Category Archives: Weekly Rotary 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.

Patrick Lucey’s Lasting Legacy for Wisconsin

Dennis Dresang shared the legacy of former Governor Patrick Lucey May 5.

“Lucey professionalized state government from part-time citizen boards to professional civil service.  He reconceptualized taxes and spending to the system still with us. His term saw the most productive performance period, outdoing LaFollette,” Dresang said.

Growing up in rural Ferryville, shy Lucey wasn’t charismatic. He was described as analytical, professorial and demanding of staff.

Father Gregory Charles ran the family business, asking Lucy to join.  He now faced a crossroads: business or politics?  Faced with his fear of Joe McCarthy, Lucey chose politics.

In 1951, Lucey decided to marry, needing a career to support that. After turning to Jim Doyle, Sr, for advice, he became Dane County’s largest real estate dealer.  By 1969, when running for Governor, he’d embarked on $500 million Wexford Village.  

He was a progressive, with a reputation for bipartisanship, often reaching across the aisle. His first year in office, 50 years ago, his first initiatives were to create the UW System and to transform state taxing and spending systems. These were based on changes suggested by previous Governor Warren Knowles.

Local taxes at that time were rising 10% annually, because municipalities were responsible for schools and other taxes now elsewhere. Lucey was concerned about this burden on poorer communities. He created “equalization” formulas to give children the same education regardless of their community. He created a machinery and equipment tax exemption saying, “let’s tax income, not property.”  He also developed property tax levy limits. 

His ambitious agenda started as 24 items on one page; no-fault auto insurance was the only one not adopted during his term. He resigned to become Ambassador to Mexico when asked by President Carter.

His passion for social justice, opportunities for everyone to experience upward mobility, and problem solving are his legacy. 

Dresang is Professor Emeritus and founding director of La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Our thanks to Dennis Dresang for his presentation this week and to Valerie Renk for preparing this review article. Our thanks also to Mystery to Me Book Store for selling books at our club meeting as a convenience to our members. If you missed our meeting, you can visit Mystery to Me Book Store in person or click on this link to order it at their book store online:  https://www.mysterytomebooks.com/search/apachesolr_search/patrick%20lucey.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/wagy5bpFU7M.        

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.

A Launching Pad for Young People to Do Great Things in the World

Chris McIntosh opened the October 7 Rotary program with a question. “What do you think of when you think of the Badgers?”

You may imagine sitting in the stands watching football at Camp Randall, but there’s a lot more to it when it comes to Badger athletics.

Each year, the UW-Madison Department of Intercollegiate Athletics makes available the opportunity for approximately 800 student-athletes to obtain a world-class education while competing on a grand athletic stage.

Chris McIntosh was named Deputy Athletic Director in July 2017. He oversees daily operations of the department, student‐athlete recruitment, business development, human resources, and strategic planning.

McIntosh was a consensus All‐America offensive tackle and Outland Trophy finalist for the Badgers in 1999. He captained Wisconsin’s back‐to‐back Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions in 1998 and 1999 and started 50 straight games during his college career. He was a first‐round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 and played in Seattle for three seasons.

He emphasized that UW-Madison athletes gain far more than lasting memories and trophies; they have numerous opportunities ahead due to their world-class education. 

Athletes receive support from several organizations like W-Club which includes UW-Wisconsin alumni around the country. Interestingly, 63 percent of Badger athletes settle in the Upper Midwest after graduation.

Where does the revenue come from for the UW athletics?  McIntosh said the sport of football, including filling the stands at Camp Randall on seven Saturdays a year is an important cog in the wheel. But this year there have been revenue shortfalls given the widespread impact of Covid-19.

Eight hundred young people in 23 sports are developing life skills that can take them far. The mentoring and support they receive at the UW during these formative years is crucial to their success. Much of that support comes from relationship building.

McIntosh showcased several athletes’ stories and how UW-Madison was a launching pad for their doing great things in the world.

By and large UW athletes recognize their exceptional educational opportunities. That shows in the 3.2.46 GPA earned by the vast majority of UW-Madison athletes.

Looking back on their athletic experiences at the UW-Madison, McIntosh said, “These young people discover they are capable of far more than what they thought was possible.—all because of football.”

Our thanks to Chris McIntosh for speaking to our club this week and to Sharyn Alden for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/YB626jHUsdk.

HAMILTON: An American Musical

Sarah Marty 2 26 2020“Hamilton: The Musical is the biggest tour of a Broadway show to hit the road in years, maybe decades,” Sarah Marty, Producing Artistic Director of Four Seasons Theatre in Madison, told Rotarians on Wednesday, February 26. “Hamilton represents an entire industry, with ripple effects that go far beyond the lights of Broadway,” she said, adding that it had surpassed the reach of any other Broadway musical, including the phenomenal popularity of Oklahoma following its 1943 debut.

Locally, Madison’s Overture Center sold over 53,000 tickets to Hamilton, and Marty cited an estimated additional economic impact of $37.36 per person beyond the ticket price.  Both nationally and locally, Hamilton was hugely popular, inspiring people to stand in line for hours for tickets.  There are currently six productions of Hamilton touring all around the country, bringing in millions of dollars every week.

Beyond the economic impact of its huge success, though, Marty points to Hamilton’s other ripple effects, including increases in actors, producers and audiences of color.  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton.  When Miranda picked up the hefty Chernow book in an airport and then read it, he immediately thought, “This is a hip-hop story,” calling an early version of the piece The Hamilton Mix Tape.  The elaborate musical production that eventually resulted is so complex that fans have put together a website at Genius.com to provide footnotes and links to all the many facts alluded to in the musical.

Marty cited the end of Hamilton as pointing to the importance of the work:  It causes us to think about “who lives, who dies, and who tells your story.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video on our club’s YouTube Channel here.

Democracy Found

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger

HO7A3865Sara Eskrich, Executive Director of Democracy Found, spoke to us this week. She has herself been in electoral politics, as a Madison alder, and she is concerned that policy decisions are often stymied by politics. There is an inability to get anything done, even when a large percentage of the electorate favors a particular policy. Elected officeholders believe that there is no connection between acting in the public interest and getting reelected. One of the major problems lies in the two-party system today, which, in business terms is a duopoly, able to eliminate third-party and independent competition. This is done through legislation that makes it very hard to offer substantial money to independent candidates. This makes it extremely important for officeholders to ask themselves not whether a policy is good but rather whether support for that policy will lead to opposition in their partisan primary. Another practice that hinders effective governance is plurality voting, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes is the winner, even if the vote total is less than a majority.

Ms. Eskrich’s preferred solution to this situation is two-fold: a top-four primary election and non-partisan-ranked choice voting in the general election. This will allow voters to vote for candidates they really prefer, even if they are not from the major parties. Officeholders will now be beholden to larger constituencies, rather than just their partisans. Democracy Found is working on the state level to get this system adopted.  She feels it is not a silver bullet, but it will make a difference.

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