Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rotary’s Role in Bringing Our Community Back to Normalcy

submitted by Club President Andrea Kaminski

If you viewed our Rotary Club of Madison (RCM) Online Meeting earlier this week, you might have heard Nick Curran’s birthday message, in which he said, “I’m certain our Club will need to be at the forefront of post-COVID-19 recovery efforts, and I’m certain we’ll succeed in helping our community return to normalcy.”

Nick is right that our Club must be an active player in putting our community back on the right track — and we don’t need to wait until we are back out in the community to begin to do so.

April 1 was Census Day, and that’s a reminder that one important thing every one of us needs to do is participate in the decennial Census. You should have received a postcard in the mail a few weeks ago inviting you to complete the Census questionnaire. If you have not responded yet, you can still do so online, by phone or by mail.  Click here for full instructions or call 844-330-2020. If you don’t complete the questionnaire, the Census Bureau will follow up by phone or at your door.

Here is why it is so important that our community have a complete count in the 2020 Census:

  • Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and municipalities each year. That includes money for health clinics, fire departments, schools, roads and highways.
  • The results also determine how many seats in Congress each state gets.

Let’s not let our state and community be shortchanged!

As a follow-up to Dr. Ankur Desai’s excellent presentation entitled “Stormy Days?  What Climate Change Means for Your Local Weather” in our online Club Meeting this week,  I recommend that you check out the March 2020 newsletter  of the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group (ESRAG) which conveys the message that preventing disease and saving lives are central to Rotary’s worldwide mission.

Stay healthy, wash your hands and tune in to next week’s RCM Online Meeting on April 8, at noon, in which UW Health’s Benjamin Eithun will be speaking about how the Madison area has been prepared for the Coronavirus pandemic and its effect on our population.

Club Learns How Climate Change Affects Local Weather

submitted by Jerry Thain

ankur_desaiDr.  Ankur Desai, professor of climate, people and environment at UW-Madison, addressed the first ever virtual meeting of the Club on the effect of climate change on local weather.  He stated that climate is personality, and weather is mood.

Looking at weather over the years, he noted a global trend, beginning in the 1980s, of higher temperatures.  This is caused by CO2 emissions which are raised by the use of fossil fuels.  He said CO2 is to climate change what steroid use was to baseball.  An increase in temperature up to 2 degrees Celsius has only modest impact, but above that level, it leads to significant and harmful consequences.  Policy changes could mitigate the damage by “flattening the curve” much as health experts urge us to do in attacking the current pandemic.  A major difference is that it will take decades to flatten the climate curve.

Turning to the influence of climate change on local weather, Dr. Desai showed the global decline of snow cover which, in itself, affects the temperature.  The meeting of snow/no snow lines influence weather fronts and increases the severity of storms.  Lesser snow over North America means most places get wetter and rainier–rain on frozen ground is more likely to cause storms than snow. Southern Wisconsin has seen wetter and rainier weather in recent years while northern Wisconsin has been drier. Some cold winter weather will still occur but at a much lower rate than in the past.

The problems caused by this will need to be addressed either by adaptions (such as moving homes from frequently flooded areas)  or by mitigation (reducing emissions significantly).  Unfortunately, there is no single “silver bullet” to solve things so all alternatives must be pursued by policymakers.

Dr. Desai cited recent research indicating, contrary to some beliefs, that climate change deniers are a very small proportion of the populace. Moreover, among people aged 18-30, climate change is either their first or second highest policy priority.  It is not possible to prevent all adverse effects, but we must take actions that will have some effect or be overcome by the problems.

He ended on a hopeful note, showing the sprouting of tree plants in an Australian forest area recently consumed by wildfires.  Earth will survive, but we need to help heal it for our own good.

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

Taking the 2020 Census

submitted by Jessika Kasten; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Becky Schigiel 2 19 2020On February 19, 2020, Becky Schigiel, Sr. Partnership Specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke to Downtown Rotarians about the upcoming 2020 United States Census. Becky spoke to us about the three top reasons that the Census is so important: 1) It’s the basis of our democracy. The Constitution specifically calls out that everyone in the United States will be counted every ten years so that we can determine representation, 2) It the basis by which $675 billion dollars are distributed by the Government annually. Census data is used to determine the amount of funding for important things such as roads, school lunches, foster care, special education and much more. It’s estimated that for every person missed in Dane County, we lose about $2,000 annually for each of the next 10 years, and 3) Census data is heavily relied upon by leaders (community, faith, business) when making decisions that impact our local communities.

The three takeaways that Becky wanted us to take with us are that the Census is safe, easy and important. All household data is confidential, and the government has been working for years to ensure that the data gathered through the online process is secure and encrypted. In terms of being easy, the survey is available online, by phone, by mail – or in person once the door knocking campaign begins in May. The survey is also available in 13 languages and there are guides for many additional languages.

Mailings will begin in mid-March, encouraging people to start taking the census. Paper forms will arrive in April, and in-person door-to-door outreach will begin in May for anyone who has not responded. In 2010, Wisconsin had the highest response rate (83%), which we are looking to repeat in 2020.

Becky asked the group to help share census information with our connections/groups, especially those groups most likely to not self-report (children under the age of 5 were the most under-reported group in 2010), as well as to spread the message regarding employment opportunities. Dane County needs to recruit about 4,000 additional census takers over the next two months – a position which pays $22/hour.

For additional resources, or to apply for position, please visit

Rotary Friendship Exchange February 2020

submitted by Dick Fayram and Mark Moody

Saint Cristobal Hill Santiago

Eleven people have returned from a two-week Rotary Friendship Exchange with Rotary District 4340 in Central Chile. The group included Madison Rotarians Ted (& Joan) Ballweg, Dick (& Liz) Fayram, and Mark (& Candace) Moody, David & Inger Clemens from the Wisconsin Dells, former District 6250 Governor Chuck Hansen from La Crosse Downtown, Mark Etrheim from La Crosse Valley View, and Darla Leick from Marshfield Sunrise.

Huelen Rotary Santiago        Providencia Rotary Santiago

The group visited seven clubs in Santiago, Rancagua, and Santa Cruz. We learned about the wonderful service projects sponsored and supported by each of the clubs. The clubs are small, ranging from 10 to 30 members.  We were all inspired by the efforts of each club in their respective communities.

Santiago is a beautiful city of 8 million people with excellent road and other transit options.  The subway system and Uber sufficed for most of our transit needs. The news about the riots in Santiago were a concern to all of us before we left.  Students concerned about national academic testing and low-income people concerned about increases in transit costs were at the root of those issues.  It appeared to be about people talking past other groups of people and not really solving issues that need to be addressed.  Chile has reduced levels of poverty in an impressive way.  That does not resolve the fact that poor people are being driven further and further from their jobs by rapidly increasing housing costs.

Mobile Dental Clinic 2 Hydroelectric Generating Station Andes Mts

Photo 1:  Mobil Dental Clinic; Photo 2:  Hydroelectric Generating Station in the Andes Mountains

Dick and Liz Fayram stayed with a family in Nueva, one of the communities that make up the larger city of Santiago.  It was a target of these demonstrations.  There were buildings that had been damaged and fires in the streets while we were there.  No one ever felt threatened in any real way.  This is part of the reality of Friendship Exchanges.

We visited a number of historic sites, markets and museums.  Rancuaga is a smaller historic city where the revolution for independence from Spain was fought.  We also visited wineries in Santa Cruz.  We enjoyed typical local cuisine and wonderful Chilean wines. Dinners were served with beef, pork, chicken and sausages piled high on platters.  We all thought it would be impossible to eat all of it in the beginning.  At the end of the meal, it was always gone.  Some of the group went white water rafting on the Maipo River and some went to the end of the road in the Andes Mountains.

Our Chilean hosts made us feel very welcome at all times. They refused to let us pay for any of our meals, transportation, or entrance fees.  All of the clubs hosted a wonderful dinner meeting.  But the Santa Cruz Rotary Club had a group of twelve folk musicians perform tradition music and dancing.  This was a highlight of the trip.

Farewell Dinner with Dist 4340    Santa Cruz Rotary Dinner 2

Rotarians who have not been on a Rotary Friendship Exchange are missing one of the great experiences that Rotary has to offer.   We were warned about Rotary Friendship Exchanges being physically challenging.  Some of our days had 18,000 steps in 90-degree weather.  These are not easy for anyone.  We encourage our fellow Rotarians to participate in this outstanding Rotary tradition whether in helping to host inbound Rotarians or traveling with an Outbound Friendship Exchange.

Santa Cruz Rotary Dinner 3

We expect 10 to 12 of our new Rotary friends from Chile to visit Wisconsin in late May and early June. We hope our club members will join us in welcoming them to Madison.  This will be a series of fun social events as they visit the participating clubs.   Join us for the fun!  If you are interested in helping to host the group, contact the Rotary office.

20th Annual Rotary Club of Madison Ethics Symposium – Feb 14, 2020 – Monona Terrace

submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Mike Engelberger & Neil Fauerbach


Our 20th Annual Rotary Club of Madison Ethics Symposium was held on Friday, February 14th, at Monona Terrace with over 200 juniors from 19 different high schools in Dane County in attendance.

Evidence of the success of the 2020 Rotary Ethics Symposium was clearly revealed by the comments from students at the end of the day:

  • “After discussing these ethic situations, I am ready to take on the world, and I want to be a partner with Rotary’s advocacy.”
  • “Thank you for taking me outside my comfort zone and teaching me to appreciate discussing ethical dilemmas. I gained new skills that will be helpful to me.”
  • “The thoughtful discussion allowed me to better take in other’s ideas.” “I appreciated having a discussion with people from different backgrounds who brought different perspectives.”
  • “As the next generation to be leaders, do not underestimate us. We shared ideas and some are different from ours, but everyone had an opportunity to participate.  We will take the skills that we learned into the rest of our lives.”

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Students expressed surprise at the impact this program had on them.  They attended out of curiosity, they knew someone who attended in the past, or as one student honestly admitted—he would receive a free lunch.  This program provided skills to help them impact social changes for the betterment of the community.

RES2020-7In this 20th anniversary of our Rotary Ethics Symposium, we continue to provide a valuable format for preparing students to take on challenging ethical issues.  The day began with a session for all students, school representatives, and Rotary members.  Mike Gotzler, Chair of the 2020 Rotary Ethics Symposium, welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the wide range of contributions Rotary and Rotarians make to their communities and to the world.

The Edgewood College Theatre group warmed up the audience by playing out various scenes and scenarios of ethical dilemmas that students could encounter.  Instead of resolving the dilemma on stage, the actors asked students in the audience to identify the dilemma and asked what issues should be considered in order to resolve the problem (e.g. a student not fulfilling her part of a group project, a friend stereo-typing a Hispanic student) and the audience responded.

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Next, the scattering of 200 students into 11 different discussion rooms began.  The Rotary Ethics committee assigned students to assure a broad representation to enrich each discussion.  In each discussion room were students who represented urban and rural schools, various ethnic groups, various races, and various nationalities.  The facilitators developed them as a group.  The first principle was to establish the ground rules that began and ended with “Treat every person in the room with complete and unconditional respect.”

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They were taught the R-O-T-A-R-Y Framework at which they would practice through three workshops:  Recognize an ethical issue; Obtain information; Test alternative actions from various perspectives; Act consistently with one’s best judgment; Reflect, with more information be willing to adjust your thinking; Yield on ethical judgments to exemplify human beings “at our best.”

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They were then prepared to face their dilemmas, but first—before they begin using the Rotary Framework—they were asked what their gut reaction is to the dilemma.  Then they began the skills building based on the Rotary format taking into consideration more information and from different perspectives. They had the prerogative to change their minds—and they often did.

HO7A5713Rotarians working on the Ethic Symposium taskforce provided a challenging dilemma for each session that ranged from: (1) to skip school in order to participate in a march to support a friend and their cause; (2) the role of students to object to having the school purchase inexpensive sports clothes made by companies using child labor; and (3) how to react to anti-Semitism.

The day was a success because of the leadership provided by Mike Gotzler, Chair of the 2020 Rotary Ethics Symposium.  Over several months, he met regularly with his committee to fine-tune the arrangements.  They worked diligently to broaden the demographics in each session to provide the broadest experiences for students.  He put together a taskforce of Rotarians who developed compelling ethical dilemmas for the students to consider.  He chose outstanding trainers—Jason Ilstrup, Sandy Morales, Dave Scher—to prepare facilitators and breakout room hosts for their roles.  By February 14th, we were ready and altogether over 50 Rotarians volunteered.

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Thanks to all for making our 20th annual Rotary Ethics Symposium a huge success.

Visit our club’s Facebook page for more photos.


Creating Life From Loss

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Joshua Mezrich 2 12 2020At this week’s Rotary meeting, we heard from Dr. Joshua Mezrich and how he creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. He spoke about his desire to write a book, a little about the process to write a non-fiction book and some tips his famous author brother gave him. His book was released last year, When Death Becomes Life: Notes From a Transplant Surgeon, and in it he illuminates this extraordinary field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.

Dr. Mezrich comes from a family of readers and really enjoyed the process of writing his book. His brother, Ben, helped him be a writer by helping him obtain an agent; reminding him it takes a team; and for non-fiction books, about the need to write a proposal first and sell it to an editor. (Fictional books get written by the author and then they try to sell it.)

Ben also gave Dr. Mezrich three pieces of advice:

  1. Just write!
  2. When ending a writing session, don’t stop at the end of a chapter; instead stop in the middle of a story or sentence as when you return to the page, you can keep going and sustain momentum.
  3. Write a certain amount each day.

Dr. Mezrich wrote for a year early in the morning, evenings and weekends — 300K words worth!  He then spent another year editing it down with his editor.

Dr. Mezrich shared some excerpts from his book. As Dr. Mezrich shared stories about patients and donors, he sprinkled in humor. He spoke about how donors are heroes and join the recipient patient in their journey by bearing risk with them (though relatively low risk, there is risk). He spoke about how often donor family members and the donor recipient want to connect with each other and what a beautiful thing this is. Donors give the gift of life that gives on, and recipient patients also know that someone passed away in order for them to live. Being a part of these conversations is emotional, and Dr. Mezrich shared how he has to set his emotions aside when it comes time for surgery. He said each operation is like solving a puzzle – a task.

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

Coach Kelly Sheffield Addresses Rotary

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Kelly Sheffield 2 5 2020

Coach Sheffield pictured with today’s Rotarian Speaker Greeter Mary O’Brien

Kelly Sheffield, the coach of the UW Volleyball Team, did not speak at all about the game of volleyball. Rather, he presented his remarkable insights into human nature and the way to motivate gifted athletes to perform well despite the adversities of sport and life itself.

His talk began with a brief video of his team in action: it displayed intensity, beautifully graceful athleticism, and players having fun. The Coach then explained that his most important job was to create a culture of success. He seeks out players who are talented, but who are also willing to hear criticism and work hard to improve themselves. There are many possible excuses for failure. But fine athletes (and obviously this is not limited to athletics) will accept coaching advice and criticism and will do what is necessary to succeed. A motto he uses is: “Be a participant in your own rescue.”


Annemarie Hickey (Technical Coordinator) and Grace Loberg (rising Senior on the Volleyball Team)

Coach Sheffield and his team did not win the NCAA Tournament this year. But he and the team subscribe to an insight offered by the late Kobe Bryant: In addition to being painful and disappointing, losing can also be “exciting.” It can inspire self-examination and a dedication to improvement. When he asked one of his players at this lunch if she had ever won an NCAA Tournament, her reply was telling: “No. Not Yet.” It seems likely that this player will win the NCAA Tournament. It also seems likely that she will win in the game of life. Kelly Sheffield is one of the greatest coaches in UW history.

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