their lives. The USS Barber is named in their honor.

We all reflect together on Memorial Day each year, but it is important to also honor those who serve to protect us throughout the entire year, as well as their families who support them and have been left behind. We can honor these memories through acts of kindness and acts of citizenship – by sharing stories, by voting. Sec. Kolar reminded us that we can never, ever honor our fallen service members enough. This year, as Memorial Day approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, our community will be unable to gather in person across the state at veteran’s cemeteries. However, a Wisconsin Virtual Commemoration will be held on May 25, 2020, to honor and reflect. Please visit www.WisVetsMemorialDay2020.com to be a part of that special program.

If you missed our online Rotary meeting this week, you can watch it here.

Staying Connected

submitted by Club President Andrea Kaminski

Because it is unlikely that we will be able to hold luncheons with 200 Rotarians in one room for some time to come, several of our directors, officers and committee members have been reaching out to club members to find out how people are doing and how Rotary can best serve our members and keep folks connected in the coming months. As part of this effort, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with several Rotarians about how the pandemic has affected their personal, family and professional lives, as well as how they are feeling about Rotary in this new environment.

We have not yet heard officially about any club members who have personally become ill with Covid-19. However, we have members who are working on the front lines to provide health care or elder care or to keep people safe. We have educators teaching children online and bankers  working around the clock to administer the federal government relief package to assist small businesses. We have business owners and directors of nonprofits who are struggling to maintain their workforce despite drastically reduced demand for things like restaurant meals, new cars, consumer goods and the performing arts. And of course we live in a community where many service workers and gig workers have lost their jobs.

Yet the dozen or so Rotarians I have spoken with have been generally positive despite the challenges, and they value what Rotary has to offer. Most have been viewing the online weekly meetings, and a few have participated in the fellowship groups or committees that have been meeting online.

Longtime Rotarian Karl Gutknecht said,  “Although our lunch meetings have built many friendships, I find enduring value in our Four-Way Test. When we apply our resources, abilities and energies into bettering our community and our world we will continue to make a positive difference!”

It is clear that our Rotary meetings will look different in the future because there are likely to be restrictions on large gatherings for some time. Also, we know that many of our members, for good reason, will not feel safe attending a big luncheon. The board and our executive director are looking at a number of options to address these concerns. For example, one possibility might be to have the weekly meeting at the Park Hotel with a speaker and a program, which would be live-streamed to smaller gatherings in community rooms on the east and west sides of the city. In this scenario, members who are more vulnerable to the virus would have the option to view the streamed meeting online from home.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for how to continue Rotary’s tradition of providing fellowship opportunities, excellent programs and service to the community through the pandemic and beyond. Send an email to rotaryoffice@rotarymadison.org or give me a call at 608-957-2865. I look forward to hearing from you.