Greetings, Rotarians!

Here’s the story of our November 5 meeting, following the five-part model outlined by our guest speaker, Anne B. Thomas.



President Jennifer Hara called our meeting to order at 12:30 PM and asked members to join together in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She then invited Past President Doris Margolis to give the words of inspiration. Doris read a poem that challenged us to think about how we are using our day—hopefully not wasting it, but instead helping and encouraging others.

Secretary Haleh Vaziri then introduced guests and Rotarians visiting from other clubs:

  • Charles Young, Community Impact Development Manager at United Way and Donnie Shaw’s guest;
  • Dr. Laura Khor, a recent speaker and expert on deradicalization, Abe Helal’s guest;
  • Levi Leatherberry of the DC Rotaract Club;
  • Elizabeth Perla, studying psychology at Loyola University Maryland, also Abe Helal’s guest;
  • Patrick Fitzgerald, President, Fitzgerald Commercial Movers Moving and Storage, Inc., guest of prospective member Pete Larson;
  • Herbert and Carol Traxler, Tanzmeisters and Consultants at Elegant Events, world-renowned Viennese Waltz instructors, Clara Montanez’s guests;
  • Mary Garner, Founder, Hope, Inc., a guest of Past President Doris Margolis; and
  • Riham and Bassam Aryan, originally from Syria, Marjorie Scott’s guests.

Next, Sergeant-at-Arms Buz Gorman saluted Rotarians celebrating birthdays this week:

  • Bill Dent, November 7 – Our Trees for the Capital Chair joined our club in 2000 sponsored by Bob Shriner; his classification is Consulting: International Development.
  • Razu Shrestha, November 7 – A member of our club since 2004, Razu was sponsored by Wil Rose; his classification is Senior Services.
  • Michael Robinson, November 8 – Mike joined our club in 2013, sponsored by Kathy Ward.  His classification is Education: Charter Schools.

Sergeant-at-Arms Buz also congratulated Peg Schoen and Violet Habwe on their five-year anniversary as club members. Finally, Buz informed us that Immediate Past President Shaun English has been named “Athlete of the Month” at the University Club. Congratulations!

Obstacle (Just kidding!):

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

  • Clara Montanez explained that 20 club members (including three with Red Badges), 10 DC Rotaract members and 15 others from our district attended Rotary International Day at the United Nations in New York. The day reminded attendees of the longstanding connections between the UN and Rotary—Rotarians were on the U.S. delegation that negotiated the UN Charter in 1945. Attendees learned about the partnership between Rotary and the UN on a range of projects and about the contributions of individuals from around the world making a difference in their communities with Rotary’s help. Clara urged us to plan ahead in anticipation of next year’s Rotary trip to the UN.
  • Quentin Wodin encouraged us to engage with our two Interact Clubs—one at Washington International School and a second founded by Abe Helal’s niece at Walt Whitman High School. These clubs are looking into forming a speakers’ bureau to bring Rotarians and others to talk to students. If interested in participating, please contact Quentin.

Rising Action:

  • Peg Schoen gave a “Not-So-New-Member” talk. Hailing from southwest Missouri, Peg studied journalism and home economics at what is now Truman State University before making “one of the two best decisions of her life”—she applied for a Rotary Foundation fellowship and was selected to go to Glasgow, Scotland, where she studied industrial relations as Margaret Thatcher was confronting labor unions across the United Kingdom.  Hard as it is to believe, Peg said she was quiet for a few days after being asked how she felt “studying at an educational institution that is older than your country.”  Peg met her first husband there and moved to Oslo, returning to the United States in 2000 to join Intelsat and then the IMF. After retiring from the IMF, she was encouraged by our friend and former member Marlene Thorne to join Rotary. Peg values the international fellowship that our club provides and is honored to contribute to the Rotary International Foundation to help others undertake the type of exchange that set the course of her life. Peg finished by telling us the “dumbest thing” she has ever done: riding a bobsled on wheels down an Olympic run—a trip to the chiropractor followed. And what was the second “best decision of my life”?  Marrying her second husband, whose law firm supports whistleblowers and uncovers fraud.
  • President Jennifer informed us of four upcoming events:
  • The Federal City Club is hosting a wine-tasting at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, November 5. The hope is that Muriel Bowser, a sponsor and honorary member of the Federal City Club and District Mayor-elect, will make an appearance.
  • Our club’s Happy Hour is scheduled for Thursday, November 6 at 6:00 PM at the University Club. (Please note that these first two events have already taken place.)
  • The Dupont Circle Club will host the Red Line Happy Hour on Tuesday, November 11 at 6:00 PM at Bier Barron, giving attendees an opportunity to meet members of other clubs in the District and Maryland that are near the Metro Red Line.
  • Walter Reed Bingo participants must fill out a new access form and send it to Shelley Williams by November 14. The form will be available on our club’s website.
  • President Jennifer presented a Blue Badge and former president pin to Cherry Baumbusch. Way to go, Cherry!
  • President Jennifer expressed disappointment that, at the annual Rotary Foundation Recognition Dinner on November 2, our club did not receive an award. Consequently, she challenged us to donate to Rotary International, suggesting that each member contribute at least $100 this year. Forms are available to offer pledges and should be returned to Gretchen. Members working for the federal government may also donate through the Combined Federal Campaign.
  • Finally, President Jennifer presented Lisa Cohen with her Paul Harris + 4 Award. Lisa might have started a new trend by taking a selfie with President Jennifer. Great example, Lisa!


Anne B. Thomas, Story Teller

Clara Montanez introduced the week’s speaker, Anne Thomas, a story teller. Clara declared that we have a great deal to learn from Anne who turned adversity into an opportunity to change her life and career significantly, learning in the process that allowing others to help her is itself a gift as it gives another person the chance to serve.

“Story telling is my passion!” Anne began, and told us she had decided to start her talk by “telling the story of preparing to tell the story of storytelling.” (And this is the story of that telling!)

Story telling has existed since humans have shared around prehistoric fires. Stories are ubiquitous, an integral attribute of human culture and society. We retell facts and interpret them as a way of understanding the world around us, passing on our values and history, inspiring and entertaining others. Research has shown that 65 percent of our conversation is personal stories or gossip, which is really stories about others. And we tell ourselves stories as we explain what is happening to us and figure out why.

Anne decried the limited nature of the almost-mandatory PowerPoint presentations, which only stimulate one aspect of our minds. Emotion, hearing and other elements can be brought in through story telling; information gleaned through a story is 22 times more likely to be remembered.

More broadly, the digital age in which we live is causing us to lose key elements of communication. Only seven percent of communication is words, while 93 percent consists of body language, voice intonation and other non-verbal elements that are lost in the digital arena.  This is why people increasingly see story telling as a way to connect with others.

Anne noted that, in business, storytelling is more effective than merely providing statistics. She said studies have shown that, for example, charitable organizations that tell stories about what they do will receive more donations than those that simply present statistics. Story telling is enjoying a higher profile these days; The Atlantic Monthly just did a story on story telling in the November 2 edition. Story telling may bring order out of chaos, helps us understand the world around us and is essential to moving our species forward.

In an animated account making full use of her voice, body movements and emotions, Anne provided us her winning story, about how, after finding herself permanently confined to a wheelchair, she was determined to defy a doctor who insisted that she would become a burden to others. However, a trip to Rwanda and the opportunity to see the famous gorilla colonies there challenged her self-imposed limits. Freeing herself to seek help that she needed to make the trip, Anne also liberated herself from the limits she had imposed on herself and opened up new opportunities for growth in her life.

During the question-and-answer period, Anne explained that a story differs from an anecdote in the element of challenge and change.  A story needs five elements: the set-up or foundation, the obstacle, rising action, the climax and transformation. Anne added that story telling draws people in when it exposes the speaker’s vulnerability, addresses a universal theme and is enhanced by details. Humor provides immediate feedback that a story teller values, but the best stories take listeners through a range of emotions. Noting the importance of considering the culture and audience when telling a story, Anne provided a last story on how she came to work for the World Bank—an engaging tale, full of twists and turns, that took us from New Mexico to Washington, DC to Fredericksburg, Virginia via the bowels of the World Bank bureaucracy!


Adjourned Until Next Week

Transformed by Anne’s superb presentation, attendees applauded as President Jennifer awarded our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Ms. Thomas.  Then, in hopes of a second transformative moment, Rotarians watched as Davis Kennedy brought forward the raffle basket. The suspense was short-lived, as Abe Helal walked away with the $103 small pot, but failed to draw the ace of clubs, leaving the $1,310 large pot to grow for next week.

Thanks to Greeter Valentin Solis and to Stu Shalloway and Johnny Allem for welcoming visitors at the Hospitality Table.

On November 12, our speaker will be Dr. Alice Fuisz, Governor of the DC Chapter of the American College of Physicians.

President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM.