Meeting in Review: July 10, 2013
At 12:30, President Shaun called the meeting to order, asked for the silencing of cell phones, and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Kathy Ward gave the words of inspiration, reading a prayer in recognition of the loss of the lives of 19 firefighters in Arizona.
Secretary Tim Hurd introduced the guests of Rotarians: Larry Pressler of Pressler Law, guest of Tim Hurd and a prospective member; Alicia Prevost of American University, guest of Nancy Riker; Colin Xu of the Allen and Overy firm, guest of Steve Adkins; Betsy Ray, Program Associate at the Osgood Center, a guest of Shelly Williams; Brian Julius, President, Books of Hope, guest of Mark Wilson; Bill Busker, President, The WSB Company and guest of Sam Hancock.
One International Rotarian was in attendance: Glen Fukushima of Tokyo, Japan, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Sergeant at Arms David Treadwell announced the birthdays:
Marco Stilli - July 8
Marco joined our club in 2008, and was sponsored by Oscar Bartoli. His classification is Real Estate: Consulting.
Gerry Murphy - July 10
Past President (2002-03) Gerry was sponsored by Mike Murphy when he joined in 1973. His classification is Associations: Auto Dealers.
President Shaun announced the receipt of a donation from Mr. And Mrs. Richard Meyer, in honor of the birthdays of Paula Delo and Lenore Jacobs. He reminded everyone of the District-wide Polio Plus Washington Nationals game fundraiser on July 20. He issued a Save the Date for DCPS Beautification Day, Saturday, August 24 from 9 am to 1 pm. We will be working at Stanton Elementary School under the direction of Past President Howard Davis.
President Shaun presented Red Badges to new members Andy Koval and Shelton Williams, and gave Yoshiko Urakawa her new Blue Badge. He then gave Paul Harris Fellow recognition to Susan Pausky.
Haleh Vaziri introduced our speaker, Robert Lieber, Georgetown Professor and author of “Power and Willpower in the American Future: Why the US is Not Destined to Decline”.
Professor Lieber began by reminding everyone that although he has lived in Washington for 30 years, he is originally from Chicago and welcomes direct or even confrontational questions. It turned out that we were all too polite to accept his challenge to combat, but the questions reflected great interest and thoughtfulness about what Professor Lieber had to say.
Though there is much talk about America’s Decline – the phrase brings up 143 million Google hits – Professor Liebert believes that it’s mostly exaggerated, even hyperbolic, and indeed cyclical. He had a Henry Kissinger quote from 1961 bemoaning US failures. He joked that although Superman gave up his US citizenship last year, it is believed that Clark Kent has retained his. He pointed to the panic over Sputnik in 1957 and the misplaced confidence of those who predicted Japanese dominance.
Saying that there is too much emphasis on short term problems -- national finance, two wars in the Middle East, unemployment and entitlement spending, Professor Lieber gave a long catalog of how America’s power and wealth remain far ahead of other world competitors. With facts and figures, he detailed our enormous economy, unparalleled military might, and unequalled higher educational system.
Cautioning that his book title uses the words “not destined to” rather than “will not” decline, Professor Lieber did admit there are some major issues looming. Among them: health care reform, tax reform, immigration, general litigiousness, and political polarization. But America has always had difficult problems and has shown great resilience in dealing with them. He closed with a Winston Churchill quote to the effect that America can always be trusted to do the right thing, after it has exhausted all the alternatives.
In the question and answer session, Professor Lieber displayed a truly awesome command of examples and statistics. Scribbling notes as the question was posed, he’d respond with four decimal places from a census in an article he read last week, or a two point counter example from someone’s recent book. He reassured us about the fickle investment of multinational corporations, cast light on China’s weaknesses, and pronounced fears about infrastructure overrated. Biggest problem? Entitlement reform. We need to do something about political demagoguery and over regulation as well, he said. In a sort of grand finale of question-answering as the time drew to a close, he took three questions at once, and batted them out of the park one by one.
President Shaun presented the tree certificate to Professor Lieber, and called for the raffle bucket. Jim Lanning won the $58 small pot, but the $834 large pot eluded him.
The raffle was managed by Buz Gorman. The Hospitality table was staffed by Stu Shalloway and Ted Hamady. The greeters were Patricia Bueno Abdala, Ken Kimbrough and Josette Conell. Lenore Jacobs managed the book sales.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.