Haleh Vaziri put down her pen as acting secretary and I reached for my keyboard after five weeks away, visiting other clubs in a warmer clime.
 
President David opened the meeting at 12:30 pm and led in the Pledge of Allegiance. 
 
I presented the Words of Inspiration with a highly-personal recollection of my son Stephen, whose birthday was today. Stephen died suddenly at age 12 on a school bus back when I was 45.  I spoke of the inspirational aspects of his life and concluded with, “Stephen never finished school, held a job, married, had children, or really owned anything.  But it was clear to everyone Stephen had already led a successful life.  I then realized things I’d been proud of in my own life did not matter much.  Stephen had shown it is character (not achievement), friends (not acquisitions), and kindness (not fame) that make a life worthwhile.”  
 
Haleh Vaziri, acting once more in my place, welcomed back Sterling Hoffman (and President David welcomed back Sharon Taylor, and Nancy Riker) after their absences for medical reasons.  Haleh also greeted the following guests:
 
Visitor
Host or Rotary Affiliation
Work
Kleo Curry
Tysons Club
Financial Advisor, UBS
Kevin Matthees
Rotary Global Grant Scholar/ David Klauss
 
Ann Teras
Chris Teras
 
George McArdle
Abe Helal
Program Examiner, OMB
Melinda Cooperman
Abe Helal
Associate Director, Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project
Nicole Butler
Abe Helal and Lisa McCurdy
Realtor, N. Gage
 
Sergeant-at-Arms Ken Kimbrough announced the birthdays of Rotarians celebrating this week:
 
  • PP David Hamod - February 28. Sponsored by Bob Chambers, David joined Washington Rotary in 1991.  He served as President 2000-01.  His classification is Consulting: International Business.
     
  • Jessica Stewart - March 4.  Sponsored by Peg Schoen, Jessica joined us in 2012.  Her classification is Government Service: International Health.
 
President David presented a blue badge to Stephen Liston.
 
Glen O’Gilvie noted the DC Duck Race fund-raiser is rapidly approaching. This will be a family-friendly event on Saturday, 30 April at The Yards Park. A spectacular entrance involving fire boats and a police escort on water will start the event.  A number of activities will provide fun for all until the climax with the actual duck race.  No, those aren’t actual ducks; it’s just an actual race!  They are basically “rubber duckies” made of the same inert materials used for kayaks; they will race in an enclosed channel; and all will be collected at the end.   President David also reminded members that buying 10 ducks gets them a hat.
 
Clara Montanez reminded us to sign up for a joint Rotary International/World Bank event on Tuesday, March 8, “Women in Rotary.” Sessions begin at 2 p.m. 
 
President David pointed out Lynn Holec, Chair of the Community Service Grants Committee, and invited members to contact her if we would like to work with the committee.   He also said the Dictionary Project needs help in two ways:  Volunteers who took more dictionaries than their schools required, need to return the extras right away—either to him at Central Union Mission, or by arrangement with Marilyn Cruz. There are not enough on hand to provide to remaining schools.  Also, the group could use more volunteers to make the final deliveries to third-grade classes.
 
PP Shaun English reported that the fund drive for the Rotary Foundation of Washington had a goal of $35,000 and as the drive winds up, it has $38,792 in donations, pledges, and “checks in the mail.” 
 
President David announced the monthly Happy Hour will be tomorrow at the University Club.
 
Matthew Ford made his New Member Talk, during which we learned he is from Australia and holds a Bachelor’s in Economics and a B.A. in Politics and German from Monash University in Melbourne.  He has one brother still in Australia and another in England.  After graduating, Matthew traveled throughout Southeast Asia before moving to Japan in 2001 to teach English and study Japanese language and culture along with traditional martial arts.  He was a Rotary World Peace Fellow at Duke University, 2005-07.  For five years he was a consultant at the World Bank, particularly with the Africa Region.  Most recently he has been a financial development consultant and program manager, and currently consults with the Global Partnership for Education.  He joined our club because of our particular perspective on U.S. issues; our constituting “family” for him here; and our opportunities for service.
 
PROGRAM
 
Judith Henderson introduced Professor Vivaldo  Andrade dos Santos to discuss the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.  To give the speaker a sense of our familiarity with his country, she started by asking how many in the audience had been to Brazil and nearly half raised their hands.  Then she asked how many had worked in Brazil and several raised their hands.  Dr. Santos is an Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University and is Director of the Portuguese program. Judith referred us to his biographical information on our website and added that she is one of his Portuguese language students.
 
 
Dr. Santos had a good news/bad news approach to Brazil’s preparation for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games, August 5-21, 2016. Although he mixed the themes during his talk, they can be divided in a summary (not direct quotes):
 
On the good-news side:
  • Construction of facilities is more than 92% complete for Barra Olympic Park (with 6 venues), and is similarly advanced for the Deodoro Olympic Park, Olympic Aquatics Stadium, and other sites. 
  • Brazil has recent experience with the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Pan American Games in 2007.
  • The people of Brazil are welcoming and warm
  • Brazilians know how to party and will show visitors a good time
  • Brazil, particularly Rio, is beautiful
  • Security will be high.  During the World Cup Brazil had 25,000 soldiers and police on Rio streets and visitors were safe.
  • One of the purposes of the games for Brazil was to provide an excuse to transform and modernize blighted areas.
 
On the bad-news side:
  • The transportation infrastructure is just not there.  Costs for necessary roads escalated ten-fold.  Massive corruption took most of the money.  There seems no way for the road work to be done.  Corruption also took much of the money spent on facilities that are actually being built.  The taxpayers have lost greatly.
  • Zika, transmitted by the same mosquitoes responsible for Dengue and Chikungunya, is a threat and may limit attendance by women who are or may become pregnant. [Note the related CDC alert from last Friday at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0226-summer-olympic-games.html.  CDC has found Zika is not only transmitted to women by bites from mosquitos present in Brazil, but also by infected males through sex.]
  • Very expensive facilities built in 2014 for the World Cup have fallen into disrepair and have no use.  The public thinks the same will be true for the Olympics. 
  • Construction and security measures displace citizens, disrupt their lives, violate human rights, and basically suspend the democratic process.  That includes the Favela Pacification Program (dealing with high-crime slums).
  • Waters of Olympic Lake, Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, and other waters for boating and swimming competitions are polluted and some say are dangerous for competitors.
 
Q&A’S
 
Q:           What is the cost-benefit ratio for Brazil?
A:            Not good.  There are many corrupt companies and some have been prosecuted, but the work is not going to get done.  As mentioned earlier, companies took the money, but did not deliver, and will not deliver, on infrastructure, mainly roads. The Olympics provide only temporary employment, not long-term.    People would rather see the money go to education and health. 
 
Q:           What are the peoples’ expectations that the Olympics might bring in more money, such as from increased exports?
A:            The people like holidays and games, but they do not see money going where it should, to education and health. The President is blocked from taking much positive action because he is blocked by Congress.  Nothing gets done.
 
Q:           Have there been advantages from Brazil’s earlier hosting of the Pan Am and World Cup games?  Are facilities being reused?
A:            Some  Olympic games are using the same sites as for the Pan Am games, but some facilities built back then were never used and hotels and facilities that were used for the World Cup have been falling apart in the past two years. They were not built where they could later be used.
 
Q:           How much of the stadium costs go to payoffs and corruption?
A:            I have no numbers. {Laughter}  For the Pan Am games, estimates of construction costs—what they should have been—went up ten-fold and basically went to corruption.
 
Q:           What is the status of the Favela Pacification?
A:            Crime and murders are down, but there are stories of police torture and of people just disappearing. In these areas there still are no schools or services.
 
Q:           At other Olympics, volunteers have been very important, greeting people at the airport, answering questions, giving guidance at strategic places.  Are they going to be used in Brazil?
A:            They tried that for the World Cup, but then there was gang warfare between volunteer groups.  Also, we all say we speak English, and there was an initiative to teach English, but very few learned. They have ways to communicate across language barriers, but not normally using English. 
Commenter:     In Sao Paulo it is dangerous to seek advice from people on the street; you do not know who is “helping.”
 
Q:           Do you have anything to say that is not depressing?
A:            Brazil is a great country.  For all its problems, the World Cup Games in Brazil were the best ever. Brazilians love to party and celebrate.  They are open and will invite you to their homes.  Rio and Sao Paulo have wonderful culture, music, and food, and they are beautiful.
Commenter:  I lived in Brazil for four years.  Just as in any city you have to avoid bad areas, but as a woman I never felt in danger and I found the Brazilian people to be warm and welcoming.
 
President David presented Dr. Santos with a certificate noting that in appreciation of his speaking today, we would plant a tree in his honor.
 
And now for the sad (for all but one of us) tale of the raffle:   Ken Kimbrough won the small pot of $65 AND the large pot of $1,371.
 
President David thanked Stu Shalloway  and Balraj Gupta for staffing the Hospitality Desk; Davis Kennedy for conducting the raffle; Darren Crew for being a Greeter;  and Secretary Mike Carmichael for writing today’s Meeting in Review.  He announced next week’s speakers will be journalists and political analysts Steve and Cokie Roberts, speaking on the 2016 national elections.
 
The meeting adjourned at 1:27 pm.