Salaam fellow Rotarians!

I am pleased to share the details of our 17 September gathering.

President Jennifer Hara called our meeting to order at 12:30 PM, asking members to join her in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She then invited Ed O’Brien to offer us inspiration as he commemorated legendary writer James Baldwin’s life. Ed shared three quotes to “give us a flavor of the man.” About the United States, Baldwin declared, “I love America more than any other country in the world and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her.” Regarding change, he asserted, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Most profoundly, Baldwin proclaimed, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word ‘love’ not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy, but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

 

We then welcomed guests and Rotarians from other clubs whom I introduced:

  • Massoud Ahmed, a member of Pakistan’s Karachi Rotary Club and Asif Bhally’s distinguished father;
  • Misa Azuma, Rotary Global Grants Scholar from Tokyo, Japan now at Georgetown University’s School of Law and Gladys Antezana’s guest;
  • Morayma Bak, President of the Rainbow of Hope for Bolivia’s Street Children, and Martin Bak, CEO of Microprobes for Life Sciences, both Clara Montanez’s guests;
  • Glenn Blumhurst, President and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association and Dick Pyle’s guest;
  • Andrew Clarke, Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley and Lisa McCurdy’s guest;
  • John Manzollilo, guest of Ken Kimbrough;
  • Mark McCaffrey, COO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington and David Treadwell’s guest;
  • Zohreh “Zoe” Rastegar, Image Consultant and founder of Images By Zoe and Clara Montanez’s guest;
  • Corkie Sutherland, guest of Sheldon Rae; and
  • Dr. Christoph Garlich and Dr. Joachim Weil, cardiologists visiting DC for a medical conference from Germany’s Flensberg Rotary Club and Lübeck-Holstentor Club, bringing us a banner from the latter.

In Buz Gorman’s absence, President Jennifer asked Acting Sergeant-at-Arms Donnie Shaw to salute Rotarians celebrating birthdays this week:

  • Isabelle Ardelean on 14 September – Sponsored by Abe Helal when she joined our club last March, Isabelle is a corporate recruiter.
  • Monish Dutt on 16 September – Becoming a member in 2011, sponsored by Luigi Passmonti, Monish’s classification is consultant-emerging markets.
  • Hal Vaughn on 16 September – Sponsored by Ann Milne when he joined our club in 1995, Hal, a consultant, has belonged to the Rotary Clubs of Little Rock, Arkansas as well as Syracuse and Glen Falls, New York.
  • Howard Davis on 18 September – Past Club President and current Foundation President, Howard was sponsored by Monica Boner when he became a member in 2004. Previously with Florida’s Downtown Clearwater Rotary Club, his classification is government service-terrorism risk insurance.

President Jennifer returned to the microphone to make announcements along with other Rotarians:

  • Clara Montanez told us about lottery ticket sales to benefit the Burnt Children’s Center in Santiago, Chile. Please see her about purchasing a ticket for the prize of two roundtrip airfares to somewhere in Latin America.
  • Howard Davis reminded us that on Saturday, 27 September, volunteers are needed for the Habitat for Humanity Build. Rotarians should meet at the Ivy City location at 8:30 AM with construction lasting till 3:30 PM. For details, please see Howard or visit our website.  
  • President Jennifer asked us to mark our calendars for Rotary Day on Saturday, 25 April 2015. A collaboration with the three other DC-based clubs, volunteers will be needed to organize various aspects of this event—public relations, speakers, etc. News of the first planning meeting will be forthcoming.

As our membership is growing, President Jennifer presented Stephen Liston with his Red Badge. Sponsored by Clara Montanez, Stephen is the son and grandson of Rotarians. A specialist on Latin America and speaker of French, Portuguese and Spanish, he has served the United States as a diplomat and previously belonged to Rotary Clubs in Madrid and Santiago.

On a very sad note, President Jennifer reported that Yoshiko Urakawa, diagnosed months ago with pancreatic cancer, is now in hospice care. This news comes from David Klaus and Nadia Saad who visit Yoshiko regularly. Nearing the end of her disease, Yoshiko has told Nadia to convey the message that she is “glad to have known all of us.” Yoshiko and her family are in our heartfelt prayers.

Before turning to our guest speaker, President Jennifer welcomed Natalie Korytnyk Forrester’s return to our meetings. Natalie’s presence testifies to her grace, courage and strength.

Dr. Laura Khor—Expert on Deradicalization, One of Eight in a Dangerous World

Erminia Scarcella introduced the week’s speaker, Dr. Laura Khor who recently earned her doctorate in international relations from the University of St. Andrews and is an authority on deradicalization and counterterrorism. As she approached the podium, I was struck by Dr. Khor’s slight frame and soft-spoken manner; I tried to imagine her sitting across from convicted terrorists, “armed only with a digital recorder,” to interview them for her field research. Listening to her, however, I quickly recognized that Dr. Khor’s intellectual prowess, tenacity and subtle charm must have disarmed the most dangerous interview subjects. One of only eight individuals worldwide with expertise in deradicalization, she quipped that scholars pursuing this research “have serious thrill issues.”

Dr. Khor defined deradicalization as not merely the momentary disengagement from violence but rather as a change in mindset resulting in the terrorist’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Her research focuses mostly on Malaysia’s and Singapore’s experiences with deradicalization during the communist insurgencies of the mid-twentieth century against British colonialism. These two countries have the longest running deradicalization programs whose emphasis has shifted from confronting a communist challenge to now countering the Islamist threat. Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have pursued similar anti-terrorism strategies.

Despite the historical specificity of Malaysia’s and Singapore’s programs, Dr. Khor stressed their relevance as examples of what works in deradicalization. Their programs are well funded and holistic. Once a terrorist is imprisoned, s/he meets regularly with law enforcement officials, mental healthcare professionals and religious scholars, all seeking to grasp how and why radicalization occurred. These governments make a long-term commitment to rehabilitation, helping the released detainee obtain education, job training, employment and/or housing among other material necessities. The goal is to reintegrate the individual into society by countering alienation and ideologies advocating violence with a sense of belonging to the peaceful community, the dignity which comes from education and work as well as positive conceptualizations of nationalism and religion.

During the question-and-answer period, Dr. Khor noted that measuring the success of deradicalization programs is difficult because governments do not readily release statistics related to their national security. Yet a practical understanding of success includes the intelligence gleaned from terrorists about their motives and methods, the long-lasting friendships forged between detainees and government officials, the willingness of reformed terrorists to assist others in rehabilitation and the decline in resort to violence to address political grievances.

Adjourned Until Next Week

As President Jennifer awarded our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Dr. Laura Khor, Rotarians clutched their raffle tickets bought from Davis Kennedy, anxious to find out who would hear the lucky numbers. While Dr. Khor pulled a raffle ticket from the basket, President Jennifer reminded us to stay tuned for news of when and where the Tree Planting in conjunction with the National Park Service will take place. She then announced the winning numbers, but nobody responded. With another ticket drawn and a second set of numbers read, Lynn Holec rose from her seat to claim the small pot of $50. Choosing a card from the deck, she picked the ace of diamonds. So close and yet so far from the large pot of $909 which will keep increasing.

Thank you to Greeters Cherry Baumbusch and Frank Reaves. Our gratitude also goes to Balraj Gupta and Stu Shalloway for welcoming visitors at the Hospitality Table.

On 24 September, our speaker will be South Carolina Democrat and Minority Whip in the House of Representatives Congressman James Clyburn.

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