Greetings fellow Rotarians! Yes, it’s Haleh. I promise that Valentin Solis will prepare our Meeting in Review at another time; this week, his adorable little girl needed his company—the challenges of childcare scheduling. For now, you are stuck with me as I share the details of our 27 August gathering.


resident Jennifer Hara called the meeting to order at 12:30 PM. After leading members in the Pledge of Allegiance, she invited Cherry Baumbusch to offer words of inspiration. Reflecting on the “humbling” experience of volunteering for the Grate Patrol, Cherry read Emily Dickinson’s poem titled “Life” which she believes “epitomizes” the Rotarian spirit:

If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain.

I then introduced guests and Rotarians visiting from other clubs at President Jennifer’s request. We welcomed:

  • Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Clara Montanez’s guest;
  • Sophia Haney, 2014 graduate of the University of British Columbia in Art History and Clara Montanez’s charming daughter;
  • Diego Grajales, accompanying his father Guillermo (Why not just join our club?);
  • Alex Armour, CEO of Offspring Solutions and Deraux Branch’s guest;
  • Lucy Campbell, student and Secretary of Australia’s Dorrigo Rotary Club;
  • Jane O’Sullivan, working in international development and bringing us the Metro New York City Rotary Club’s banner;
  • Bill Wooby, founder of art museums from Washington, DC to Cairo, Egypt where he once belonged to the Giza Cosmopolitan Rotary Club, and David Klaus’s guest;
  • Benjamin Rasmus, visiting from the Seattle District Rotary Club to which President Jennifer’s father also belongs; and
  • David Bobanick from Washington’s Mercer Island Rotary Club.

As we received Rotarians from various clubs, Sam Hancock shared the banners given to him while in Taiwan where he visited: the Taipei Shihmen Rotary Club; the Taipei Rotary Club, our sister club and home club to Rotary International President Gary C.K. Huang; and the Taipei Tatung Rotary Club, the largest in District 3480

Tony Cusack stepped into Sargent-at-Arms Buz Gorman’s shoes to announce Rotarians celebrating birthdays. Congratulations to:

  • Joan Bristol on 24 August – Joining our club in 2002 sponsored by John Prominski, Joan is the Denver Rotary Club’s Past President; her classification is investments-association management.
  • Patricia Bueno-Abdala on 24 August – A member of our club since 2009 sponsored by Ken Kimbrough, Patricia works in finance.
  • Clara Montanez on 29 August – Sponsored by Guillermo “Memo” Grajales in 2003, Clara co-chairs our club’s Program Committee and works as a financial advisor.
  • Steve Adkins on 30 August – Joining our club in 2004 sponsored by Peter Kennedy, Steve's classification is law-international trade.
  • Tim Hurd on 30 August – A club member since 2009 sponsored by Rob Warne, Tim’s classification is consulting-media relations.
  • Liz Salett on 30 August – Belonging to our club since 2013 sponsored by Paula Delo, Liz works in the non-profit sector to combat human trafficking.
  • Larry Wang on 30 August – Joining our club in 2008 sponsored by his namesake Judge Margolis, Larry’s classification is food services-coffee.

President Jennifer asked club board member Glynis Long to deliver her Not-So-New Member Talk. She focused on her Global Grants Project—the creation of a breast cancer center in Adana, Turkey. Aiming for American and Turkish physicians to exchange knowledge, surgical skills and technology, this project will provide healthcare to underserved women. Despite logistical setbacks—earthquakes, domestic unrest and spill-over from Syria’s civil war—Glynis reported progress. Two teams of doctors will travel to Turkey, one in September and another in February 2015. As the establishment of properly staffed, sustainable clinical facilities nears, Glynis is excited about the prospect of improving Turkish women’s lives. Describing her role as the project’s team leader, she held up a sign that said “Keep calm and carry on.” She will update us on the project again after the second medical team’s trip to Turkey.

President Jennifer returned to the microphone to thank Rotarians for their patience during the renovation of the University Club Ballroom where we will return for our 3 September meeting. She also made these announcements:

  • The Monthly Happy Hour and Dine Around are on Thursday, 28 August at Corduroy on 1122 9th Street, NW, from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. (Please note that this event has already taken place.) Apologies from your humble secretary: In last week’s Meeting in Review, I mistakenly indicated that September’s Dine Around would be at Corduroy.
  • The board will meet next on Thursday, 25 September. The 28 August meeting is cancelled.
  • Lisa McCurdy and Hal Vaughn will convene a meeting of the Signature Fundraiser Committee in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for more details.

Before turning to the week’s speaker, President Jennifer asked visiting Rotarians Ben Rasmus and David Bobanick to show a video about Rotary First Harvest’s Bike Against Hunger. A program of District 5030, Rotary First Harvest enlists farmers, truckers and volunteers to participate in hunger relief efforts throughout Washington. Ben and his girlfriend have pedaled 3,750 miles from Washington State to Washington, DC in their Bike Against Hunger. Inviting others to join them on legs of their trip, they stopped at farms, food banks and service clubs to bring attention to the paradox of food waste and hunger.

Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller—Serving the United States around the Globe

Erminia Scarcella introduced our guest speaker, Tatiana Gfoeller, a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service who has held diplomatic posts worldwide—in Poland, present-day Russia and the former Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan among other countries. Her most recent post abroad was as Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic from 2008 to 2011. Currently, she is “on loan” from the State Department as a foreign policy advisor  to Chief of Staff of the Army General Ray Odierno.

Ambassador Gfoeller began with the disclaimer that her remarks do not reflect positions held by the State or Defense Departments but are solely her personal opinions. Although she recounted humorous episodes from her career, she first underscored the dangers of diplomatic work. Noting that more American diplomats than generals have been killed in the line of duty, Ms. Gfoeller recalled that as a junior officer in Poland, the breaks in her car were cut after liaising with Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, but she “miraculously” escaped harm.

Despite such dangers, the Ambassador appreciated the humor in contending with cultural and political differences. Perhaps the funniest episode happened in Saudi Arabia while she was a junior officer, seven months pregnant and charged with delivering démarches to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the month of Ramadan when men are forbidden from seeing women who are not their mothers, sisters or wives. To prevent the shock and shrieks of men who would see her at the Ministry, Ms. Gfoeller obtained a certificate declaring her an “honorary man”!

The Ambassador reserved her insights on the crises in the Middle East for the question-and-answer period. She admitted that she is presently advising General Odierno on possible options to deal with the threat posed by ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham) but was not at liberty to disclose the content of her counsel. She highlighted the fluidity of regional alliances and enmities, remarking on the irony of governments which have tolerated their citizens funding ISIS now feeling “terrified” by its takeover of large swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory. Ms. Gfoeller concluded that friendships do not exist in the region; “only common interests” motivate states to cooperate.

Adjourned Until Next Week

After President Jennifer awarded our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller, Rotarians anxiously clutched the raffle tickets they had bought from Kenneth Brown. Upon hearing the winning numbers, Memo Grajales took home the small pot of $31—a down payment on his brother Diego’s club application fee!? Yet the ace of spades escaped Memo’s grasp; the large pot of $787 will keep growing.

Thank you to Balraj Gupta and Stu Shalloway for manning the Hospitality Table.

On 3 September, our speaker will be David Catania, independent candidate in Washington, DC’s mayoral election and Council Representative At-Large.

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