Monthly Archives: January 2014

Do Past District Governors “Just Fade Away?”

L-R going around the table: DGE Bill Fine, Polio Plus Chair, Raj Saini, DDS, Training Chair Paul Frey, a very blurry DG Peter Kyle, PDG Tom Kwako, PDG Bob Grill, Major Gifts Chair, Rich Carson, IPDG and RLI Chair, Bob Parkinson, District Secretary, Sherry Whitworth, Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, PDG Jay Kumar, Newsletter Editor, Bob Nelson, DGD, Anna Mae Kobbe, PDG Bette Lewis, COL Representative Pat Kasuda

Douglas MacArthur, famous U.S. army general in WWII and the Korean war, famously said in his 1951 retirement speech before a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”   I’m not sure if our younger members have a clue who Douglas MacArthur was, but did you ever wonder what happens to past District Governor’s after they serve?  Do Past District Governors just “fade away?”

Well…I’m happy to report that isn’t the case.  In Rotary our Past District Governors (PDGs) are an important resource to the present Leadership Team.  They have, as a group, a large “institutional memory” of what has happened in our District in the past, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Together they form our Council of Governors, and they can comment on the history of our Rotary clubs in a way that few others can.  And because of that, they can offer advice and council to the present District Governor, in our case, Peter Kyle, that is highly valued.  And they stay involved in many District activities.

The Council of Governor’s will meet three times this year and the meeting is traditionally chaired by the Immediate Past District Governor, who is for us, the famous (or infamous) Bob Parkinson.  The meeting featured a report by the current DG (Peter Kyle) that covered all of the news in the District, including finances, Foundation, membership, Interact, Rotoract, RYLA, RLI, and much more.  In addition to the DG report, our District Governor Elect, Bill Fine, also reported to the group.  Since Bill has recently returned from San Diego for his DG training he had much to share, including our Rotary slogan for next year, “Light Up Rotary.” And, I might add, there was an absolutely riveting report from Yours Truly who held the audience spellbound during his entire five minute DGN report.

Our Past District Governors do anything but “fade away,” and in fact stay very much involved with District affairs.  Here are just a few examples from the latest meeting: Raj Saini (1985-1986) has long served the District as our Polio Plus Chair, Paul Frey (2009-2010) is our Training Chair, Tom Kwako (2000-2001) is very involved at the international level with vision projects, Bob Grill (2002-2003) remains active with Chesapeake PETS and with Disaster Relief, Rich Carson (2007-2008) is our District Major Gifts Chair and is the RI representative to the OAS, Jay Kumar (2010-2011) is currently involved with extending a new Rotary club in Howard County, Ray Strieb (2004-2005) is our Club Extension Chair, Bob Nelson (1994-1995) edits the District’s Newsletter, and Pat Kasuda (2006-2007) is, among other things, our District’s representative to Rotary Council of Legislation.

Pretty impressive stuff….don’t you think?  So if you happen to see a PDG wandering around aimlessly, you might want to thank them for their service.  Then you can help them find their way home because they are probably lost.



Something’s Coming

PR Team
Creative Director, Katie Blyth, PR and Marketing Committee Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, and Social Media Chair (I dunno if that’s the correct title but she sure knows a lot about it, Erika Franz, plotting the destruction of District 7620.

Could it be? Yes, it could. 
Something’s coming, something good, 
If I can wait! 
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is, 
But it is 
Gonna be great! 

                                         Tony, West Side Story

When it comes to District 7620, I can’t help thinking of the iconic lyrics to the song, “Something’s Coming,”  from the Broadway show and movie, West Side Story.  The show (1957) and movie (1961) feature musics by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by the (then) young brilliant lyricist, Stephen Sondheim.  Why not take a couple of minutes and listen in.  Sorry Glee fans, this clip takes you to Richard Beymer’s performance in the movie.  The song was originally performed by Larry Kert as Tony on Broadway with Carol Lawrence as the original Maria.  (Beymer was dubbed?…say it ain’t so.)

One of things that is definitely coming is an amazing new District-wide marketing and PR team that is determined to help us become a model for state-of-the-art communications.  That includes social media, traditional media, blogs, websites, newsletters, and anything else that can help District Rotarians plug in to the very best of what is going on in Rotary here in Maryland.  Under the direction of Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, the committee met last Saturday to puzzle through how to “sell” (I know, I know …..I’m not supposed to use that nasty word) District Rotarians that this year’s District Conference is going to be a blast.  Fun, informative, interesting, fun, educational, an opportunity to network, fun, and fun.

The tools used by modern marketeers to drive a message nowadays are many.  If I understand our social media coordinator, Erika Franz, correctly, the District is going to create a new blog as the hub of our communications for the Conference.  We will “push” information and “pull” our audience to the blog through Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, training of club presidents, the District Leadership Team, and anything and everyone needed to get our members going with these fantastic networking tools.  I can personally attest that video will be one of the primary drivers of our message as I was kidnapped after the meeting by Erika and Creative Director, Katie Blythe, to video a thirty-second promo for the conference.  You ask, what expensive video camera was used?  A smartphone…of course.  Look for more news about Conference videos in the future.

And, if members aren’t yet wired into the wonderful world of social media, the committee will make sure that all kinds of traditional media are used to get the message out.  In short, the key idea seems to be that we can drive our content through a variety of different channels to meet the needs of our audience.  (This all sounds vaguely professional to me, but that’s just me and I’ve obviously drunk the Rotary Kool Aid.)

If you have an interest in marketing and/or a point of view about how Rotary’s message should/could be delivered to our members, contact PR and Marketing Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, at  Be warned, Dawn is still actively recruiting committee members who want to make a huge difference in District 7620.

How to Induct a New Member

Rotary pin

As a member of the District Leadership Team I’m often asked to induct a new member to Rotary.  It kind of goes with the territory and it is a pleasure to do.  I’ve also watched various club presidents do the honors.  Unfortunately, for the most part, inducting a new member seems to fall into a “polar vortex” of public speaking mistakes that cheapens the experience for all concerned.  So….here are some tips to consider for your next new member induction.

Let’s start with Inductions 101 which entails reading the induction ceremony. If you need a copy you can find several sample induction ceremonies available online as a PDF  called New Member Inductions.  The written ceremonies have the advantage of sounding formal and official.  And they allow the inductor to not worry that they have missed anything important or that they will make some kind of “gaffe” that will embarrass themselves or their new member, not to mention the current club members.  

The problem is that READING  the induction breaks every rule of good public speaking.  It’s usually done with no eye contact with the audience.  It screams that this isn’t important enough to do without reading a script, and it’s usually delivered in a monotone.  In short, it is as far from memorable as you can get.  So, my first tip is that if you are going to read a new member induction (or anything that you present as a speaker), you should PRACTICE! Here is what you do.  Go to your bathroom or another room with a mirror.  Read the induction, OUT LOUD, ten times.  Look at yourself in the mirror as much as possible while reading.  Try to memorize at least five different lines.  Listen to yourself!  Try to make your voice conversational while you read.  The key is to HEAR what the induction sounds like in your own voice.  When you actually read the script in front of the club it will sound natural and more like a speech than a reading assignment.  However, if you read the same script each time your club members will know it, and they will pay an appropriately diminishing amount of attention each time you read it.

If you are up to it, (and I think you are),  DON’T READ THE SCRIPT.  Instead, just say what is in your heart to a new member about joining Rotary.  How about starting with talking about Rotary or about your club?  Your club’s history in the community is a great place to start.  Then, you might challenge a new member with what they need to do as a new Rotarian.  If you want a great list for suggestions for new member requirements, go to Rotary Club Central New Members.  Here are a few of my own ideas you might consider:  1) Get to know the people in the club, 2) Sit at different tables, 3) Learn more about Rotary at RLI, 4) Attend the District Conference, 5) Join several club committees, 6) Express your opinion freely and often, 7) Brag about your new status as a Rotarian in the community and bring a guest to the meeting, 8) Do the things your club asks of you in the “fireside chat” and remove your “red badge” of new membership.  9) Aspire to join the club’s Leadership Team, and 10) My favorite….Hold club leaders to the highest standards.  Expect a lot from them.

Jot down your favorite five ideas on a piece of paper and practice saying a little something about each.  Here’s one to get you started, “Get to know the people in our club.  They are not as scary as they look from up here.  (Wait for the laugh….wait for it….wait for it….now proceed.)  You will find one of the greatest joys in Rotary is the friendships you are about to make.”  Don’t be constrained with my ten ideas, come up with eight of your own.  It’s your personal message to a new member so be as creative as you want.  The good news here is ANYTHING is better than reading the script.

Joining a Rotary club should be a momentous occasion for a new member.  It is a chance for club leaders to show off their love of Rotary and their Leadership skills.  Don’t waste this chance to wow your club members and put on a show.  But no matter what you do and how you do it, end by having all the club members stand and have the new member’s sponsor affix the new Rotary pin.  And yes…it’s OK to make a joke about drawing blood.  Everyone does!








A “Non-Scary” Rotary Club – Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle Foundation Chair, Miel Hendrickson, and President, Amer Ahmed Syud happily scheming how to increase Club’s Foundation awareness.

This week I had the opportunity to do my Foundation awareness talk as the Program for the Dupont Circle Club in Washington, DC.  President Amer and Foundation Chair Miel Hendrickson graciously met with me prior to the meeting to talk “Foundation Business.”  If you happen to be downtown on a Tuesday evening and can make it over to Bistro Bistro, you really should visit this club.

Why?  Because this is another club in the District that is breaking the traditional mold of Rotary clubs and growing a young and energetic membership.  The club was only chartered a few years ago and boasts 38 (soon to be 40) members.  As I said in my opening remarks to the club, “You guys have it all wrong.  Your average age is 25 years too young.  You have too many women in this club.  And, your dues are entirely too inexpensive” Their secret, they think, is the dues.  You only pay RI and District dues and a very small charge for….wait for it…..Happy Hour.  So no sit down dinner costs and the restaurant cuts them a great deal for the room upstairs.  Amer was bragging about having the lowest dues in the District,  but I think the Olney Club (see post in archives,”It Don’t Have to be Fancy to be Great”) might give them a run for the money.  Probably not surprisingly, both clubs are very upbeat about their growth goals.

During my visit the club was emotionally bidding goodbye to Rotarian and Paul Harris Fellow, Deb Foti, who is leaving the U.S. for opportunities overseas.  Apparently this is one of the occupational hazards of DC Rotary clubs where members tend to travel a lot.  I was floored when one of the members gave a happy dollar and praised Deb for not being “one of those scary Rotarians in the clubs we didn’t want to join.”  (Note: I did give my own Happy Dollar for all of us “scary old” Rotarians everywhere.”

It’s true that the average member of the Dupont Circle club is young.  But we all might consider if we ARE the old “scary” Rotarians in clubs these younger members don’t want to join.  How welcoming are we to young members AND THERE GUESTS?  Do we make the environment fun?  Believe me, they have a lot of fun at Dupont Circle, if for no other reason that they aren’t weighed down by a big meal.

As for Foundation business, I found myself in the unusual position of counseling club leaders that they need to diversify their membership by getting a little older so they can take advantage of the experience, contacts, and yes, deep pockets, offered by our older members.  Hey….we can be a lot of fun, too!  It was gratifying to meet passionate Rotarians making it happen with their own model for dues, fun, food, and service projects.  Check them out if you get a chance.




A Creative Membership Idea brought to you by Town Center Rotary

I visited the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club last week and saw a bunch of Rotary friends here in Columbia.  The Town Center Club is one of those stories that is, unfortunately, not unique in Rotary. This club used to be a “Who’s Who” of the most renown community leaders in town.  Over the years membership has dwindled but it looks to me like there is a determined move afoot under the leadership of Club President, Alvin Thompson, to come clawing back.  When I made-up there they were doing a Club Assembly about their upcoming Valentine’s Gala, a dinner, dance, and auction on February 8th projected to raise more than $10,000.  I got in on the 50-50 but that’s only because they put up with me at lunch.

What caught my interest was this club’s focus on corporate memberships.  This is kind of a tricky subject in Rotary right now as I found out when discussing the matter with Jennifer Deters, RI’s Manager of Membership  Development in Evanston. (That’s the Rotary “Mothership” for those who don’t know.)  Jennifer explained that Rotary is taking up the matter of having companies be members of Rotary clubs, and there is currently a Pilot of 200 clubs experimenting with the notion.  But for now, clubs can’t enroll a business as a member of their club.  The Council of Legislation will take up this matter again in their next session in 2016, which means if you are interested in this subject you should contact Pat Kasuda, our representative to the Council, or Peter Kyle, our DG, and let then know.

Here’s the interesting part.  According to both Jennifer and District Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, there is a lot of room for creativity here and clubs can implement a corporate membership program with similar benefits to having an official  corporate member.  Here’s how: 1) Approach a business about having their top executives be better represented in the community by joining your club, 2) identify three or four executives to participate in the program, 3) have the company pay a premium for dues considering you are allowing the executives to “rotate” in terms of showing up to meetings and counting for attendance, 4) remember that any executive that wants to be an official member has to at least pay RI dues and receive the Rotarian Magazine.  THE COMPANY CAN’T BE THE MEMBER.  Nevin applauds Town Center’s efforts and says clubs have a lot of latitude in being creative with how to structure their own deal with a business.  For example, a company membership might include an agreement that the company has to be a sponsor for your club’s fundraiser.  It sounds like a good deal for “all concerned.”

I dunno.  I think the Town Center Club is on to something here.  And if you felt the energy and enthusiasm in the room last week you would agree that a comeback is definitely in the making!  As I am prone to say, “Too much fun!”

Town Center Rotary
Town Center Rotarians, Front Row L- R: Lee Walz, Maurice Simkins, Sharon Waligora, John Slater, Alan Ray, Bill Cookson. Back Row L-R: Yours Truly, President Alvin Thompson, David Rodriguez, Cecil Philips



“We Do Polio”

Ethiopia pic w:cliff
Cliff shown here making the world a better place, and reminding all of us how cool it is to be a Rotarian.

Back when dinosaurs walked the earth I played drums in a variety of commercial bands. When I played in small jazz groups we always used to say to the soloists, “Man, if you can’t say it in two choruses, then you just can’t say it.”  Well, the title of  Columbia Patuxent Rotarian, Cliff Feldwick’s,  recent article in the December Business Monthly, about his recent trip to Africa to immunize children against the wild polio virus, says it all.  “We Do Polio.”  “The Lions do glasses.  Shriners do hospitals.  Rotary does polio.”  Thank you Cliff!   And you said it in a lot less than two choruses.

To read the rest of Cliff’s fantastic article about his trip to Addis Ababa in the December Business Monthly, read his article We Do Polio.

And, if you are interested in the very latest, hot off the press, statistics that prove we really are “This Close” to achieving Polio eradication, here are the numbers, courtesy of Rocky Jacobs, Zone 33 Rotary Foundation Support Team and “Guru” of all things having to do with Polio eradication:

Total in endemic countries in 2013: 148 (compared with 216 for the same period in 2012)
Total in non-endemic countries in 2013: 224 (compared with 6 for the same period in 2012)

OFFICIALLY REPORTED WILD VIRUS CASES ON January 8, 2014 in Endemic Countries: Move to 148

Afghanistan: 12 cases in 2013 (compared with 37 for the same period in 2012)
Nigeria: 51 cases in 2013 (compared with 121 for the same period in 2012)
Pakistan: 85 cases in 2013 (compared with 58 for the same period in 2012)

OFFICIALLY REPORTED WILD VIRUS CASES ON January 8, 2014 in Importation Countries remain at 224.

Kenya: 14 case in 2013 (compared with 0 for the same period in 2012)
Somalia: 183 case in 2013 (compared with 0 for the same period in 2012)
Chad: 0 case in 2013 (compared with 5 for the same period in 2012)
Ethiopia: 6 case in 2013 (compared with 0 for the same period in 2012)
Cameroon: 4 Cases in 2013 (compared with 0 for the same period in 2012)
Syrian Arab Republic: 17 Cases in 2013 (compared with 0 for the same period in 2012)

I hate to quibble with Cliff, because he is in my Rotary Club and I can tell you from experience that he is a better quibbler than I am, but Rotary actually doesn’t “do Polio.”  We do “World Peace!”  Which is a good thing because I don’t want to get out of the Rotary business once polio is eradicated.  I know.  I know.  We should manage our expectations because this project will still take several years (more than two choruses) to finish. But…it is sure going to be a proud moment for all of us when we’re done,  won’t it?


Hey…You Can Get a Deal on Another Rotary Acronym…RLI

Oh no!  Not another Rotary acronym.  Yes indeed…but try not to get too depressed. (sigh)   There’s value in this madness.

But before I get to it, let me ask you a question.  Do you think if your newest members knew a lot more about Rotary they would be more likely to become enthusiastic and productive members in your club?  Let’s face it.  There is too much to know about Rotary.  Even the old-timers in Rotary get lost with all of the different programs offered by Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.  And so do I…and I’m on the District Leadership Team.  The Rotary Foundation, the Council of Legislation, SHARE, EREY, Youth Exchange, RYLA, Future Visions, New Generations, and on and on.  What must it be like for our newest members who are probably just trying to figure out what’s the best table to sit at during club meetings.   Don’t you think that if your club members knew more about who we are and what we do that we would have stronger Rotary clubs, better membership retention, and ultimately do more good in the world?

That’s where this new acronym comes in handy.  RLI – better known as Rotary Leadership Institute – is a school for Rotarians to learn more about Rotary.  You take three all-day classes taught by highly qualified instructors and by the end of the curriculum you will know a heck of a lot more about Rotary than you do now.  I’ve taken two of the three courses and I can tell you that there is a ton of great information to be gained by making a small investment of your time.  If you are a new Rotary member, or if you are a club leader, or if you just want to learn more about our fantastic organization, you really need to check out these classes.

The current cost for Part 1 of RLI is $90.  But have I got a deal for you!  Right now District 7620 is offering a series of three mini RLI seminars for the Winter and Spring.  These sessions are Level 1 sessions which is perfect for new members.  If any one club has 4 attendees the District will pick up the cost of one of them and RLI will pick up the cost of another.  That’s a “four for the cost of two” bargain for the first four clubs that sign up for each of the three proposed seminars.  Registration is available online at

So…to review.  RLI stands for Rotary Leadership Institute.  Another Rotary acronym worth knowing.

RLI faculty
From L-R, PDG 7630/faculty Roger Harrell, George Tyson faculty District 7610, Towson Club President, Stelan Ileanu, DG 7630/faculty Dan Haughtaling, DGE 7620 Bill Fine, Marie Calafuira, Unknown, PDG/faculty 7610 Steve Cook, AG 7620/faculty Mark Milby, DGE 7630/faculty Jen Reider at Wye River RLI



Rotary New Year’s Resolution – Have More Fun!

In my Rotary travels I have often heard the following addition to the Four Way Test…”Have Fun.”  The funny thing about having fun is that, in most clubs, you have to work at it.  It is simply not good enough to say you want to have fun in Rotary.  Like most things we do you have to have a plan, recruit leaders, inform the members, and execute.  To which you might say…”Aw Come On!”  “REALLY?”  Yes….Really.  Being a long-time member of the Columbia Patuxent Club, where meetings fall somewhere between Animal House and Saturday Night Live, it is interesting to visit other clubs to see how much fun they have during their meetings.  In fact, as a PETS trainer I challenge President-Elects to bet me $20 that I would laugh out loud three times during one of their club meetings.  You would be surprised at how many offer to take the challenge.  Clearly we THINK we’re hilarious.  Unfortunately, in many cases…not so much.

So, this year Ready, Fire, Aim will share some of the best ideas about how Rotary clubs can have fun.  Having fun in Rotary is…well….fun.  But if that isn’t a good enough reason, consider the following:

In order to retain Rotary members they must feel connected to your club.  Humor is one of the best ways to connect to people and will help to make members feel “at home” at your meeting.  Nothing builds relationships better than  sharing a good laugh.

Rotary Club meetings should not be a business meeting.  Your members already attend enough business meetings.  Think of your Rotary Club meetings as putting on a show.
The show should be fast-paced, entertaining, energetic, and fun for all concerned.

It is the job of the club’s leadership to objectively look at the club’s meeting to make sure you are putting on a GREAT show for your members every week.  Remember, for the most part Rotary business should get done elsewhere.  This is a good topic for a later post.

The Sgt. at Arms is the club member in charge of fun.  If you think the job is to set up the room and call for order…..nope.  If you think that the job simply entails collecting Happy Dollars….nope.  A lot more to come in this space about Sgt. At Arms, the least understood and one of the most important positions in a Rotary club.

Finally, the best clubs have lots of opportunities for having fun outside of club meetings.  In the attached photo you will see members of the District 7620 Leadership Team practicing having fun.  The good food, laughter, story telling, libations, and general good cheer were all done strictly for the benefit of our District Rotary membership.  You know…practice, practice, practice.  After all, we need to “Walk the Walk” if we are going to stress having fun in Rotary.

Seated L-R: Member Chair, Darrell Nevin, Linda Solow, Yours Truly, Stephanie Fenner, Kathy Nevin, Trish Parkinson, Margaret Kyle. Standing L-R: DGE Bill Fine, AG Nancy Szlasa, PDG Bob Nelson, AG Mark Milby, Kathe Fine, AG Geoffrey Fenner, PDG Bob Parkinson, DG and Grand Poobah, Peter Kyle