Tag Archives: Madison WI

“Bring Back Civics Education!”

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Pete Christianson

Luke Fuszard 7 18 2018

From left: Paul Ranola, Luke Fuszard and Rick Kiley

Luke Fuszard spoke to us this week on the decline of civics education, which he says places democracy at risk. Luke is a software engineer and has an MBA.  No civics background. But he does have two children, and he is concerned about the decline in civics education.

In 1954 Kentucky required three years of history and civics, and students had to pass a very tough statewide exam. Only nine states today require any such education, and Wisconsin is not one of them. The result is a predictable widespread ignorance. Ninety-seven percent of immigrants taking the [relatively easy] citizenship exam pass it. Thirty-three percent of native citizens who take the same test fail it. For most of American history, it was generally believed that solid civics and history knowledge was needed for people to be good citizens. That seems no longer to be the case.

Two occasions seem to have sped this decline in interest: (1) Sputnik in 1957; (2) the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk.” Both incentivized the teaching of math and science, and as these expanded, history and civics courses were reduced. Middleton and Wausau still have robust civics programs. Wisconsin has recently adopted a statewide civics exam, but it is online and can be taken multiple times. And in 2012, all federal funds were shifted away from civics or history to math and science.

Why are civics and history important? Many math majors will never be mathematicians. Many science majors will never be scientists. But everyone will eventually be a member of the body politic. Since 1776, hundreds of thousands of people have given their lives in defense of our freedom and our democracy. The least we can do is to lobby our legislators to support civics education. Much civic behavior is learned in childhood: We should pass on to our children our belief in the importance of being an educated citizen, able to make informed political decisions.

Our thanks to Wisconsin Eye for videotaping our meeting this week.  You can watch the video here.

Battle for Economic Growth in Wisconsin

submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Pete Christianson

Kevin Conroy 7 11 2018AWhat will it take for Wisconsin to win the battle for economic growth fueled by entrepreneurship?  Rotarians and their many guests left the Wednesday lunch with some specific ideas presented by Kevin Conroy, Chairman and CEO of Exact Science.

According to Conroy, Wisconsin is not inspiring start-ups. Our demographics are currently against inspiring start-ups and our demographics are holding us back.  Our workforce is rapidly aging and shrinking.  Median family income is flat.  We are near the bottom in terms of net migration of college workers and we’re not building a promising young workforce.  We need exciting companies to keep and draw exciting companies.

According to studies conducted by the Kaufman Foundation, Wisconsin is ranked last in the U.S. for start-up activity and Conroy stressed that start-ups create most new net jobs and are the key to success in the battle for economic growth.  Venture Capital needs to be more readily available in Wisconsin if there is to be a change in status among the states.  Currently three states–California, New York and Massachusetts–manage 83% of the nation’s venture.

What Conroy termed a “silver lining” is that experience from the last 3 years has been better for investment in new companies.  Angel investors are providing significant help but there is a “funding gap” after angels.  Without growth in next stage funding Wisconsin will continue to lag behind other states.  Models to look at include a private sponsored venture capital model in Michigan and a Public-Private Partnership.

In speaking of the Company he heads, Conroy shared that Exact Science relentlessly pursued a solution to the big problem of colon cancer, partnered with the Mayo Clinic, focused on great science, raised nearly $2 billion, and had a direct lineage to the UW-Madison via Third Wave Technologies.

The company is expanding to a new campus which includes lab, manufacturing, and customer care services in the former Rayovac building and is expanding into new headquarters in University Research Park.  To make the point that “start-ups matter”, Conroy summarized that the impact on Wisconsin from the start-up he heads provides $2 billion in capital and $29 million in taxes.

Rotary Scholars and Their Mentors Get to Know Each Other –Picnic Style

submitted by Sharyn Alden; photos by Dean Nelson & Karl Wellensiek

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The sun shined brightly July 1st, after a tornado watch lifted, on one of Rotary’s most festive traditions –the annual Rotary Scholar Mentor Picnic held lakeside at the home of Ed and Nancy Young.

There were multiple tables of picnic food choices –segmented further by categories. There were appetizers and salads, a lively grilling station with brats and burgers fresh off the grill, and a dessert table laden with cakes, cookies and luscious chocolate delights.

 

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Beyond the good eats and boat rides, and overall festive atmosphere, what most of us came for was this exceptional opportunity to get to know each other better.

Melanie Ramey, former President of Rotary (1998-1999), a five-time mentor to Rotary scholars, is currently a mentor to Matida Bojang.  Ramey said, “The annual picnic provides a great opportunity for scholars to become better acquainted with their mentors and also meet other scholars with similar academic or cultural backgrounds.”

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This was the second Rotary Scholar Mentor Picnic for Eddie Larson, whose mentor is Majid Sarmadi. Larson, who will be a junior this fall majoring in actuarial science at UW-Madison, said, “Rotary as an organization offers many excellent networking opportunities. But the annual picnic brings together people of so many diverse backgrounds, it’s a terrific venue for meeting and making new friends.”

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Seated at a picnic table, gazing out at Lake Monona, first-time picnic attendee, and scholar, Cassie Ferguson (mentee of this author) said she felt grateful that her aunt, a Rotarian in California, encouraged her to apply for a Rotary scholarship. “I wouldn’t be sitting here today if she hadn’t nudged me,” she said. Ferguson is heading to UW-Stevens Point in August and working at Summit Credit Union this summer.

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She plans to major in early childhood education because she said teachers, from elementary grades through high school had a strong impact on her life. “I want to give back,” she said simply while enjoying the view of the Capitol in the distance.

Conversations like this, at a casual picnic with no specific agenda other than to enjoy yourself, can be stepping stones to planting seeds for life-long friendships between scholars and mentors.

Our thanks to Ed and Nancy Young for hosting this year’s 2018 Scholar Mentor Picnic; to “Picnic Planner” Dean Nelson; Scholar Mentor Committee Co-Chairs Rob Van den Berg & Cheryl Wittke & Chair Emeritus Ellie Schatz and to members of our Kitchen Committee for working their magic at the grill.  The event was a great success! 

 

 

You HURD It Through the Grapevine

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Past President Renee Moe & Donna Hurd

President Donna Hurd joined the Rotary Past President’s Club, riding out of office with respect, heart and warmth. Our own Rotary “Temptations” Chorus presented a Motown musical background as new members went “Driving with Donna” through a year in which they had learned that what they think, say, and do is driven by a 4-Way Test.

In preparation for today’s program, they took to the street with those 4 questions Donna helped us all to memorize in the course of the year:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

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Photo 1: Rotary’s very own Motown Choir!  Photo 2: 70’s Donna with passengers Kristin Schmidt, Len Devaisher and Eli Van Camp; Photo 3: Alex Vitanye and Charles McLimans serving as Roast Program Emcees

Making what they called their “Four-way Stop,” new-member interviewers found that although  the common person on Madison’s downtown square did not know the test, some had a sense that it might have something to do with fairness or justice.  One man on the street declared, “I live by my wife’s test.” Undoubtedly that’s the truth?

Boris Frank VideoInterviewed club members declared they knew their oath verbatim. Yet it was admitted that even longtime members might still need an occasional prompt to assure they didn’t stumble. For example, Boris Frank could not easily repeat the test by heart, but he pointed out the truth–that words were being held up, off camera, for his reference.

 

Motown was in the air! Donna may not have a presence on social media, but she has a great deal of what our Motown singers belted out in 70’s style: R E S P E C T.  Knowing “We are Rotary,” thank you, Donna, for being the embodiment of the 4-way test for us throughout the year. We hold it in our memories and you in our hearts. Past presidents do have respect, and that’s the truth!

Our thanks to this year’s Roast Committee co-chaired by Amber Frantz and Kristin Schmidt for all their hard work in making this year’s Roast a huge success!  We also want to thank Oregon Rotary member, Uriah Carpenter, for donating his video services to assist this year’s Roast Committee.

Sauk Prairie State Rec Area–A Wisconsin Treasure!

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photos by Karl Gutknecht, Norm Lenburg & Danika Riehemann

A group of 20 Rotarians and guests spent a balmy Saturday morning learning about a true victory for our Wisconsin environment. We visited the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area, which was created through the commitment of local residents, state and federal governments and the Ho Chunk Nation.

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We gathered at the Museum of Badger Army Ammunition, off US Hwy 12 between Sauk City & Baraboo.  Verlyn Mueller, museum curator and archivist, told us about the history of the Badger Ammunition Plant based on his considerable research and more than 20 years as an employee. Over a period of several months in 1941, 74 local families were forced to move off their farmsteads to make way for the plant, which remained active through the Vietnam War. The plant was built on land the U.S. government had acquired through the 1837 treaty with the Ho Chunk Nation.

In 1997 the Army announced that the 7,354-acre plant would be decommissioned, and the future of the land was uncertain. Our second tour guide, Curt Meine from the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance, noted that the land could have been converted to anything, for example a factory or a race track. Instead, it was converted to the conservations area divided among several landowners.

In 2014 a portion of the Badger Lands were returned to the Ho Chunk Nation, which has already begun to convert much of the parcel to native prairie. That is no small feat. There were 1,400 buildings across the Badger Lands that needed to be removed. Most had lead paint and asbestos siding, requiring special handling and safe disposal.

Sauk Prairie Hike 6 23 2018 DOther parts of the property belong to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center. Meine took us to sites on the DNR land, where there is public access. Volunteers have put in trails, and they are working on prairie restoration. One section is a beautiful hillside of lightly forested grassland. Meine said it took 15-20 volunteers, mostly working with hand tools, about three hours to beat back the thicket of invasive shrubs to expose this native Wisconsin oak savanna.

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The transformation of the Badger Lands from a decommissioned ammunition plant to a state recreation area that will be restored to native flora and fauna was not a simple task. It involved community action by disparate groups who came to consensus on certain shared goals and values. Tammy Baldwin, first as a U.S. House Representative and then as a U.S. Senator, supported the project by connecting the group with federal grants. The project required years of negotiation and compromise, not to mention untold hours of volunteer planning and labor. The nonprofit Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance continues to raise funds to carry the work forward.

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Following the tour, Meine joined us for a delicious lunch at Vintage Brewing Company in Sauk City. We are grateful to Rotarian Karl Gutknecht for arranging this educational and enjoyable outing.

For more photos, visit our club’s Facebook page.

Wine Fellowship – Pinot Noir Tasting on June 21

submitted by Mike Wilson

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From left: Carolyn Casey, Mike Casey, Ray Bandziulis, Ann Cardinale, Steve Mixtacki & Meryl Mixtacki

Our club’s Wine Fellowship met at the Wilson’s on Thursday, June 21, to taste Pinot Noir.  These wines had been selected from Mike Wilson’s cellar, and the tasting was divided into groups of three wines.  After a description of the Pinot Noir story that emphasized the really long history of Pinot Noir, one of the four oldest vinifera wines (there are said to have been 6000 Vitis Vinifera in the last 6000 years), and one of the most important.  This is emphasized as Pinot Noir was the first fruit and second food where the genome was mapped.  Pinot Noir is related to virtually 60% of wines used these days, being a sibling or parent of all of these wines.  In general the lighter colors, red brick rim seen on older pinots (we had a lot to sample in this tasting) and the fact that they age quite well (one wine was 41 years old – a Bouchard Le Corton, and we tasted three 1999 wines).

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We tried great Red Burgundies (one Grand Cru and four premier Crus) the creme de la creme of Pinot Noir. These 5 wines represent the top 5% of Red Burgundies.  The first three wines were from the first ten years of this century, a 2002 Nuit St George and a Charmes Chambertin, and a 2007 Bouchard Beaune Marconnets.  We then tried three different Californian AVA’s (2010 Artesa, 2005 Flowers & Woodenhead) followed by three Oregon Pinots of the same period all from the Dundee Hills AVA (2007 Winderlea, and 2008 Lange & Scott Paul) so with good age on them. Next we tried three from the British Empire: two from NZ and one from the Okanagon Valley, and two of these wines were actually brought back from overseas.  These latter wines were still a little younger, being only 4-8 years old.

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(Photo 1: from left: Patty Wilson, Cheryl Wittke, Becky Steinhoff, Ellie Schatz & Paul Schatz; Photo 2: from left: Julie Swenson, Peggy Lescrenier and Leslie Overton)

We then had three older wines: a 1999 Truchard from Sonoma, a 1999 Nuit St. George and 1977 Le Corton both from Burgundy.  We cleaned our palate with a Gruet Blanc de Noir (a white Methode Champenoise also made from Pinot Noir).  I had anticipated at least one of these three last century wines would be over the hill, but none were – a testament to Pinot Noir’s longevity.

Onee among the three wine groupings, a particular Pinot, was preferred only once. As all these wines were good, then the individual taster’s palate determined the most liked, i.e personal preference reigned supreme. The cheeses all went great with the wine and included a Compte, Gruyere, Mozzarella, White Cheddar and Cambazola, as did the breads and crackers. A good time was had by all.  A pity we will never be able to repeat this tasting.

Right-versus-Right………Toning Up our Ethical Fitness®

–submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Mike Engelberger

Anthony Gray 6 13 2018Fellow Rotarian Anthony Gray challenged and enlightened us on his life’s work in applied ethics.  While it can sound abstract, Gray brought us into the work of his team at the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE), the nation’s oldest think tank dedicated to bringing ethical decision making to our workplace and everyday lives. Gray is the President and CEO.

“Ethics” in Gray’s world is much more than the need to follow rules, guidelines and laws, or knowing right from wrong.  He calls these activities “compliance” not ethics.  Ethics, he said, are what you do when no one is looking, or resolving moral dilemmas that are not easy, straight forward or solely based on the law.  Ethical fitness is making good decisions when there are no rules or when something happens quickly and without warning.

In the training, IGE provides to individuals, corporations, schools, government organizations and other entities, emphasis is put on practical ways to get ethics into everyday decision making. Ethics is a skill set that can be acquired with proper training and personal practice.   Gray praised the “Rotary 4-way test of the things we think, say and do” by saying most organizations don’t include the word “think” in their ethical guidelines.   IGE helps people and organizations make effective decisions in difficult situations where two or more values are in dynamic tension — for example how do you choose between two right choices.

IGE’s international research into applied ethics has discovered five universal values: truth, respect, responsibility, equity and compassion.  These values can be the foundation for sound ethical decision making regardless of culture.

Gray is the incoming chair of the 2019 Rotary Ethics Symposium Committee.

Admittedly a meaty topic for a 20-minute presentation, you can find additional training and information at IGE’s website, www.globalethics.org.