I am delighted to detail what happened at our 10 September gathering—especially after Valentin Solis picked up the pen last week to give my writing hand a respite.


At 12:30 PM, President Jennifer Hara called the meeting to order, leading members in the Pledge of Allegiance. She invited Kenneth Brown to offer words of inspiration. Ken read a quotation from Helen Keller who lost her sight and hearing as an infant due to illness yet emerged as a world-renowned author and activist: “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” 

I then introduced visitors as we welcomed guests and Rotarians from other clubs joining us for lunch:

  • Massoud Ahmed from Pakistan’s Karachi Rotary Club and Asif Bhally’s distinguished father;                                                                                                              
  • Tyisha Cottman, Vice President at the Bank of Georgetown and Abe Helal’s and Lisa McCurdy’s guest;
  • Omnia El Hakim, professor emeritus and Peter Kyle’s guest;                                                                                                                            
  • Diego Grajales—seriously, why not just join?—guest and son* of Guillermo;
  • Juanita Hardy, Executive Director of CulturalDC who addressed our club as a speaker last year, and Abe Helal’s guest;                                                                                                                              
  • Larry Jarvik, President of This For Diplomats and Marjorie Scott’s guest;
  • Peter Kyle, immediate Past Governor of District 7620 to which our club belongs;
  • Peter Larson, Executive Vice President of Transwestern and Abe Helal’s guest;
  • Jonathon Lucas, President of Virginia’s Alexandria West Rotary Club;
  • Irasema Salcido, CEO and founder of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Gretchen Kearney’s guest;
  • Eric Sjoberg, an engineer delivering a banner from Sweden’s Gothenburg Kungsporten Rotary Club;
  • Harvey Sloane, former Director of the DC Department of Health and previously Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, invited by Johnny Allem;
  • Eric Strachan;
  • Roger Tabor, an investment advisor bringing a banner from Nevada’s Las Vegas Fremont Rotary Club; and
  • Alessia Thiebaud, Rotary Global Grants Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University from Italy’s North Bologna Rotary Club.

*Apologies from your humble secretary: In previous editions of the Meeting in Review, I have mistakenly referred to Diego Grajales as Guillermo’s brother.

As applause for our guests faded, President Jennifer asked Sargent-at-Arms Buz Gorman to congratulate Rotarians celebrating birthdays this week. Good wishes go to:

  • Balraj Gupta on 10 September - Sponsored by Jim Magee when he joined our club in 1992, Hospitality Committee Chairman Balraj works in the field of information technology.
  • Peggy Garrett on 11 September - Sponsored by Robert Chambers when she too joined our club in 1992, Walter Reed Bingo Co-Chair Peggy is a psychiatrist.
  • Violet Habwe on 12 September - Sponsored by Clara Montanez when she joined our club in 2009, Violet is a nephrologist.

President Jennifer returned to the podium to report that the Rotary Club of Tumut in New South Wales, Australia toasted our club last week. The Tumut club has a charming ritual of each week inviting a different member to make a toast to another Rotary Club of her/his choice.  Steven Jenkins, a graduate student in Washington, DC in 1996, shared his fond memories of our club while proposing a toast to us. Cheers back to you, Steven, and to all Tumut Rotarians!

Before welcoming our guest speaker, President Jennifer also made three brief announcements about upcoming activities:

  • Walter Reed Bingo will be held on Thursday, 18 September. Set-up is at 5:30 PM, and the games begin at 6:00. Please preregister by 5:00 PM on Monday, 15 September with Shelly Williams or on our club’s website.
  • Movie Night is on Thursday,11 September at the Landmark E Street Cinema on 555 11th Street, NW. Please meet Ed O’Brien and May Gwinn there at 6:30 PM to buy tickets for the 7:10 showing of The Trip to Italy. (Please note that this activity has already taken place.)
  • The International Service Committee will convene immediately after today’s lunch. (Please note that this activity has already taken place.)

Muriel Bowser—Fifth-generation Washingtonian Vies for the City’s Top Job

Davis Kennedy introduced our guest speaker DC Democratic mayoral candidate and City Council member Muriel Bowser, noting that his Current newspapers did not endorse her the first time she ran for the Democratic nomination to represent Ward 4 in 2007 but has consistently supported her in every election campaign since then.

After thanking Davis, Ms. Bowser quipped that he has a “chance to redeem himself” for missing that first endorsement by backing her in the mayoral race. A fifth-generation Washingtonian, her passion to improve life for DC’s residents and visitors was palpable as she explained why she is running in the mayoral election and what her vision for the city entails. She recalled a time some 25 years ago when the city was financially on the ropes, run by corrupt local officials, designated the country’s murder capital and the target of jokes and sharp criticism. She credited successive mayoral administrations for bringing DC back from the edge and working to create a premier city. She also emphasized the progress made in Ward 4 during her tenure as its representative—lower crime rates, improved schools, increased public spaces for recreation and a growing variety of restaurants and shops resulting in more jobs for her constituents.

Highlighting her track record, Ms. Bowser underscored her role in spearheading ethics reform and ensuring the delivery of reliably high-quality services to the city’s residents. She believes that these aspects of her record distinguished her from other candidates in last spring’s Democratic primary, leading to her double-digit defeat of incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray. Seeking a similar mandate in the election against independent mayoral candidate David Catania, Ms. Bowser asked for Rotarians’ votes in November

Davis then engaged the candidate in a rapid-fire question-and-answer session covering a range of issues which he selected and Rotarians proposed. Among the questions: How would she address the state of the District’s public schools? What solutions does she propose for homelessness? How would she ensure that contracts with the city are vetted through an ethical process? What are her budget priorities for the city? How would she improve DC’s foster care system? What measures are needed to restore public trust in the District’s fire and emergency medical services? Ms. Bowser’s responses to these and other questions were thoughtful and focused as she stressed the constructive role an efficient and ethical government can play in citizens’ lives.

Rotarians clearly appreciated Ms. Bowser’s commitment to DC, giving her a heartfelt standing ovation. Having heard from David Catania at our 3 September meeting, those of us living in the District now have first-hand information to consider before casting our ballots on 4 November.

Adjourned Until Next Week

As President Jennifer awarded our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Muriel Bowser, Rotarians waited to learn who purchased the winning raffle ticket from Judith Henderson. With the suspense building for the raffle, President Jennifer remembered a piece of good news which prompted rousing applause: Earlier this month, Maria-Nelly Pavisich became a citizen of the United States—congratulations!

Then Ms. Bowser drew the lucky raffle ticket from the basket, and Helen Moore exclaimed, “That’s me!” She took home the small pot of $51, but the ace of spades eluded her. So the large pot of $857 will continue to grow.

Thank you to Stu Shalloway for welcoming visitors at the Hospitality Table.

On 17 September, our speaker will be Dr. Laura Khor, an expert in counterterrorism and deradicalization in Southeast Asia.

President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen—until next week!