Monthly Archives: June 2014

RFA Interview With DG Peter Kyle Wins Pulitzer Prize

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Well…maybe not.  (Don’t you hate it when the Four Way Test gets in the way?)  But we are proud to report that we just landed one of the toughest interviews in Rotary, if not the world.  That’s right.  Ready, Fire, Aim readers have been wondering what happened to District Governor, Peter Kyle.  Last seen at the Rotary International Conference, Kyle had disappeared from the District 7620 radar screen for what seemed like an eternity causing huge consternation among 7620 members that the final stages of planning for his district conference may have caused some kind of permanent damage.

Not to fear.  We caught up with the slightly jet-lagged soon-to-be Immediate Past District Governor after a recent Council of Governors meeting.  While Kyle’s staff tried to negotiate the kind of softball questions he usually gets from the press, your intrepid Ready, Fire, Aim reporter did what he always does, which is get the important story.  We’ve been told that the following clip of the interview may be one of the most monumental moments in the history of journalism, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular Ready, Fire, Aim readers.  You come here for hard hitting journalism that gives a different insight into District 7620 from what we usually get from the major media.  This is the place to be if you want the real scoop.  Get ready, dear reader, because this video delivers.

As it turns out, Peter didn’t know the questions I was going to ask him prior to the interview, and I realized afterwards that he did a better job of answering the question about his last five days in office than I thought at the time while the video was rolling.  He says he is going to double our Polio giving “tomorrow,” but I was so horrified that he was actually answering the question seriously that I interrupted him.   I suppose my fear that Peter actually had major plans for his last five days in office says it all.  OK, perhaps the Pulitzer is out of the question, but we can all acknowledge that under the leadership of DG Kyle we REALLY HAVE had a very successful year.  And yes, dear RFA readers, it WASN’T due to his accent…or his hair.  In fact, the list of accomplishments in our Rotary District this year is long and the positive changes that were made are important and hopefully long-lasting.

This is my thank you to DG Peter Kyle for everything he has done for District 7620 this year.  And especially for putting up with my nonsense.  Oh, and if you want to know the level of respect that Peter gets around here, the videographer for this piece of fun is our own DGE, and soon to be DG, Mr. Bill Fine.  We are VERY lucky to have these guys working in our behalf.

If you recall the evening with our RI Rep, Bill Boyd, at our District Conference, you might remember that he urged us to be humble in our Rotary life.  A DG who can laugh at himself like Peter and be part of the fun is someone who has taken that lesson to heart.  Let’s all try to do the same.  More fun, everyone!  More fun!!

 

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Meet Gabriela Rodrigues – Rotary Youth Exchange Student

 

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(Authors Note:  Here is Part II of our tribute to Internationalism and Brazil, home of this year’s World Cup, next year’s Rotary International Conference, and as you will see, home to Rotary Exchange student, Gabi Rodrigues.)

The Rotarians that host youth exchange students always say it’s easy.  Apparently a vibrant, enthusiastic, and motivated teen moves into your home for several months where everything you say is a pearl of wisdom to them.  In this vision of communicating our many worldly experiences,  the teen from a foreign land sits with rapt attention and soaks up the vibrant dinner table conversation that occurs nightly at your home.  They listen to every word, eager to learn  the secrets of being an American, from you, the expert on the subject.

My problem with this is that my own experience in dealing with teens is somewhat different.  As I recall, my own teenagers communicated with monosyllabic grunts and rarely spoke more than two or three words at a time.  The longest sentence that I remember was, “I’ll be back later.”  Or maybe it was, “I’ll do my homework later.”  Either way it had something to do with “later.”  I don’t recall making eye contact with either of my kids from the ages of 15 to 17.  And, the dinner table conversation around here is not likely to be about world peace.  So my fear of hosting a youth exchange student has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with the fact that in my experience, teens are not overly interested in what I have to say.  And the thought of hosting one that is so clearly more mature than I am is, frankly, intimidating.

However, having met Gabby Rodrigues, I am reconsidering.  What an absolutely delightful young lady.  (Thanks to DGE, Bill Fine, who provided us with the following introduction)

Gabriela Vitoria Rodrigues Pereira (Gabi) is a 17 year old Rotary Exchange Student from Avare, Brazil. Gabi attended and graduated from Broadneck High School in Arnold, MD.  Gabi was one of 600 applicants for 25 exchange slots from Brazil last year. She finished the several months of testing and interviews # 6 out of 600 and was thrilled to be able to select the US as her destination.

Gabi is the first Rotary Exchange Student to actually graduate and earn a Maryland International Certificate. This is no small feat considering her English was not great when she arrived last August and had to take Senior English to get her certificate. Gabi attained the highest grade in her senior English class.

In Avare, Gabi volunteers in two different nursing homes, helping the elderly. She also taught a class of 25 students Biology, Physics, and other subjects in an after school tutoring session. She is an amazing well-rounded young lady with a true heart for service. She attends her home Rotary club of Itai on a regular basis when home and is dedicating her life to helping others. She will undoubtedly go far in Rotary and in life.

Her three host families live in Arnold and all who met her have had their lives enriched.

Obrigado, Gabi

Much more on Rotary Youth Exchange in future RFA’s.  If you didn’t get to meet Abby and her fellow exchange student from Argentina, Gabriel Garcia,  this time around, hopefully you can host one yourself in the future.

Thank you, Bill.  And thank you, Gabi.  I close with Gabi’s completely unsolicited promo for RFA.  She is/was terrific!

 

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Rotary and World Cup Soccer

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It occurs to me that all over the world Rotarians are going crazy for their teams during the World Cup.  But in the U.S., for the most part, not so much.

For my part, my daughter was a pretty good soccer player and my wife and I spent plenty of time taking her to travel soccer games and generally learning the game through the lens of watching young women playing club soccer.  I spent many years yelling from the sidelines begging them not to all stand in the same place.  And yes, we still have the van, although as empty nesters we really don’t need it.

With Carly being home for the summer, the battle for the TV is already heating up.  I want to watch my beloved baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, along with the PGA tour, and she wants to watch World Cup soccer.  Here is a conundrum for any American sports fan.  How can we be totally entranced by watching a baseball game that can easily last three hours with a score of 2 -1 and then complain that soccer is boring?  I mean, watching baseball and golf on TV has to be the most stultifyingly boring sports spectacle on the planet (well…maybe curling is on the list?).  And for American football fans, here’s a fun fact:  according to several studies, watching pro football is really an exercise in watching about 11 minutes of actual action.  11 minutes!!!  The rest of the time is spent on huddles, commercials, and other time outs.  Yet, despite my daughter’s involvement in the game, and the fact that there is non-stop action in soccer, I still find it boring.

Since we are approaching the the last two weeks of the Rotary year and still have time to try to meet our Foundation giving goals, and since I’ve been hearing for months about “how we just want to fund local projects,”  and since soccer (Futbol?) seems to be one of those cultural divides that is hard to explain (kind of like my inability to learn a foreign language or understand the metric system), I’ve decided to take this opportunity to REALLY TRY to get into soccer during this World Cup.  I promise to not scream at the players who act like babies and are always “taking a dive” and faking like they are hurt.  And I promise not to make fun of the announcers.  And I promise to be infatuated with the nuances of the game even though no team has scored for three straight periods.  ( I have to admit that the commercials during World Cup soccer are VERY cool.  They are all about….soccer.)

Rotary IS international, and for the next few weeks the entire world will be focused on what is happening on the soccer pitches in Brazil.  As Rotarians, I like to say that we are warriors for world peace.  For a couple of weeks, I figure I can do this small thing to plug into a world outside of the U.S.  The OTHER thing I can do is write a check to the Rotary Foundation.

Come on U.S. Rotarians…we can do this.  Here’s a great way to start.  For all of us U.S. sports fans who know about NBA star, Kyrie Irving’s, basketball videos where he plays “Uncle Drew,” an old man who shows up to play street basketball and amazes the kids, I thought I would share the soccer equivalent.  Take a look at soccer freestyle champion, Sean Garnier, doing the same thing.  You won’t believe this.  (Oh, for the rest of you NBA fans, go to YouTube and search for “Uncle Drew.”)

Update:  I tried to watch Columbia versus Greece today and fell asleep 5 minutes into the match.  Then went to Camden Yards where the Orioles beat Toronto 3-2 in a game that lasted over 3 hours.  The baseball game was riveting.

Further Update:  U.S. beats Ghana!  U.S. beats Ghana!

 

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South County Rotary… All They’re “Quacked Up” To Be

 

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If you know that this winning duck is dressed up like a character from a TV show called Duck Dynasty, AND you know the name of the character, then you might be a redneck.

Please do not blame me for the title of today’s RFA.  That dubious honor goes to Rotarian, Cort Vitty, a proud member of the Rotary Club of South Anne Arundel County, who obviously has a questionable sense of humor.  (I was helpless in the grasp of this startling display of wit.)  The “quack” in the title comes from the club’s recent successful fundraiser, called Quacks for Backpacks. This unique fundraiser involves getting businesses and residents to sponsor plastic ducks that “race” according to the wind and the tide where the winner is determined by pure luck.  One race featured 43 ducks sponsored by local businesses at $200 per duck.  And the children’s race had 175 ducks at $10 each.  The net result?  They raised $12,000 and more than 200 people attended the event and had a great time (see pix below).  Yup… some folks in town might have learned a thing or two about Rotary in the middle of all that fun.  

However, the real winners are AA county school children because 100% of the proceeds of the race go to the club’s Bountiful Backpack Project, where children in need get a backpack stuffed with food to sustain them for the weekend.  Club members shop for and buy the food and then work with the schools to distribute the backpacks to the kids every week.   AWESOME.  Word is that this might be their “Rotary Day” event for next year.

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All together now….Awwwwwwwwwww, that’s so cute!

But your intrepid RFA reporter didn’t attend to learn about duck races.   I earned my free breakfast by doing my Rotary Foundation song and dance as the club program.  Once again I was in danger of “talking past the sale.”  Why? Because on a per cap basis the South Anne Arundel club is THE most generous club in District 7620 .  This year the club’s per cap giving number is over $450 per head!  It was gratifying to hear from Club President, Chris Asher, that our meeting with the Board after the club meeting was productive  and the best practices we reviewed about District Foundation giving ideas will help South County to sustain their Rotary Foundation giving in the future.

What else?  The club is well managed.  You can see it from the number of projects they are involved with both locally and internationally.  You can see it from the boards they hang on the wall showing their progress towards meeting various goals.  A strong hint might be winning the Gold Club Award from District 7620 AND the RI Presidential Citation, WITH DISTINCTION.  And you can also tell by talking with the club’s leadership.  They have that air of confidence that comes from leading clubs that have a pretty good handle on how to go about their business of doing good in the world.  The club is very active in the District scholarship program.  Several members serve on the District’s PR committee (special shout out here to Katie Blyth.)  And last, but certainly not least, this club is the home of venerable, esteemed, and sometimes feared, Area Governor, Larry Leahy.  All I can say is that there is a pretty good chance that Larry is typically behind the scenes giving high quality guidance to club leaders.

Next stop for this club?  You guessed it.  MORE MEMBERS.  A club this good should be twice the size.  What goes on here is just too good to keep it a secret.

If you are in the vicinity of the Killarney House Restaurant in AA County on a Thursday morning and you could use a make up, stop by for breakfast.  They pass my laughter and volume test.

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Club President, Chris Asher, doing the announcing
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Yours Truly addressing the troops
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L-R: AG Larry Leahy, Cort Vitty, Robin Hatfield, Yours Truly, President Chris Asher, PE Joe Van Dueren, John May, Lee Derrick

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Welcome to District 6720

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Or…how to get a compelling, gripping, riveting, and Pulitzer Prize winning blog post out of a printing error.

On Friday morning, at our “meeting after the meeting,” which is a somewhat sacred time after our Rotary meeting where guys (yes….almost always guys.  It’s not that the ladies aren’t invited, its just that once they find out that the conversation isn’t productive or interesting, they seem to move on) get together to chat about everything and nothing. Doug Dribben, an attorney and well-known pain in the butt for details (yes but what the heck…he IS an attorney) asked me, “Ken, what is the number of our Rotary District?”  After being told our District number is 7620, he mentioned to me that the shirt I’ve been proudly wearing for about two months proclaimed that I will be District Governor in 2015-2016 of District 6720.  Knowing Doug, I stated that he was full of ….of…..hooey.  (As an aside….who really thinks about the fact that when spelling “pain in the butt, “butt” is spelled with a double “t”?  It just doesn’t seem right to me, although butt in this case is short for buttocks.  But as usual, I digress.)

But (one “t”) when others said that the shirt had the wrong number, I realized that for the past two months I’ve been proudly wearing a shirt for District 6720, which according to my research, does not even exist in Rotary.  AUTHORS NOTE:  If there really IS a District 6720 I hereby offer my profound apologies.  Please remember that this is just show-biz.

Thank you Doug for catching this error as I would have probably worn this shirt for two more years totally oblivious that it had the wrong District number.  And thank you, Cyndi Doragh, who is in my DGN class, for so graciously offering to fix this problem.  It’s going to cost me $35 because given this opportunity I want to not only replace my blue shirt but also order another shirt in the color of Garnet.  And yes, colors are not a “guy thing” and if it was up to me I would say it was “red”, but I’m a guy and what do I know?

Before I send my shirt back to Cyndi, I thought I would take this opportunity to imagine what it would be like in this new and imaginary Rotary District.   (Special shout out here to Rotarian, Roy Felipe, who says that as an awesomely powerful District governor I should use my incredible DG powers to keep the shirt and declare our District to be District 6720 for my year.)  And…if you, dear Ready, Fire, Aim, reader, are wondering why your indefatigable RFA host is fantasizing about a Rotary District instead of more pleasant topics, please know that I’m wondering the same thing.  When did my life go so terribly wrong that I’m fantasizing about Rotary?  I dunno.  But I can tell you one thing.  District 6720 is a HAPPENING PLACE.  Here’s a few highlights:

District 6720 just established a “venue committee” to help clubs find new and larger places to meet.  This is needed because every club in District 6720 has a 6-month or longer waiting list for new members and they need additional space for club meetings.

District 6720 has four corporate sponsors paying $50,000 each per year for the privilege of co-branding with the District.  They really don’t care where their money goes as long as they get to say they partner with Rotary.  I’m not sure how this money is spent in District 6720 because even in my fantasy I can’t imagine such an amazing group of sponsors.

District 6720’s District Conference is sold out for the next three years.  Rotarians stampede for tickets and the stub hub cost for two tickets to the 2016-2017 conference is 200% of face value.  Oh…Garth Brooks is booked to play the Conference next year.

District 6720 Rotarians are so generous that they invest money for three years and then send the money back to the Rotary Foundation in what they call the District 6720 SHARE program.

District 6720 has 23 highly qualified candidates for District Governor.  Each one is supported by PAC money and District 6720 Rotarians are tired of watching their ads on TV.

HBO, Showtime, and CNN are all covering District 6720 as either a reality TV show, a made for cable movie, or straight news.  Ratings are through the roof.

Alright….enough is enough.  But there is a method to this madness.  We always say that the amount of  good you can do in Rotary is only limited by the imagination, or lack of imagination, of the members of your Rotary club.  Try this exercise and have some fun thinking about your Rotary club.  What is your club doing differently in your fun and imaginary world?  You may find that a few ideas that start out as a joke become the basis for a strategic vision for your club.  Why not?

As always….too much fun.

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Where Rotary Succeeds and Foreign Aid Fails

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I hate to get all geeky on you, but it turns out that income inequality between rich and poor nations is one of the hottest topics you can find nowadays among economists and politicians, and the publication of Thomas Piketty’s book, Income in the 21rst Century, has ignited an outpouring of thoughtful discussion about income inequality within countries and between nations.  As Rotarians, dealing with issues of poverty and economic development fall well within our six areas of focus for the Rotary Foundation, with economic development being a separate focus on its own.  (Micro-lending being the most prominent programs in the category.)  How to help poor and developing nations is part of our DNA as Rotarians and how we go about getting the job done is an integral part of the work we do through the Rotary Foundation.

In another recent book on the subject, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, author Angus Deaton, takes on the same subject.  In a recent review of the book, Michael Edesess, mathematician, economist, and all around really smart guy, had this to say about the final chapter of Deaton’s book which is quite critical of foreign aid programs:

“In his final chapter, Deaton launches a devastating blast against international aid programs intended to lift people in less-developed countries out of poverty. These programs, Deaton claims, prop up bad governments and make donors feel good but do less than nothing for the poor of those countries. The funds donated, he points out, are fungible – so when they go to governments, or even to non-government organizations, there’s no way to guarantee that funds intended for clinics or food relief do not wind up being redirected, for example, to weaponry. Deaton says there have been cases where donor funds have ended up supporting murderous militias.

The autocratic governments of the poorest countries have incentives to keep their countries poor, so as to keep the donations – which are generally directed through the countries’ governments – coming. Deaton recounts one of the worst cases, in which “government officials in Sierra Leone held a party to celebrate the fact that UNDP [United Nations Development Program] had, once again, classed their country as the worst in the world and thus guaranteed another year’s worth of aid.”

Deaton gets into specifics about what kinds of programs are good for developing countries and which are not. In the area of healthcare, many of these countries have high infant-mortality rates similar to those of the rich world before the germ theory revolution led to public sanitation and the near-eradication of infectious disease.

Nevertheless, aid assistance for health care clinics and public-health programs does not always work. It is subject to the same fungibility issues and can rob local government-sponsored health-care systems of their limited supply of productive workers who may find amenities or compensation more attractive at the aid-sponsored facilities, thus undermining any existing nascent local government effort.

Deaton says that the few things that can work include vertical health programs, run by an agency such as UNICEF as well as some private philanthropies like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These are single-disease programs to “helicopter in” a specific targeted solution for a specific disease – for example, vaccination programs for polio or mosquito control for malaria.”

Folks, in case you missed it, the “vertical health program” referenced in the last paragraph is all about Rotary’s Polio Plus program and our Polio Eradication partners.  Perhaps more importantly, the model we use to fund and execute our humanitarian programs may be endlessly frustrating to us, but compared to the programs described above, what we do is amazingly effective.  We don’t just give funds to governments.  Instead we partner with other Rotary clubs in developing countries where the aid goes directly (hopefully) to where it is supposed to go.  And yes, the model we use to fund these humanitarian programs is the SHARE program where our District 7620 Rotarians determine which of the six areas of focus will get funded.  And yes, when working with Rotarians in other countries there are cultural issues about what constitutes fair business practices that can be frustrating for US Rotarians.  And yes, despite all of the hassles with making sure the partnering District is on board with the project, the other club is MOU trained, and the global grant is approved, we usually end up pretty close to the target in terms of getting something meaningful accomplished.

At the end of the day, your contributions to the Rotary Foundation are part of an amazing effort that is one of the very best models for trying to achieve world peace through humanitarian service.  I hope you are as proud of what we do as I am.

We have ONE MONTH left in this year to give to our Foundation.  PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY!

The Great Escape

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