Tag Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

How Are We Doing? Where Are We Going? What Have I Learned?

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photo by Jeff Burkhart

Leslie Howard 10 7 2015

As the end of an era approaches, Leslie Ann Howard, CEO of the United Way of Dane County and fellow Rotarian, delivered a heart-felt and impassioned overview of how the social condition of the Madison community has evolved since taking the helm 34 years ago.  As the first female to lead the organization in its 93-year history, Ms. Howard has seen the community’s narrative change from you “can’t get things done in Madison” to “We can and we will.”

Reflecting on life lessons, Leslie Ann recounted the first twenty years of her life as the child of an alcoholic father.  She experienced all of the emotion and pain that such a relationship carries with it.  However, at the age of 44 her father became sober through the balance of his life and taught her, “It’s never too late to change”, a lesson that has shaped her into the inspiring leader she has become.  It is this lesson that has directed her leadership of the United Way and guided her in her mission to help right some of the most pervasive social wrongs in our community.

As the first female manager in the nation of a collegiate football team, she learned “there are no limitations due to gender,” an experience that would equip her with the necessary acumen and confidence to interact with men in the locker room or the Boardroom.

These life lessons, while not all-inclusive, were pivotally instrumental in propelling Leslie Ann into a life focused on social and organizational change, leaving us a gift we should all cherish for many years to come.

In response to donor’s expectations that the needle move in a positive direction as a result of continued asks and gifts of financial support, the organization accepted the charge to embark on a mission of changing the “human condition,” once felt an improbable goal.  With this transformation, the organization embarked on a quest, aptly referred to as the “Agenda for Change,” focusing on Education, Income, and Health; and has moved the needle in the right direction, evidenced by the decreases in recidivism rates, decreases in homeless families and improved outcome because of partnerships with parents.  Successes abound, but the work must continue.

With a strong belief that people, circumstances, and conditions can change, our community can, and will continue change, with the hope that Madison will become one of the Best Places to Live and Work for all its citizens.

Thank you, Leslie Ann, for your leadership, insight, and unrelenting quest for change.  If we all believe in the possibility of change, it will become our reality!

Did you miss out meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

Prescription Pain Killer Abuse in Wisconsin; Sharing a Dose of Reality

–submitted by Mary Borland; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke with Rotarians on September 30 about why the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and partners across the State, have launched a $1.7 million campaign titled A DOSE OF REALITY, which is working to prevent prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin.

Brad explained, when prescribed and used properly, prescription opioid painkillers can offer relief; however, anyone is at risk of becoming addicted, especially our young people ages 12-25. Deaths and hospitalizations from overdoses are increasing, and four out of five heroin addicts start by abusing prescription painkillers.

Brad went on to share that this problem is impacting tens of thousands of families in Wisconsin and it is now declared a public health crisis.

  • The fear of death is not strong enough to stop people from using these drugs.
  • Opiate overdoses have more than doubled in less than a decade and now exceed motor vehicle deaths!
  • Many myths on this topic, most notably the myth that only “bad” kids and only “other” families or neighborhoods are affected. The fact is, all walks of life and communities are affected by this problem.  If not for prescription opiate abuse, we may not have a heroin problem at all.
  • Most people abusing opiate drugs obtain the drugs from a family member or friend – this presents a great opportunity!
  • Addictions to opiate drugs are driving spikes in most other crimes.
  • Wisconsin is number 2 in America for pharmacy robberies, with Indiana being number 1. Brad stressed that legal enforcement alone will not solve this problem.
  • Treatment is a critical piece to the solution. 163,000 people in Wisconsin are abuins opiates.

The three key messages of the campaign to address abuse of prescription medications are:

  1. Use medications only as prescribed to you and as directed
  2. Store medications safely and securely
  3. Dispose of medications properly by dropping them off at a designated site

What can you do in addition to the three key messages above?  Check out the website http://doseofrealitywi.gov/ and

  • Take the Pledge to Save Lives
  • Spread the word
  • Talk to your kids/grandkids about the dangers of opiate abuse
  • Ask your health care providers if there are alternative therapies available instead of taking an opiate drug. In the United States, we readily reimburse for drugs but are not good at covering addictions.  Advocate for changing this.
  • Keep track of the number of pills in your bottles
  • Dispose of unused meds promptly and safely. October 17 is Drug Take Back Day.  Last Take Back Day yielded over 20 tons of medications.  Find a medication return unit close to you to use anytime by visiting:   http://doseofrealitywi.gov/get-the-facts/safe-storage/

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  CLICK to view the video.

Be a Gift to the World

–submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Will Anzenberger

Club President Ellsworth Brown pictured here with District Governor Mary Van Hout

Club President Ellsworth Brown pictured here with District Governor Mary Van Hout

On September 23, Rotary District Governor Mary Van Hout described her personal relationship to Rotary and the many ways it has affected her life. She said that one word “Give” defines how her Rotary membership has affected her civic involvement.    Many people are wary of becoming involved or giving of their time and money to philanthropic organizations but they underestimate the benefits that accrue.

This year’s Rotary International motto is “Be a Gift to the World.” This motto emphasizes the five core values of Rotary:

  1. Friendship – You have many friends throughout the community.
  2. Leadership – There is an opportunity for personal development.
  3. Integrity – This is based on the 4-way test of Rotary.
  4. Service – You place service above self.
  5. Diversity – You understand the value of acceptance of other political views, religions, ethnicity, social and economic status.

Mary learned many of these values growing up in a small rural area in Wisconsin where she observed how neighbors helped each other by working in teams to carry out their chores. When she was 10, her mother died, and neighbors displayed random acts of kindness to Mary and her several siblings. In 2000, Mary learned about the Rotary Orphan Train Project, and she took her first international trip to Guatemala. The Rotarians’ intent was to institute a computer program, but the Catholic sister in charge of the orphanage insisted that the money could be better used to build a poultry barn. The girls would then learn how to grow their own food as well as developing business skills. Since this trip, Mary has pursued many other international service projects. She implores Rotarians to balance the “Giving” word with “Getting” as you consider the many benefits of Rotary membership.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

Soglin Sets Priorities in Tough Times

–submitted by Valerie Johnson; photo by Jeff Smith

From left: Rotarian Janet Gray, Mayor Paul Soglin and Club President Ellsworth Brown

From left: Rotarian Janet Gray, Mayor Paul Soglin and Club President Ellsworth Brown

Mayor Paul Soglin began his annual fall review with our club by thanking Rotarians.  “The premise of government is that while we have elected representatives, what makes Madison function is active participation of citizens.”

“I’ve learned when you are trying to accomplish several economic goals, it makes a difference if the mayor makes the ask,” he said. He had two asks for Rotarians.

“My first ask is to support employment, both summer youth and adult employment.  We’ve made big advances in employment.  City employment has an expanded internship program. We provided 32 teens jobs this past summer. We have several partners: Operation Fresh Start, Simpson Street Free Press, Centro Hispano to name a few. These are real jobs with real pay.  We love it when at the end of the summer an employer calls and asks if they can keep on the student part-time for the rest of the year.”

Minnesota just released a study examining why there is a disparity on race in incarceration.  Mayor Soglin said we have an even bigger gap here.  Why the gap? “Poverty,” he said.  “Lack of participation in the workforce.  If we can change that, we can change a bevy of outcomes.”

Mayor Soglin’s second ask is about housing.  We are one of 100+ cities in the US that have signed a pledge to end veterans’ homelessness by the end of 2015 and end chronic homelessness by 2016.  We are doing poorly compared to other communities, he reported.

“There are reasons,” Mayor Soglin said, “particularly as it relates to the availability of housing and the cooperation of state government.  What is most upsetting is we have 31 veterans with VASH vouchers (for veterans only, pays for housing) who are still on the streets because they cannot find housing. So my second ask is for Rotarians to contact the Community Development office and figure out a way to make an apartment available for one of these 31 veterans.

The Mayor listed the city’s top three priorities:Affordable housing

  1. Affordable housing
  2. Improving equity and reducing poverty through job creation, training and employment, afterschool
  3. Food security

Three key financial facts:

  • City bonds rated AAA by Moody’s
  • Debt retires in 10 years typically
  • City goal is to stay under 15% of our budget going to debt. With significant cuts, we are still at 17%.

Where do our tax dollars come from?  Almost 75 percent comes from taxes; 13 percent from state aid, eight percent from fees.  This property tax burden is much higher than when he started in politics. The mayor reported he has made large cuts in CIP, the capital improvement plan.  This has lowered our borrowing to keep our good bond rating and allow us to retire debt.

“What is really crushing us,” he said, “is infrastructure replacement. We are replacing more pipes from the 60s than the 20s.”

CLICK to view the video.  Our Thanks to City Channel for taping our meeting this week.

Renewable Energy Buildings Coming Soon

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Jeff Smith

Mark Krawczynski (left) pictured here with our Rotary club member Jackson Fonder

Mark Krawczynski (left) pictured here with our Rotary club member Jackson Fonder

Fellow Rotarian Mark Krawczynski is originally from Warsaw, Poland, but has spent most of his life in Australia as a Chartered Architect working on many large scale public and private projects, including the reconstruction of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

He is now taking his nearly 50 years of experience as an architect to promote and advocate for using known renewable energy technologies to change the way buildings are thought of and constructed.  Thinking of future generations, Mark explained that the earth has reached the point where the use of traditional single-use energy technologies (oil, wood and coal), the growth of human population, and accelerating economic development have placed an unsustainable pollution load on the environment.  Fossil fuels, in particular, have caused many cities and regions to become polluted to the point where one can no longer see the sky, clean water is threatened and increasingly scarce, and pollution-induced illnesses have claimed more lives than polio.

From this gloomy premise he proceeded to propose that solutions are available but that the time to start is now and the transition will take a long time – probably 40 to 50 years.

Mark proposed that one of the first things to change would be how we view the purpose of buildings.  He described the construction of buildings in the past was from a “defensive” purpose.  That is, buildings were primarily to keep out natural elements such as water, wind and sun and, therefore, wasted.  Current buildings throw away these natural and renewable resources by repelling and sheltering us from them.

An updated consideration of buildings would look for ways to combine several clean, renewable energy technologies that would work in concert to provide for the energy needs of the building and spin off enough surplus energy to be used elsewhere in the community.  Mark envisioned that buildings built in this fashion would need to combine several technologies to be feasible but would work better than traditional energy methods.

Buildings designed using the harmony of several clean energy technologies would need to incorporate the technologies into their shape and structure, as well as the surrounding environment and natural resources of the site (wind, sun, geo-thermal, water, etc.).

Mark concluded by showing a short video that described a prototype building called an Elemental Flow Tower.  It was designed to use natural light, water, sun, geo-thermal, rain and wind to create a total system of self-contained energy production, as well as serve the functions of a building for shelter and comfort.

CLICK to view the video of this presentation on our club’s YouTube Channel.

German POWs Working in Wisconsin

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski

Lucy SannaOne of the many benefits I appreciate about Rotary is the chance to learn new things about Wisconsin from our wonderful programs. Having moved here in 1977 – which made me a “newbie” at my table – I was unaware of the German prisoners of war who worked on our farms in World War II. Author Lucy Sanna filled us in on the history of German POWs in Wisconsin and read the opening of her newly released historical novel, The Cherry Harvest. Her presentation was enriched by historical photos of ships and trains that transported the POWs, camps where they lived and places where they worked.

Sanna acknowledged the aid of experts at the Door County Historical Society and public library, as well as the Wisconsin Historical Society, for her research. She and her daughter stayed with a farm family in the area, and she was put in touch with people who once worked with the POWs. She gained a lot of information from the staff at Fort McCoy.

In 1941 German POWs captured by the British were encamped in Europe. Because of a rumor that Hitler planned to drop bombs on the camps, the POWs were shipped to the United States on empty, returning Liberty Ships used to bring American troops to Europe. They traveled by train to military bases in many states, including Fort McCoy and other camps in Wisconsin. In 1945 there were some 425,000 German POWs in the U.S., according to Sanna.

At Fort McCoy, German and Japanese prisoners were retained in a separate camp within the Fort. The two groups were housed separately but used some shared facilities, leading to hostilities which needed to be managed by camp staff. The camp treated the prisoners well, offering such benefits as typing classes, a library with books in their own language and services provided by the YMCA. Yet officials publicly kept mum about the presence of the POWs in Wisconsin.

With the troops in Europe, Wisconsin residents who had once worked in orchards, canneries and dairies moved to more lucrative jobs in factories. This left farmers and food processing operators without the workforce they needed to make a living.

Sanna’s novel opens in 1944 with a moving scene about a Door County farm woman who is desperate to feed her family. She learns that there are German POWs who will pick cherries for 50 cents per hour (of which they keep 80 cents per day in the form of scrip which could be used in the camp commissary). The woman overcomes fear and conflict in her community to bring these workers to the peninsula for the harvest.