Tag Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Human Genome Editing

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Mike Engelberger

Alta Charo 12 5 2018The recent claim by Chinese scientist  He Jianjui that he successfully altered the DNA of twin girls to build up the twins’ HIV resistance served as a backdrop of the Rotary Club of Madison’s weekly meeting, whose guest speaker Dr. Alta Charo, a UW-Madison professor of law and bioethics, offered as a broad outline of ethical considerations concerning Human Genome Editing.

Jianjui’s actions have drawn wide condemnation by the medical, ethical, and research community as there are allegations that his work lacked an ethical compass that according to Charo at this point in time should be guided by the thought that “other than prevention or treatment” human genome editing “should not proceed.”

Genome editing, according to Dr. Charo, is best explained by “adding, deleting, inactivating, or making targeted alterations” of DNA. Genome editing is acceptable practice in research laboratories. Somatic gene therapy, in which therapeutic DNA is integrated in the genome, is a process used to treat disease that is highly regulated. “Somatic gene therapy should only be employed for treatment and prevention but not for enhancement,” said Dr. Charo. Gene therapy cancer vaccines are being developed , but among the most common uses today of somatic gene therapy are to treat cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hemophilia and AIDS.

If human genome editing is pursued for purposes of enhancement, there are obviously significant risks. Among the medical concerns rising to the very top is the potential of newly introduced genes not interacting with the existing gene structure. Dr. Charo characterized the ethical concerns revolving around the idea that human mankind may be closer to “making a step toward designer babies.” Other ethical concerns in Jianjui’s work is “the lack of consent by the affected person” and circumventing the traditional medical peer review process, instead publicizing his work directly with popular media sources. In summarizing Jianjui’s work, Dr. Charo said “two edited baby girls have been born.”

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

Let’s Embrace Inclusivity!

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Neil Fauerbach

Maria White 11 28 18.Our Rotary speaker on November 28 opened by introducing herself with her full Latina name, including her given name, her Confirmation name, her father’s last name and her mother’s last name. Then she mentioned that she married a guy named Bill White and became Maria White. Born in Havana, Cuba, White is a new member of the Toledo, Ohio, Rotary Club. She is so new, in fact, that she hasn’t even attended one of their meetings yet. It was our luck to have her speak to our club. That’s certainly worthy of a make-up in Toledo!

White is the founder and CEO of a consulting firm called Inclusity, and she has worked with more than a dozen Fortune 500 CEOs and a myriad of senior leaders, managers and supervisors throughout North America and Europe to help them successfully increase diversity in their organizations. She congratulated our Rotary club for embracing a business model to increase inclusivity in our membership.

White walked us through an evolution of inclusivity work over the decades, beginning with the seemingly homogeneous society in the 1950s. Common themes were those of the “company man” and employment for life. Women were more likely to go into specific professions that did not create the kind of leadership that was recognized and rewarded. In largely white male-dominated workplaces the mantra was, “Work hard and you’ll get ahead.” Some of the intended outcomes of this culture were realized, including outstanding productivity. However there was also the unintended consequence that women, people of color and LGBT people were excluded and their potential to contribute to society was not realized.

Homogeneity gave way in the 1970s to a period focused on assimilation. Common themes were affirmative action and increased representation of women and people of color in organizations. The intention was to increase visible diversity without changing the culture. It was the time of “dress for success” in which women were encouraged to wear suits similar to men’s suits – except certainly not with pants! The success formula was, “Be like us. Work hard and you’ll get ahead.”

“That kind of assimilation causes you to give up on yourself and breeds resentment,” White said. “They wanted me to be like them.” This was very frustrating for White, and she didn’t realize until much later that the intentions of her superiors were to help her to “fit in” and be successful. The unintended consequence was that many workers decided they couldn’t or wouldn’t, and they left. The result is a brain drain.

This eventually led to an emphasis on diversity, with themes of celebrating differences (as opposed to assimilation) and creating opportunities. Employers offered what White referred to as “Fun, Food and Flags” events. The intention was to achieve numerical diversity targets. The unintended consequence of this approach is that some majority workers feel discriminated against, while women and minority workers feel exhausted from having to work harder to attain the same recognition.

In the long run, what we need is not just diversity but inclusivity, said White. That requires that we all – whether we are in the majority or not – understand that we are part of diversity. The guiding themes of inclusivity are a focus on maximum productivity, an acceptance of intentional inclusion and an awareness of unintentional exclusion.

Under the inclusivity model, all you need is decision-making that is based on shared values along with behavioral standards which define the organizational culture, she said. As an example of a shared set of guiding principles, she pointed no further than to Rotary’s own four-way test.

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

A Wintry Hike at Donald County Park

submitted by Roberta Sladky; photos by Jason Beren & Jeff Tews

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Fifteen Rotarians and guests plus two canines (James and Park) hiked Donald Park, a Dane County Park located in the Driftless Area of southwest Dane County. Two inches of snow fell overnight — enough to create a lovely wintry scene but not enough to require snowshoes. The group met at the Pop’s Knoll entrance near Mt Vernon and hiked south and east on the Woodland Trail, Prairie Edge Trail and Springs Trail. The Mt Vernon Overlook Trail was practically a rock climb – all enjoyed the vista and made it down without incident. Records show that the group hiked 4.1 miles and went up and down 25 floors in elevation!

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Donald Park is testament to the philanthropy of Dane County. Two women, Delma Donald Woodburn and Pat Hitchcock, became neighbors and then partners in providing the land and vision that formed Donald County Park. It’s impossible to describe the history of this 800 acre piece of land in this ‘brief write-up’, except to say that there is evidence that ice age PaleoIndians once hunted this land and many more residents and visitors since have enjoyed the terrain with its rocky outcrops. Most of the group enjoyed lunch and conversation following at Verona’s Boulder Brew Pub. A great start to the weekend!

Our thanks to Rotarian Andrea Kaminski for organizing this hike for the group.

“How Are You Going to See Our Children?”

submitted by Ellsworth Brown; photo by Neil Fauerbach

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Judge Everett Mitchell pictured here with his mentor, Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana, who received our club’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award at this week’s Rotary meeting.

Imagine the combined power of a preacher and the authority of a judge, connected by an unrelenting mission to lift up children who stand alone.  Now imagine the twenty-minute Rotary program this produced in reflection of and response to the career challenge that Judge Everett Mitchell was given via the question above, by the day’s Manfred E. Swarsensky award winner Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana, on the occasion of his installation as Circuit Court Judge in 2016.

But we didn’t have to imagine this.  It came to life with driven speed, intensity and the best desperation to help us understand how incapable the child welfare system, often following inevitably into the juvenile justice system and ultimately the criminal justice system, are to the task of repairing damaged lives, providing help and hope to those who enter these systems with no experience, no point of reference, no one to hear, no hand to hold, no ability to move beyond a closed loop.

Using poignant examples, Judge Mitchell spoke movingly of the power of restorative justice.  His source of language and guidance in court is Trauma and Healing Guide Resource, which speaks directly to the need for courts and the public to speak to a child’s future more than the past.  The absence of and critical need for mental health treatment was a frequent theme, as was the need to keep dreams alive as a replacement for the damages done to children, giving them voices.

The Judge spoke of the Court in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, to open an Office of Youth Engagement.  He spoke of the need to raise the bar of the justice system’s practices, which are not yet equal to the focus on trauma.

The best expression of Judge Mitchell’s commitment to the power of his vision and the role of the Court was his closing word:  “I am not just their judge, I am their reflection.”  His life, once his nightmare, turned into his dream:  power of a preacher and the authority of a judge, bent to a consuming mission.

Stu Levitan Tells Rotarians About Madison and Club Members in the Sixties

submitted by Jerry Thain

Stu LevitanThe 1960s were a tumultuous decade in the United States and certainly in Madison.  Club member Stu Levitan drew on his new book “Madison in the Sixties” to illustrate his talk to the Club on November 7th.  The book, whose genesis was 34,000 articles from Madison newspapers of the decade reviewed by Stu by digital scanning (followed by more in depth research) focuses on five major issues of the time –civil rights, University of Wisconsin, urban renewal, Monona Terrace and student unrest – but Stu’s remarks to the Club dealt with the involvement of Club members in the 1960s, not only appropriate to the audience but also a natural theme given the prominence of so many Rotarians in the life of Madison then, as always.  Space does not allow for more than a few examples of the highlights of the presentation so for a full listing one will just have to buy the book!

Among the Rotarians prominent in the chronicle of Madison in the 1960s were current member Mitch Javid, the physician who treated UW boxer Charlie Mohr after his injury, ultimately fatal, in the ring at the NCAA boxing tourney in Madison.  Two mayors during the decade were Rotarians – Henry Reynolds & Bill Dyke.  Pat Lucey, who eventually would be elected Governor, was a Rotarian and prominent realtor in the city.  He was the only realtor to speak in favor of a fair housing ordinance which eventually passed.  Other Rotarians of the time included the two Madison police chiefs of the decade and the UW football coach, Ivy Williamson.  Rotarian Arlie Mucks advocated, initially unsuccessfully, for admission of Jews to the Madison Club in the nid-1960s.  Current member Nelson Cummings joined the Club in that decade as the leader of the Madison Urban League and, as older Club members know, was able to find housing for his family in the city only after a long struggle to do so.

Rotarian Judge Joe Jackson was the presiding jurist at the trial of students charged in the disturbances related to protests of Dow Chemical conducting interviews on campus.  Jackson also was the judge in the trial of the female performers who danced nude in a psychedelic theatrical version of Peter Pan.  Rotarian James Boll was the prosecuting attorney in each instance.

Among those speaking to the Club in the 1960s were General Lewis Hershey, head of the draft, whose presence drew many protestors, and Warren Knowles, whose remarks denouncing student activism on the Madison campus apparently were well received, and came less than a month before his re-election as Governor of Wisconsin.

For greater detail, see the book!

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

Financial Literacy for Today’s College Bound Students

submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Pete Christianson

Derek Kindle 10 31 2018

From left: Nasra Wehelie, Nick Curran, Derek Kindle and Virginia Bartelt

Rotarians celebrated Halloween on Wednesday with a topic that frightens even hardened fans of horror movies — college tuition.

Derek Kindle from the office of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison administers more than $450M in federal, state, institutional and private aid annually.  While the topic is often front and center in the press and on the minds of many parents, grandparents and college students, the reality can be far more complex than just headlines.

College costs are rising while state support for higher education is on a steep decline.  Tuition and fees in the state of Wisconsin are slightly below average in the US and compared to neighboring states.  And while official data sources consistently report that those with a degree earn more on average than those without one, the question remains: How can students and families take advantage of the benefits education offers, but still manage the costs within their means.

Annual family income for 39% of the 2018 undergraduates is less than $80,000 with half of that number falling under $39,000.  While 53% of UW undergraduates graduate without debt, the remaining students have an average student loan burden at graduation of $27,138.  So, what are the steps to mitigate the burden of education costs?

Kindle says loud and clear that FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the best place to start.  The 2020 FAFSA applications are now available. The University spends considerable resources on communicating with counselors and high schools, youth organizations and directly with students across the state.  As part of that communication blitz, student aid advisors are also touting university aid programs.

New this year, “Bucky’s Tuition Promise” covers tuition and fees for Wisconsin students with family adjusted gross income below the state’s median income of $56,000.

The “Badger Ready Program” is for returning adults and veterans with 24 credits and a 2-year minimum break in attendance from an accredited institution.

How does UW look at the success with these programs?  Kindle shared two indicators: The freshmen retention rate is 95.3% and the average time to earn a degree has been lowered significantly over the last few years to 4.03 years.

Links to all the programs that were mentioned today are listed below.

Badger Promise                                    https://financialaid.wisc.edu/types-of-aid/ftb/

Bucky’s Tuition Promise                         https://financialaid.wisc.edu/btp

Chancellor’s &Powers-Knapp Scholars    https://cspks.wisc.edu/

PEOPLE Program                                 https://peopleprogram.wisc.edu/

Q&A Forum with AG Candidate Josh Kaul

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Pete Christianson

Josh Kaul 10 24 2018

From left: Lester Pines, Josh Kaul and Greg Everts

At the October 24 meeting of the Rotary Club of Madison, Democratic candidate Josh Kaul for the office of Wisconsin attorney general summed up his vision for the state’s highest judicial office by asserting that he would operate as an independent force “standing up for the rights of Wisconsinites” and working to make Wisconsin “stronger and safer.”

Citing his Wisconsin roots of growing up in Oshkosh and Fond du Lac and highlighting his Stanford law degree along with his experience as a federal prosecutor serving in Baltimore, Kaul made the case to be the right person for the job. He outlined various positions related to voting rights, the opioid epidemic, the Affordable Care Act, high incarceration rates of African-American citizens, school safety and the recent appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as US Supreme Court Justice.

In discussing voting rights, Kaul painted himself a champion based on his record of actively challenging any attempts to restrict voting including in Wisconsin. He also addressed the gerrymandering issue in Wisconsin that reached the U.S. Supreme Court by supporting the idea of a non-partisan redistricting model.

On the topic of the opioid crisis, Kaul pledged to follow a four-point agenda, encompassing enforcement of laws with large-scale traffickers, expanding access to substance abuse treatment, holding pharmaceutical companies accountable, and expanding Medicaid to afford greater treatment options under Badger Care. Asked whether he had accepted any campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry, Kaul answered that he had not and also had made the pledge not to accept any funds from the National Rifle Association.

Kaul pledged to withdraw Wisconsin from current and future lawsuits seeking to repeal or invalidate the Affordable Care Act, and he especially stressed the need to grant medical coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Kaul addressed the high incarceration rate of the African-American population by advocating for community policing and community prosecution, pointing to such successful efforts in Milwaukee.

In terms of school safety, Kaul emphatically declared that more common sense is needed than is evident in his opponent’s ideas to arm teachers with guns. He singled out his opponent for “criticizing gun-free school zones.”

In drawing yet another distinction between him and his opponent, Kaul said he had opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation even prior to the sexual harassment charges against him became public. “The Court is going too far to the right,” he said. “The process was not a good one.” He was especially critical of his opponent’s statement that the allegation of sexual harassment 36 years ago should not disqualify Kavanaugh.

The greatest criticism of his opponent has been the massive backlog of rape kits not being tested in an effort to bring justice to victims and lock up potential sex offenders representing further danger to public safety. Kaul said the “delay in getting justice” was a blatant example of his opponent’s misplaced priorities.

While Attorney General Brad Schimel was invited to appear jointly or on a separate date, his campaign office declined our invitation.  Per our board policy, we offered Schimel’s office to have his campaign materials at our meeting on October 24th, and our thanks to Nancy Bartlett for attending and staffing the table. 

Our thanks also to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  Watch the video here.