Tag Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Meet Our New President: Jorge Hidalgo

Hidalgo_JorgeAs we begin a new Rotary year on July 1, we wanted to share some background on our new president. 

Jorge Hidalgo joined our Rotary Club in 2014 and is president of Wilde East Towne Honda. Previously, he was a Harley-Davidson Executive.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and received his Master’s degree in Operations Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years as an Infantry Officer where he was an Army Ranger and Airborne Jumpmaster.  Jorge has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce; served as Vice President of Fisher House of Wisconsin; and has been board president for the Wisconsin Heartland Honda Dealers Advertising Association.  He is a recipient of the 2016 Latino Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce Community Business Leader Award.

In Rotary, Jorge has served on our Strategic Planning, Welcoming and Veteran’s Assistance Committees and was elected to our board of directors for a 2018-2020 term.  He also participates in the Hiking/Skiing, Scotch Whisky and Sporting Clays Fellowship Groups and is chair of the Veterans Fellowship Group.

Jorge was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and now lives in Sun Prairie with his wife, Andrea.  They have 3 adult children and eight grandchildren.  Here are some details reprinted from the Wilde East Towne Honda website that provide insights into Jorge:

“My favorite band:  The Eagles.
Three Words that describe me:  Duty, Honor, Country.
My childhood dream job was:  To be a professional baseball player.
If you could spend the day with one person, deceased or alive, I would choose:  My son, Daren, who was killed in Afghanistan (while serving his country in 2011).
Favorite TV shows:  “Walking Dead” and “Blue Bloods.”
We welcome Jorge Hidalgo as President during our 108th Rotary year!

Jorge Outlines His Plans for Upcoming Rotary Year:  “Respect the Individual”

I know that the current pandemic has affected all of us, and every aspect of our lives—so it’s natural that our Club has been affected too.  We haven’t been able to meet in person for a while, and the road to returning to full-Club in-person meetings will be slow, and it will be gradual. But we’re resilient and we have adapted, with committees, fellowship groups and even our Wednesday meetings taking place virtually.  It may not be ideal, but it’s a way to stay engaged with Rotary at a time when our Club needs our support. 

As your President, I plan to remind us all of why Rotary matters, and mention one great thing Rotary has done each and every week. I also plan to highlight Members in the News each week from the podium, to celebrate the active role we play in the community.  I want our meetings to be fun and upbeat; I want us to laugh more often.  I’m sure whatever problems we’re dealing with every morning will still be waiting for us when we get back to the office after lunch; let Rotary be a little break from that stress.  If our average age wasn’t 107 I’d call it recess—but even though “recess” doesn’t fit, you still get the idea.  We’ll try new things, and not all of them may work—but we’ll keep trying till we make it work!  We’ll even address members’ questions and concerns brought up on the member survey.  We’ll have speakers that address a broad range of topics, including not only social issues but also leadership, history, business, inspirational life experiences, scientific discovery, and artistic pursuits. 

There’s no shortage of things that draw divisions among people; different political and religious beliefs, different views on social and economic issues—and we absolutely MUST respect our differences, and respect each other, first and foremost, as individuals.  So to be crystal clear, my theme for this year is “Respect the Individual.”  We need to spend more time on discovering what brings us together:  I want us to get to know each other better, discover things we have in common, and celebrate our accomplishments: One of the many ways to do this is by asking a new member to introduce a long-time Rotarian once a month.  Among our members we have a Freedom Rider from the Civil Rights movement and someone who discovered a life-saving medical procedure, engineers and artists, veterans of foreign wars and Peace Corps volunteers; there’s a lot we can learn about and from each other.  And let’s not get all greedy; we need to give others a chance to be part of this great Rotary Club: Each of us should set a goal of recruiting one member to Rotary this year; just one, though if you bring in more I promise I won’t get mad at you. 

I want to thank you for trusting me with our Club’s leadership and let’s all work together to have a great Rotary year! 

Andrea Kaminski’s Reflections on Year as Rotary President

Kaminski Picture1The past year has been a whirlwind of challenge and of change, starting with my unexpected appointment as club President and ending with our Rotary Club poised to transition back to in-person meetings as the pandemic continues. It has been my honor to be club President through this time. I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand our Rotary Club as a place where members CONNECT, SERVE and GROW.

Since I joined Rotary in 2013, I have valued the many new CONNECTIONS and friendships that have enhanced my life, whether through committee work, the hiking/skiing fellowship, community service projects, or my time on the board and as President. I’ve found that the more engaged I’ve been, and the more people I’ve worked, sung, chatted and laughed with, the more I’ve been able to learn and grow.

In my SERVICE to the club, I’ve learned that in Rotary you never have to meet a new challenge alone. As soon as I became President, several Past Presidents stepped up and offered their support. I would have been lost without the assistance, in particular, of Jason Beren and Pat Jenkins. And I want to give a special shout-out to Stacy Nemeth for setting the stage for this Rotary year through her diligent strategic planning work last year as President-Elect. Club service is a great way to get to know people and to help make our club a better place for a diversity of community leaders to connect, serve and grow.

I have GROWN through Rotary, especially in this past year. Here are some things I had to learn as President:

  • I’ve learned that you need to hit the wider bottom part of the Rotary bell, not the narrow top part, if you want people to hear it. Not a big deal — it was just embarrassing!
  • I’ve learned there are two strong stances represented in our club membership regarding singing at Rotary. I became President just when it was decided to try cutting back on our music. I hope we have arrived at a compromise that all members enjoy.
  • The same goes for the Question & Answer periods with our speakers. That was a hot topic last summer, but I hope members are comfortable with our current approach.
  • I’ve learned some technology, in particular how to pre-record my portion of the weekly meetings, so we could continue to meet online through the pandemic. Brian Basken and Jason Beren have done yeoman’s work to develop the technology needed to uphold the professional standards our weekly meetings are known for. This month Brian and Jason moved to live-streaming the meeting from Pearson Engineering, where they work. Next month we plan to live-stream our meetings with a limited number of members attending in person, abiding by good social distancing, while all others may participate from home.
  • I’ve also learned from Teresa Holmes, Charles Tubbs and others about complex racial justice issues facing our community. I’ve learned from Karen Kendrick-Hands and Larry Hands about environmental sustainability. These are important issues we must address, and I value the opportunity to connect with people who know far more than I do.

Going forward, I believe the most important goal for our Rotary Club is that of striving to be more actively welcoming to all leaders in our community. In a few minutes you’ll hear from the Racial Equity and Inclusion committee that our intentional efforts in that area are working.  To continue that progress, we need to accept that what has been comfortable in the past is not — and was not — comfortable for everyone. Good intentions are not enough. I’ve learned that we need to actively educate ourselves and speak out when we see injustice or hate. For white Rotarians like me who have benefited all our lives from the privilege of our race, this requires some humility to understand that there is a lot we don’t understand. The hard work is still ahead of us, and it’s good that we’ll have the steady leadership and vision of Jorge Hidalgo and then Mark Moody in the years to come.

With intention, patience and kindness as we work toward change, we will come closer to the Rotary Four-Way Test and build a club that is fair, that builds goodwill and better friendships, and is beneficial to all concerned.  Thank you.

Wrapping Up Our Rotary Year – Virtually!

submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Thump5Well!  This was quite a meeting.

It was more of an elegant hand-off than the usual changing of the guard from President Andrea Kaminski to new President Jorge Hidalgo, featuring inspiring reports of accomplishments well-earned by the Club and well-directed by President Andrea.

But first . . . this recap only suggests the substance of the meeting, which was recorded and is available at https://youtu.be/MoH8PYLW__E.

President Andrea began with an uplifting recital of six new members and their credentials:  LaVar Charleston, U. W. Madison; Sara Eskrich, Democracy Found; Amy Griffin, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Rob Roquitte, eCIO, Inc; and Angela Trevino, UW Health and Clinics.  It was especially nice to see the swelling stream of welcoming messages in the presentation’s adjacent comments box.

The second opening order of business was the presentation our Rotary Club’s International Service Award—pin and plaque—to Joyce Bromley for her engagement in international service projects of the club.  Congratulations, Joyce!

In her formal closing remarks, President Andrea recognized the continuing tech work of Brian Basken and Jason Beren, who silently present what we view each week.  She also listed a series of personal take-aways from her presidential year, among them “hit the bell at the bottom, not the top, to make it ring,” how to compromise on matters of music and program Q&A, how to master tech from home, and especially how much her presidential experience has given her joy and broad connections.

Many were thanked, reinforcing her primary revelation that willing help was always available.  Please read President Andrea’s remarks for a list of key people for the past year.

Also read Jorge’s remarks, which were constructive, thoughtful and clear.  They were preceded, direct from Florida, by unexpected comments and congratulations to the club’s first Latino President by former member Dora Zuniga, who asked Jorge to join the club six years ago.

President Jorge (sounds great, doesn’t it, Jorge?) introduced himself—born in the Dominican Republic, a West Point economics graduate who served in the Army for eleven years, a resident of New York City and now the well-known owner of an award-winning Honda Dealership.  Only President Jorge could make this list of achievements sound humble!  He pledged to try new things, further the consideration of large questions before us all now, ensure a wide variety of programs, and move through the coming year on the platform of respect for the individual.  This platform is linked to Jorge’s assertion that in addition to club members’ immediate work, we bring a vast array of additional experiences, knowledge and achievement that should also be shared.

Other reports included Mary Thompson’s PowerPoint presentation of our very important membership satisfaction survey; and Bog Sorge’s presentation of the membership development committee, which has introduced several new ideas and a comprehensive concept of how to gain new members from a position of strength (great video, Paul Ranola, who created the video, and you can view it at the same link above.

Of course, the meeting included the usual array of past presidents, pin presentations, and a very nice gift certificate to Andrea (sorry, no longer president . . . but “didn’t I see you on the Internet?”) for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art store.

Oh, and Melanie Ramey spoke about things she has learned during the pandemic . . . NOW will you connect to the link above?

Well done, Andrea and Jorge!

Our thanks to past president Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article and if you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here:  https://youtu.be/MoH8PYLW__E.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the 2020 Elections

submitted by Jessika Kasten

Michael WagnerThis week, UW-Madison School of Journalism Professor Michael Wagner spoke to the Downtown Rotarians on Pandemic Voting: Information, Geography and Polarization in the 2020 Elections. The J-School has done a lot of research on the impacts of media and voting and has tracked the polarization of Wisconsin voters since 1996. Since that time, we’ve seen a decline in local newspapers and local news reporting, a rise in talk radio and social media, as well as a stark rise in the amount of political advertising in our state. The School of Journalism has done a lot of research on the impact of changing information channels and has found that the broader your media diet, the more likely you are to vote outside of party lines. As an example, those who viewed a wide range of information sources were 50% more likely to split-ticket vote in an election (i.e., choose candidates from more than one party on the same ballot). Those who consumed a narrower range of media had nearly no likelihood of splitting a ticket.

The researchers also wanted to compare whether Wisconsinites were move divided on politics from other swing states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. The results were true that Wisconsinites’ attitudes around politics and social trust were more divided than other swing states. One researcher felt that those in rural and suburban areas of Wisconsin had long felt neglected and under-represented. Governor Walker’s campaign spoke to those people by denouncing Madison and Milwaukee influences, which could have had an impact in the attitudes of those outside the more metropolitan areas.

Ultimately, Professor Wagner summarized his talk by saying that Wisconsin remains divided due to partisanship, geography and the information we consume. He also made clear that these divides fracture our political and personal relationships in many cases. The good news is that a varied and wide media diet can influence these views and offer opportunities to work across party lines.

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

Moe Offers Response Ideas to Community Unrest Over Racism, Police Use of Force, and Protests

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Renee Moe 6 10 2020Renee Moe challenged Rotarians June 10 to improve race relations by being more willing to talk about the issue. Moe is President and CEO of United Way of Dane County, where she has held a variety of positions.  She shared some of her personal challenges growing up bi-racial in rural Wisconsin.  She said, “At 12, I remember praying to be killed, but as a teenager, thankfully, I knew it could be different from my early years abroad. Please know people are hurting because of how society comes together.”

Moe indicated several studies have shown workplace diversity contribute to productivity, resource generation and customer insights.

“It’s about relationships,” Moe said.  “And proximity is what builds relationships.”

Moe indicated it may be helpful to think of Black Lives Matter as “Black Lives Matter, Too” using the analogy that everyone at your dinner table gets a serving of meatloaf.  You don’t get a serving, yet you deserve one. But you still don’t get one.

Recalling a past conversation with a Rotarian, Moe remembers telling him about racial equity, “You don’t have to understand everything, just believe and it will all fall into place.”

Moe was our 2013-2014 Rotary Club President and has both and JBA and an MBA from UW-Madison. She was introduced by Teresa Holmes, Club Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair.

For additional information on this topic, you can visit the following links:

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/0zCOTRubYmw.

“Tiny Earth” – The Need for Antibiotic Research

–submitted by Jessika Kasten

Jo HandelsmanThis week, UW-Madison Professor Jo Handelsman talked virtually with the Downtown Rotary about a project she began while working at Yale University in 2012 called Tiny Earth. This important project was developed to increase the number of students pursuing STEM degrees as well as address the growing antibiotic crisis. Researchers estimate that unless we do something soon, by 2050 the leading cause of death will be related to bacteria-related illness.

Over time, humans have become resistant to many antibiotics that treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, ear infections, strep throat and the like. At the same time, there have been far fewer new antibiotics put on the market. Antibiotics are simply not as lucrative to pharma companies, and many pharma companies felt as though the vast majority of known antibiotics (99%) had already been identified through the soil. They were generally not willing to put in the time and resources needed to find the new 1%.

Tiny Earth began with just 6 students at Yale but has now grown to participation by more than 10,000 students per year. All of the students are working towards the same goal of making antibiotic discovery cheaper and more efficient for pharmaceutical companies. Specifically, they are developing new screening methods and new targets to find that 1% of antibiotics that are either new or different than previously discovered. They will then share those with pharma companies, thereby reducing the cost. This form of crowdsourcing most recently has discovered three new chemical structures that are currently underway. The COVID pandemic forced the research to stop earlier this year, but students are looking forward to getting back into the labs soon to continue their research.

Tiny Earth is harnessing the power of crowdsourcing, a student workforce and the need for antibiotic research, in the hopes they can make a significant impact on bacterial resistance in the future.

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