Salaam fellow Rotarians! I am happy to report the details of our 17 June meeting. First, I wish to thank Past President David Klaus for acting as Secretary on 3 June while I was traveling as well as Anthony “Trip” Triplin and Dennis Cravedi for recording the Meeting in Review on 3 and 10 June, respectively.
 
Our 17 June meeting was eventful and started when President Jennifer Hara called us to order at 12:30 PM. She led members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and invited Peg Schoen to provide words of inspiration. Anticipating Father’s Day on Sunday, 21 June, Peg cited the advice of famed baseball player, center fielder Jimmy Piersall on how to change a diaper! Piersall instructed: “Spread the diaper in the position of the diamond with you at bat. Then fold second base down to home and set the baby on the pitcher’s mound. Put first base and third together, bring up home plate, and pin the three together. Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again.”
 
Amid chuckles at this pithy wisdom, I approached the microphone to introduce guests and Rotarians visiting from other clubs:
  • Kathryn Allen, Attorney at Answer Title and Agent at Gladsyl Insurance, Lisa McCurdy’s guest;
  • Kevin Batiste, CEO of District Sports Inc., Ken Brown’s guest;
  • Heather Brown, Executive Director of the World Youth Peace Movement, Jennifer Galloway’s guest;
  • Nicole Butler, specializing in international real estate, also Lisa McCurdy’s guest;
  • Marilyn Cruz, President of the DC Rotaract Club;
  • Shamir Dozier, Intern at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, Glen O’Gilvie’s guest;
  • Kim Hall, Chief Strategy Officer at Elevate Consulting, invited by President Jennifer Hara;
  • Darin Hart, visiting from Tennessee’s Murfreesboro Rotary Club and working in government utilities;
  • Elisabeth Harvey, Research Assistant with the Simmer Law Group, Peg Schoen’s guest;
  • Suzanne Legault, Ausra Kaminskas’ guest;
  • Rufus McDowney, Intern at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, also Glen O’Gilvie’s guest;
  • Alexander Ray, son of Sheldon Ray;
  • Kwesi Robotham, Managing Member at Liberty Roe Capital, Michael Harper’s guest;
  • Marcus Soriano, Professional Development Chair of the DC Rotaract Club;
  • Angela Tangianu, Director of the Italian Institute of Culture at the Embassy of Italy in the United States, Erminia Scarcella’s guest;
  • Andrea Ulrich, Consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank, Balraj Gupta’s and Stu Shalloway’s guest; and
  • Kaylee Wohlenhaus, Intern with the Simmer Law Group, also Peg Schoen’s guest.
We welcomed visitors from the France-USA Inter-Country Committee of Rotary International as well—Jean-Marie Poinsard, his wife Françoise and Bill Bailey, all guests of May Gwinn.
Sargent-at-Arms Buz Gorman then congratulated Rotarians blowing out the week’s birthday candles
  • Gus Gallagher on 15 June – Sponsored by Past President Jim Magee, Gus became a member of our club in 1993, and his classification is computers-multi-media.
  • Gene Massey also on 15 June – Joining our club in 1986, sponsored by Harry Clarkson, Gene’s classification is law-healthcare.
  • Joanne Marx on 17 June – Sponsored by Cynthia Schulz when she joined our club in 2005, Joanne’s classification is energy-international.
  • John McGraw also on 17 June – Becoming a member of our club in 1977, sponsored by Bill Raiford, John’s classification is investments-counsel.
President Jennifer returned to the podium along with other selected Rotarians to share club news and announce upcoming events:
  • Rotarians who need to be reimbursed for any outstanding expenses incurred during President Jennifer’s Rotary year, please submit your receipts to Gretchen Kearney.
  • President Jennifer informed everyone that next week’s lunch on 24 June will be Nobutoshi Hanai’s last meeting with our club.
  • President Elect David Treadwell reminded us that the Changing of the Guard will be on Saturday evening, 27 June. President Jennifer will pass the torch to her successor at the National Guard Association of the United States located at 1 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Please arrive at 5:30 PM if you wish to tour the National Guard Museum. The reception and program will run from 6:00 to 7:30 PM. Tickets cost $40. President Elect David hopes to see 100 people at this gathering! So RSVP for the festivities on our club’s website.
  • May Gwinn introduced her special guests—President of the French Section of the France-USA Inter-Country Committee of Rotary International, Jean-Marie Poinsard and his wife Françoise as well as Secretary Bill Bailey from the Committee’s United States Section. Enumerating the activities and events the Committee has undertaken during the last year, May presented Mr. Poinsard with the gift of a replica key to the Bastille from Mount Vernon. Mr. Poinsard thanked May and elaborated on efforts by the Committee and his home club in France to implement projects in peace making. The timing of these expressions of Franco-American friendship could not have been better as 17 June 2015 is the 130th anniversary of the arrival from France to New York City of the Statue of Liberty!
  • Shaun English welcomed teachers and students from Washington, DC’s Stanton Elementary School where he has volunteered as a tutor for five years in a Rotary program started by Don Messer. Third-grade teacher Sheryl Garner expressed deep gratitude to our club for this program, emphasizing that Rotarians’ investment of time and energy has resulted in marked improvement in the students’ math skills. Fourth-grade teacher Melissa Bryant echoed her colleague’s sentiments. Ms. Garner then gathered a select group of students to present a creative and heartfelt message of appreciation to Shaun. Lining up in a row, each student took a turn to describe the impact of Shaun’s presence in their classroom. Rotarians were impressed and deeply moved! Amid a standing ovation, the students gave Shaun a framed photo and a baseball cap from Stanton. Also attending from the school’s faculty was Crystal Dorn.
  • Before turning to our guest speaker, President Jennifer welcomed Kevin Baumb in to our club with his Red Badge.
 
Karl Bergner—Taking Stock in Germany, 25 Years After the Berlin Wall’s Fall
 
Judith Henderson introduced our speaker, Karlfried Bergner, Minister of Culture and Communications at the Embassy of Germany, who examined his country’s trajectory since the reunification of East and West 25 years ago. Modestly quipping that Germans are “not known for short, crisp and funny speeches,” he delivered an informative, thought-provoking assessment of Germany’s domestic politics and international position since the Berlin Wall fell.
 
Mr. Bergner recounted that the process of reunification was initially rough because the East lagged behind economically, prompting an investment by then Chancellor Helmut Kohl of one trillion euros. Joining Germany’s Foreign Service in 1989, he recalled that as the country began to reunify, people for a few years continued to speak “in terms of stereotypes about Easterners and Westerners.” Now, Germans describe each other much less in terms of such stereotypes and more like the way Americans from different states perceive one another; as with Californians, Floridians and New Yorkers in the United States, Germans are Bavarians, Hamburgers and Saxons.
 
Moreover, Germany has gone from being the “sick man of Europe” to the continent’s economic engine, as Mr. Bergner explained. Structural reforms implemented in 2004—unpopular at the time and costing the Social Democrats an election loss—enabled Germany to weather the 2008 financial crisis better than other countries in Europe and throughout the world. In fact, Germany has become the principal banker to debt-ridden Greece.
 
In foreign policy, Germany’s priorities remain the drive towards increasing integration of the European Union, which admitted 10 new members from the continent’s eastern and southern regions in 2007, and the maintenance of a strong Trans-Atlantic partnership. Mr. Bergner underscored Germany's gratitude to President George H.W. Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker in helping to reunify his country and to end the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
 
While stressing that Germany’s political leaders and citizens have managed reunification successfully for the most part, Mr. Bergner recognized that his country confronts internal and external challenges. Domestically, some “values” have remained divergent between East and West; for example, public opinion polling indicates that Easterners are two times more favorably inclined towards Russia than Westerners, even after the Ukraine crisis. He predicted that “it may take another generation” for East and West Germans to share core values.
 
Potentially impeding the movement towards common values is the rising tide of immigration to Germany. As Mr. Bergner noted, 13 percent of the population is now foreign born. While immigration has made Germany—and its winning World Cup soccer team!—increasingly diverse and vibrant, the integration of newcomers has been uneven. In fact, some more recent arrivals and their children are less integrated into German society than previous immigrants. These immigrants rely on satellite television channels and other media in their native languages, do not learn German and resist socializing with others outside their own communities. Mr. Bergner emphasized that Germany has sought to balance the integration of immigrants into society and the promotion of patriotism with the need and desire to avoid the corrosive nationalism of the past. Germans are “acutely aware” of their history, striving to repent for the Third Reich’s sins by creating an inclusive, democratic culture.
 
Internationally, Germany is dealing with the same challenges as many of its European neighbors and the United States—the Greek debt crisis, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the renewal of the Cold War as well as the Islamic State’s rise in the Middle East and North Africa.  Mr. Bergner asserted that these foreign policy dilemmas require assuming “shared responsibility on both sides of the Atlantic” because no country can solve these problems by itself.
 
Rotarians clearly appreciated Mr. Bergner’s presentation; he fielded several questions about topics ranging from his perceptions of the United States to Germany’s growing Jewish population. With so many wanting to ask questions, he graciously stayed long after our lunch meeting ended, engaging members in spirited conversations.
 
Adjourned Until Next Week
President Jennifer awarded our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Karl Bergner. Rotarians, meanwhile, wanted to learn who had bought the winning raffle ticket from Terrance Lovelady. When the lucky numbers were read, Stefan Alber-Glanstaetten approached the podium to claim the small pot of $47. Yet he did not draw the ace of spades from our deck of cards; so the grand prize of $1,053 will keep growing.
Our gratitude goes to Balraj Gupta and Stu Shalloway for welcoming visitors at the Hospitality Table.
On 24 June, President Jennifer will convene the fourth and final club assembly of her year in office.
She adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen—until next week!