First African American Woman Made Her Own Road Map to Major General

Major General Marcia Anderson was introduced by a humble President Jorge, who noted the number of ranks between his of captain when he was in the Army, and major general.  But good introduction, carefully done, Jorge!

Major General Anderson’s presentation was complete, very clear, extremely well-presented.  It discussed her personal path to success through self-motivation and discovery, and crisis management as practiced by the Army.

Anderson began her career as an attorney and has served in the National Guard and the Army, with which she stayed because she thought that, as an African American woman, she could provide a different and necessary perspective.  Upon joining she discovered an organization of tradition and hierarchy and that it was largely a men’s organization. 

Anderson also found that there were no “road maps” to becoming an officer.  The methods she employed were exceptional in their fundamental nature, applicable not only to her military experience, but also to those in civilian organizations:  hard work, competence (essential in the face of dangerous military practices), the power of team support, tactical meeting skills, a focus on communications and the needs of people above and below her, curiosity, giving credit where it is due, telling the truth, and never compromising one’s ethical standards.  She offered personal examples.

Crisis management shifted the presentation to military practices.  These too can apply to civilian planning:  Training opportunities—in the military, up to 50% of the job—followed by practice, and then execution.  Planning is, Anderson posited, a collaborative process that should involve all who will be active in the plan, top to bottom.  A good plan is thorough but not overly elaborate, since virtually all plans will change in the face of execution.

The presentation was on the one hand complete and clear.  On the other hand, it spoke of profoundly simple basic tenets.  Her formula would work in anyone’s world and reminds me of Albert Einstein’s belief that “Everything should be as simple as possible, and no simpler.”  

Our thanks to Major General Marcia Anderson for her presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

“What Good Shall I Do Today?”

First, the surprise news:  District Governor Bill Pritchard asked the president of each club in our district to select a “Yes Person” for recognition by Governor Pritchard, a person who always says “yes” when needed.

President Jorge selected Brian Basken, who assembles weekly the YouTube meetings we view as a cohesive whole.  Each club’s recipient will receive a journal imprinted with Benjamin Franklin’s words “What good shall I do this day?”  And one among the many named recipients will be given a free trip to the June 2021 Rotary International conference in Teipei, Taiwan.  Congratulations and thanks, Brian!

Governor Pritchard is no stranger to our club.  A “numbers guy”, he recited statistics of our attendance, membership decline, and diversity, as well as key metrics of exemplary participation in fellowship groups, charitable giving and community support, and generous contributions to District 6250 and Rotary International.

He addressed the current “new virtual normal” and the need to pivot in our long-term approach to club needs with a “hybrid future” that may provide useful flexibility in our operations. 

Governor Pritchard also urged us to hold new members’ attention into the critical three-year member mark that cements interest, by ensuring that each new member’s expectations are deliberately discerned and addressed.

If you haven’t seen the Governor’s speech yet, it’s worth watching.  Those with questions for Governor Pritchard may send them to Jorge or the Rotary office so that they may be shared with the Governor next Tuesday when he attends our club’s Board meeting.

Our thanks to District Governor Bill Pritchard for his presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:     

Building a New Vision for Downtown Madison

Club President Jorge Hidalgo (left) pictured here with guest speaker and fellow Rotarian Jason Ilstrup (right)

The recent protests calling for social justice and racial equality have awakened many to the challenges people of color face daily that create barriers to business ownership and feeling safe and welcome downtown.

Downtown Madison, Inc. President Jason Ilstrup defined the “downtown” footprint adding that the Business Improvement Impact’s footprint is more centrally focused around the square. Eighty-five percent of downtown residents are 18-34.  Many are college students who may not return to living downtown at this time. Also, many employees are working from home. Events and tourism are also on hold. Thus, the footprint of people living, working and visiting downtown has shrunk.  Seventy percent of revenue for shopping/retail comes from events and tourism; our economy is challenged.

COVID-19 has shed light on the racial disparities that exist in our community – including business ownership, employment, transportation, health care, education and safety. Now is the time for us to address these issues and be change agents to create a downtown that is truly welcoming. Dense cities have creative centers, employment opportunities and create the environment for regular collaboration to meet diverse needs. We need to invest intentionally to create a thriving, diverse center.

DMI has assembled a Downtown Recovery group to develop short- and long-term actions to support economic recovery and a welcoming environment that breaks down racial disparities. Goals include mitigating business closures, supporting entrepreneurs of color, increasing safety, making use of public spaces and finding ways to support safe outdoor and indoor retail/dining options. It will take a collaborative effort from businesses, the city, individuals, non-profits and the entire community to build this new vision.

Please send Jason your ideas for downtown’s future, order take out from local restaurants and buy local to support local jobs.

Our thanks to club member Jason Ilstrup for his presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:   

Meeting Some “Extraordinary Ordinary” People in Dairylandia

Born and raised on the east coast, Steve Hannah (right) fell in love with the Midwest years ago when a planned cross-country trip was detoured then cut short in Wisconsin. At our meeting this week, Brady Williamson (left) interviewed Steve about his new book, Dairylandia: Dispatches from a State of Mind, that captures the charming, extraordinary “ordinary” people of Wisconsin. Dairylandia features 30 of Hannah’s profiles he collected from around the state during his career as a journalist.

Hannah describes Wisconsinites as modest, humble and seldom “get too big for their skis.” He gave an example of a New Jersey lottery winner who spoke loudly of his “huge luck” and long list of expensive purchases he planned to make. By contrast, when he interviewed lottery winners on Fond du Lac’s “Miracle Mile,” a $1 million winner decided he’d purchase a Kitchen Aide mixer because he “liked to cook” and a teacher who won $100 million remarked quietly “it’s not too bad” to win such a sum after years of working hard for a teacher’s salary.

Hannah was struck by the open, candid, unfiltered stories people told him, especially elderly people who had lived extraordinary lives that seemed completely uninteresting to themselves. Hannah entertained us with a taste of these stories: words of wisdom from an elderly woman (try not to be boring, don’t tell others if your friends or neighbors are going out of town or you’re inviting a robbery), philosophies of a rattlesnake hunter and a woman who froze her pet robin because she just couldn’t bear to part with him. These were some of his favorite assignments that drew him closer to his adopted state and the people who quietly make it a wonderful, interesting place to live.

While we couldn’t offer Steve’s book for sale at the meeting as we normally would, it is available for sale on Amazon.

Our thanks to Steve Hannah and Brady Williamson for their presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

Rotary Membership Dues Modifications

Due to Covid-19 we’ve been unable to meet in person since March, and we’re unlikely to resume in-person luncheons before at least January. Even then, many members may prefer to wait longer to return.

Most members have been paying dues that include the cost of weekly meals, but many of us may not know that 46% of pre-paid meals are not actually consumed by members which helped fund our club’s operating expenses each year. The board recognized that continuing to charge members for meals they can’t consume is not sustainable, but we know that without the surplus generated by meals, the club would have an insurmountable operating deficit. That’s why an ad-hoc committee was formed to study this and make actionable recommendations. The committee included the following members:  Jason Beren, Jorge Hidalgo, Teresa Holmes, Jason Ilstrup, Andrea Kaminski, Charles McLimans, Mark Moody (chair), Valerie Renk, Haley Saalsaa Miller, Susan Schmitz, Rob Stroud and Rob Van den Berg.

The new approved dues structure reflects the true costs of the club and spreads them more equitably among the different types of members. Lower dues for Exempt and Life members will continue, in recognition for their many years of service and financial support to the club.  Standard members will pay $390 for dues per six months, and this is retroactive to July 1, 2020; Exempt members will see an increase in dues effective for the next billing cycle of January – June of 2021 from $185.50 to $235; and Life members will change to $225 starting July 1, 2021.

The Board acted under emergency authority to approve these changes.  Once the pandemic emergency has subsided to the point where a membership vote is possible, the revised dues structure will be put to a vote of the members.  We believe these changes to our dues structure are necessary and appropriate to assure the financial viability of the club.  We agree that the elimination of the meals subsidy was overdue and necessary, and the dues now reflect the true cost of operation of the club.

Our ad-hoc committee will hold a Zoom Q&A on August 20th at noon for interested members who have questions or want to hear more background.  A letter about this new dues structure was mailed to members on August 11, and a link to the August 20 Zoom meeting is included in the Friday, August 14 email from the Rotary office.

Jorge Hidalgo, Club President


Reopening UW-Madison for Fall 2020

Rebecaa Blank 8 12 20When UW-Madison closed campus in March, 8,000 classes were converted to remote learning. Thirteen days later, 97.5% of classes were online. Closure was a heavy lift, but reopening is a much bigger lift.

UW-Madison faces similar challenges we all are due to the pandemic. Revenue streams are slim, PPE expenses are increasing, and the environment is constantly changing making planning and budgeting difficult. All plans must remain responsive to best serve students, employees and the community.

Currently, UW-Madison will use a hybrid teaching model, blending small-group in-person teaching with virtual teaching for large classes. The class schedule will include classes in the evening, Fridays and Saturdays to keep students physically distanced and classrooms clean. Students will be required to take a pledge to adhere to hygiene protocols (masks, hand sanitization, temp checks, testing, social distancing) and faculty may take disciplinary measures should a student resist complying. Employees must also adhere to these protocols and workstations and work hours have been adjusted to reduce interaction.

UW-Madison is engaged in 320 approved or pending COVID-19 research projects to explore the virus and its impacts. One project is seeking to understand how and why the virus has localized mutations; for example, a strain in Madison is different from that in San Diego. This can help understand if an outbreak is due to community spread or travel into the community.

The university is facing a $150 million budget shortfall, and that’s if a full student body matriculates and pays expected tuition. There will be a long road to financial recovery, and it could be even longer should state support for higher education decrease. Nonetheless, Chancellor Blank is optimistic about the future. “Technology doesn’t replace in-person, live experiences. However, we will be teaching better after this for incorporating technology more fully in the classroom.”

Our thanks to Chancellor Rebecca Blank for her presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: