Salaam fellow Rotarians! I am happy to detail what transpired during our 19 November meeting —our annual gathering with the Washington, DC Kiwanis Club, a tradition going back more than 40 years.

 

President Jennifer Hara called Rotarians and Kiwanians to order shortly after 12:30 PM, as member of both clubs streamed into the dining room. After leading U.S. citizens in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, she called on John Jackson to deliver words of inspiration. John offered loving memories of his father Pastor Algernon Jackson who would have been 104 years old now but left this world in 2001. Immortalizing his father’s wit and wisdom in the biography, The Life of Rev. A.W. Jackson: A Pastor’s Heart, Shepherd of the Flock (Washington, DC: Eleuthera Publications, 2013), John recounted three anecdotes. My personal favorite was how John’s father defined the word “retirement.” For Pastor Jackson, retirement did not mean leaving work to rest and become idle. Instead, the pastor dissected the word, “re-tire,” as in to put a new set of tires on a vehicle—to drive it further!

I then welcomed our guests and Rotarians from other clubs joining us and our Kiwanian friends for lunch:

  • Najla Drooby, invited by Heather Jaffan;
  • Omnia El Hakim, Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University,  and Assistant Professor Maha El Hakim, both Abe Helal’s guests;
  • Diego Grajales, accompanying his father Guillermo;
  • Troy Massey and David Pearce, both with Pulcra Chemicals, invited by Dr. Sam Hancock;
  • Patricia McLamb, President of TVO Net, Max Salas’ guest;
  • Marilyn Cruz, President of the DC Rotaract Club, and Rotaractors Levi Leatherberry and Marcus Soriano;
  • Dave Manning, an accountant from North Dakota’s Fargo-Morehead AM Rotary Club; and
  • Vera Otankova and Tomas Sedlacek, visiting from the Brno City Rotary Club in the Czech Republic.

For the second week in a row, Sargent-at-Arms Buz Gorman had no birthdays to announce. So President Jennifer moved forward with announcements of upcoming events and club news. She asked Hal Vaughn to give us an update on the activities of the Special Fundraising Committee which he co-chairs. Hal indicated that the committee continues to mull over ideas for the special fund raiser to take place in 2015. He asked Rotarians to stay tuned for news of the committee’s next meeting which will soon take place at his home.

President Jennifer then invited to the microphone Prospective Rotarian Alicia Fougere who works at The Washington Center on a pilot project called the Mexico 100 Program and, in that capacity, requested our assistance. The Washington Center hosts Mexican interns for a semester of experiential learning about civil society and social challenges. The program has been so successful that Mexico’s government has asked to place an additional 25 interns, and Alicia is thus seeking to identify organizations that are willing to host these students. Because time is tight—she has one week to find hosting sites for these 25—Alicia appealed to anyone interested in helping to contact her: tel., 202-238-7984; em., Mexico100@twc.edu.

As Alicia took her seat, Carl Reddel came to the podium to deliver his Not-so-new Member Talk. He recalled his career as an expert on Russia working for the U.S. Air Force Academy to lead teams inside the Soviet Union to help dismantle the country’s nuclear arsenal during Mikhail Gorbachev’s presidency. There, Carl was asked to be a guest speaker at a local Rotary Club by someone who—as luck would happen—turned out to be a senior member of Rotary International. His commitment to service has continued throughout his career as he now works to honor “the most international of American presidents” and the only one to have served during both World Wars I and II. Carl is the Executive Director of the Eisenhower Memorial Foundation, a job he loves and enjoyed sharing with us.

From a longstanding Rotarian to a new Kiwanian, Nell Lennon introduced herself and her non-profit organization to all of us. Nell heads the News Literacy Project (NLP) which she established in 2008 to train students in middle and high schools to become better consumers and producers of news and information. Through partnerships with news organizations and journalists, the NLP fosters critical thinking, enabling students to differentiate between fact and opinion. Nell concluded by thanking the Kiwanis Club’s leadership for giving her various opportunities to highlight her organization’s work.

Mary McClymont—President of the Public Welfare Foundation, Closing the “Justice Gap” 

President Jennifer invited Ed O’Brien to introduce our guest speaker, attorney and President of the Public Welfare Foundation Mary McClymont. Ed spoke admiringly of Ms. McClymont whom he met as a student in his “Street Law” class at Georgetown University Law School, emphasizing that she has gone on to pursue a legal career in service of those often marginalized in and by society.

As Ms. McClymont asserted, the Public Welfare Foundation’s mission and her goal is to address the “justice gap”—the “utter lack of legal help” available to address the civil needs and rights of poor people. Contrary to the conventional wisdom and to popular depictions of the American legal system, lawyers are not promised to indigents unless “serious” criminal charges are involved. Consequently, those most in need of representation have no legal redress—a woman fleeing spousal abuse, a military veteran denied his benefits or a homeowner confronting a wrongful foreclosure. 

Established 67 years ago, the Public Welfare Foundation has sought to remedy this problem by shedding light on it and by providing “civil-legal aid” to those who may otherwise be deprived of due process under the law. Besides offering pro bono legal representation when feasible, Ms. McClymont noted that the Foundation educates those involved in legal action through clinics, makes necessary forms more easily accessible online than through the courts’ bureaucracy and forges partnerships with other professional groups to address issues at the intersection of different disciplines and sectors.

As the Public Welfare Foundation’s president, Ms. McClymont is striving to make the civil needs and rights of poor people visible to society at large and to create new allies and tools in the effort to obtain due process for clients. Despite the often dire situation of the Foundation’s clients and the difficulty of raising funds to address their legal concerns, she struck an optimistic tone about the “great opportunities” which lie ahead.

Ms. McClymont’s commitment to the objective of universalizing justice impressed Rotarians and Kiwanians, as did the depth and breadth of her legal knowledge. She succinctly answered questions about such issues as the incarceration rate in the United States, sources of funding for civil-legal aid and tools available to help military veterans secure their benefits.

Adjourned Until Next Week

After President Jennifer presented our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Mary McClymont, she explained that the Washington, DC Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs have a tradition of exchanging gifts. She presented Kiwanis President Serena Bell with a “Trees for the Capital” certificate. In turn, President-elect April Gessler announced that the Kiwanis would honor our club and the Public Welfare Foundation’s years of legal service by ensuring the immunizations of 67 women against maternal tetanus in conjunction with The Eliminate Project.*

As our meeting came to a close, Rotarians and Kiwanians awaited news of our raffle ticket drawing for a pot of $85. When the winning numbers were announced, a soft but surprised voice declared, “That’s me!” Dr. Laura Khor emerged from the back of the dining room to claim her prize.

On 26 November, we will hear from guest speaker Dr. Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen! I have scheduled a break for my writing hand next week, but I will return to a screen near you in December. So from my secretarial perch, I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving! J

* Information on Kiwanis International’s support for The Eliminate Project is available at http://sites.kiwanis.org/Kiwanis/en/theELIMINATEproject/home.aspx.