2022 – Houston Texas

Day 1 – June 5th

Today was the opening day of the Rotary International Convention. There are 11,000 Rotarians from around the world who are in attendance. This morning’s Opening Ceremony was truly awesome. Here are the highlights:

Sundance Head sang 3 songs. They’re a Texas band that sounded like a mix of blues and country to me.

Presentation of the Flags of Rotary, with a standing ovation for the flag of Ukraine

Welcome talk by Prime Minister Modi of India (The RI President is from India)

Welcome talk by ISS Astronauts

Keynote Address by Shekhar Mehta, the outgoing Rotary International President

Dance routines by Kings United and Rhythm India

Indian flute + singing by Rasika Shekar (also of India)

Finale by Kings United + Rhythm India

After the opening ceremony I attended a breakout session on mental health that was really great. Here’s their URL:

They’ve developed a model that is based on the work of Dr. Geetha Jayaram of Johns Hopkins U. It’s a way of helping communities where the great majority of people have no more than an elementary school education to identify the 2 major categories of mental illness: depression, and substance abuse.

After the breakout session I attended a meeting of the Rotary Computer Users Fellowship. Also quite interesting.

Day 2 – June 6th

Wow, today was action packed. Here’s a summary of my day’s events:

Breakout session: Rotary Fellowship of Ethics

One of the attendees of this meeting was the grandson of the Rotarian H.J. Taylor who wrote the Four Way Test.

There is a group called Epic Ethics– https://epicethics.org/

This group produces videos for schoolteachers to teach them how to teach about the Rotary Four Way Test in schools.

There’s a book titled “Andy and Elmer’s Apple Dumpling Adventure”, a children’s book about the Four Way Test.

This was a REALLY awesome session. I got SOOOOOO much out of it. So expect to hear a lot more about the Four Way Test when I return.  😍

General Session

Several dignitaries were introduced.

First speaker: Charlie Duke, an Apollo astronaut who actually walked on the moon. He talked about how it takes a community to solve problems, and provided the example of Apollo 13.

Second: John Hewko, General Secretary of Rotary International spoke about how Rotary actually grew in total membership during the pandemic, and how people all over the world want to help others. Also talked about what Rotary is doing in Ukraine.

Third: Dr. Olga Poliychuk of Ukraine spoke about her personal experiences providing medical services in Ukraine, and thanked Rotary for the work it has done.

Fourth speaker: Alex Montoya. I’ll have to describe his talk in person.

Fifth speaker: Nadine Sidebar, interviewed by Vicky Pulitz, about the organization she founded called Generation Girl. She’s an engineer who is working to get women into STEM careers.

Sixth speaker: Gingger Shankar, who is a relative of Ravi Shankar. She’s a singer and she plays the double violin.

Luncheon

The keynote address at the luncheon was given by Shekhar Mehta.

There were musical videos prepared by Music Mends Minds, which is a District 5030 project.

Breakout session: Building your club’s membership plan

Very valuable lessons for club growth. I’ll need to present this to either the club or the board.

Breakout session: Central American refugees

A group of several US and Central American Rotary clubs are working with OAS (the Organization of American States) to provide opportunities to young people in Central America. A project named MIRPS (its an acronym of its Spanish title) is based on a successful Rotary project that helped indigenous peoples of Guatemala get and hold jobs.

This was a really inspiring project. I’ll have to explain to you what i heard in person.

Breakout session: Substance abuse action plan for your club

Rotary has developed a program titled SMART for addressing addiction to fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. This program provides educational materials for schools that are available to be distributed (for free!) to local schools. Here’s a link to their web site: https://www.rag-ap.org/en

There are several key takeaways from today’s sessions that we can take up immediately for use in our club. Today alone was decidedly worth the price of admission. I can’t wait to get back to tell you all about what I heard. 

Day 3 – June 7th

Here’s the highlights of my day today:

Breakout session: Rotary Means Business Fellowship

This Rotary Fellowship is about networking within and between Rotary clubs. It’s a way for Rotarians to generate business through their connection to other Rotarians.

General Session

The Board of Trustees were introduced. One remarkable fact about the Boards of Directors and of the Trustees is their diversity. Their members are really from all over the world.

Speaker: Mark Maloney, past president, spoke about the opportunity that clubs have to work with other service organizations such as Kiwanis, Lions, and Optimists. The week of Sept 11 has been set aside by Rotary International for all clubs  to do a project with another service organization, using the hashtag  #celebratecommunity.

Interview with: Hamza Farrukh, founder of EventBrite. He founded a project to provide clean water to millions of people. Today, 1.2 billion people don’t have access to clean water. 3.4 million die per year of contaminated water, 300,000 of them children. His group has a unit that can process water to remove impurities, and provide water storage, and provide data & metrics, all for $10,000. 

Rotary Alumni Global Service Award was given to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Antony Slodkowski

He spoke about his experience reporting on the killings by the military in Myanmar.

John Germ, former RI President, gave the Programs of Scale Award to a district in Germany and four in Nigeria for their program to help women.

Some of the great recent accomplishments of Rotary in the past year:

Partners for a Malaria Free Zambia have raised money

Rotary International provided $46 million for distribution of the COVID vaccine

RI also provided $15 million to Ukraine for food and shelter

Polio Eradication progress:

Rotary has spent $2.5 billion to end polio (to date, since 1985)

400 million children are immunized per year

This year only 8 new cases reported (in Pakistan and Afghanistan)

Rotary has set a goal of $50 million donated this year to polio eradication. If we meet that goal the Gates Foundation will match it two to one (for a total of $150 million).

50 million $ goal this year 

Speaker: Dr. Hamid Jafari, World Health Organization Director of Polio Eradication

In November 2021 the Taliban of Afghanistan restarted polio immunization days

Dr. Jafari said that Rotary has been instrumental in pushing toward global eradication.

Speaker: Sanj Srikanthan of Shelter Box 

Interviews: Bruktawit Tigabu, founder of Wizkids Workshop, a teaching materials producer in Ethiopia (https://www.whizkidsworkshop.com/)

Cecilia Conrad, of the MacArthur Foundation

Cecelia talked about what a project  needs to get approved by a private foundation. She listed the following:

  • **** Data **** that shows there’s a need for the proposed service
  • A Plan. It doesn’t need to be the final plan, but a plan that shows that your goal is achievable.
  • And you need to tell a good story 

The last speaker was presented with the Rotary Award Of Honor, which is the highest award that Rotary offers. It was presented to Kailash Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in freeing children from slavery, child labor, and child marriage. There are about 160 million child laborers around the world. That’s a lot, and it shows how much more work we have to do. But it’s about 100 million less than it was when Kailash started.

After the General Session I helped in the Music Mends Minds booth. This organization is spreading the word that people with dementia may not be able to remember their names, or their addresses, or the faces of their relatives– but they can remember songs they sang when they were 10. There is a wealth of academic research that shows that this is indeed a natural and neurological phenomenon. So it is literally true that for such patients, music is medicine. Our Rotary district (5030) has an affiliation with Music Mends Minds. The goal of the Music Mends Minds organization is to get Rotary clubs around the world to form music groups for people with dementia. I’m thinking that our club should do exactly that. After all, we meet in a senior center! The time I spent in the MMM booth was very rewarding. There were several people who showed up and told us their stories about people close to them who have suffered from dementia, but who benefited from playing an instrument or singing. And a couple of them were in tears at the end.

Day 4 – June 8th

This was the final day of the Rotary 2022 International Convention– the first in person convention in 3 years. Here’s a summary of what I experienced yesterday:

Breakout session: It’s not your grandfather’s Rotary anymore– or is it?

Great session about how and why Rotary clubs die. The facilitators of this session began by talking about a book written by Graham Landrum, a Rotarian, titled The Rotary Club Murder Mystery. Here’s a link:

They said that the #1 reason why clubs die is because of club culture. The culture of the club has to be appealing to the members, and it has to align with the needs of the community. If not, then the club is probably on a glide path to an early death.

The take away for me from this session is that we need to do an assessment of how our members view our club.

Breakout: Community Action to End Human Trafficking

This session was about a project that Rotary began this year to address human trafficking in Kansas. First some basic info about human trafficking:

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world (behind drugs)

Victims 12 -14 years old average. Median age is probably much lower

Life span after entry is 7 years

Sex workers are sold 12 -16 times per day

Traffickers are typically 19 – 45 years old

48% of those trafficked are relatives or friends of the traffickers

Those who are trafficked endure physical, sexual, and emotional abuse

66% of customers of sex workers are married or in a relationship 

20% of males have purchased sex services , 1.5% frequently 

The above is chiefly about sex worker trafficking, but many people around the world are effectively sold into non-sex related slave labor

Justice University has a Human Trafficking Awareness & Strategy Certification program that helps to identify the sources of trafficking and the means to address it

Here’s a link to the web site of the Rotary project:

https://www.veronicasvoice.org/rotary-swarm

It’s been spun up in Kansas, but the expectation is that if it’s successful, it will be applicable all around the world.

Breakout: Eliminating roadblocks to diversifying your club

Great session, very well attended, that was about learning how to bring greater diversity to your club. Rotary has developed a questionnaire named the “Diversity Readiness Rating.” Here’s a link:

https://bit.ly/rotarydrr

Out of this world Luncheon 

The keynote speaker was Col. Bryan Duffy, a space shuttle astronaut. He talked about what it’s like to take the space shuttle up to the ISS. Lots of pictures and an inspiring narrative.

World Polio Day

This was a short program about RI’s World Polio Day, which is October 24. RI is encouraging EVERY Rotary club to have a special event on that day. RI has committed to raising $50 million this year for ending polio. The Gates Foundation has agreed to match whatever Rotary raises two-to-one, for a possible $150 million. So our club should come up with a way to get our community involved in contributing to the end of polio this October. Here’s a link for more info:

https://www.endpolio.org/world-polio-day

Closing Ceremony 

Partners for a Malaria Free Zambia has a goal to reduce malaria by 90% over a 1 million+ population.

Fly Dance Company, the gentlemen of hip hop dance, from Houston. Great performance with a wild mix of hip hop & classical.

Speaker: Orion Jean, named Kid of the year by Time Magazine 

He’s not even in high school yet!

In 2020 he was the Think Kindness Essay winner

After winning he used his prize money to start a project he called the Race to 500 Toys. The goal was to deliver 500 toys to a local children’s hospital. They collected and donated 619 new toys!

Then he started the Race to 100,000 Meals, to deliver food during the pandemic to people in need. His organization collected enough to feed 100,000 people over a 2 month period!

Now he’s working on the Race to 500,000 Books, a project that seeks to deliver new or gently used books to school children.

He has developed a set of principles for how kindness can change the world:

K: Keep your eyes open

I: Include others

N: Nothing is too small

D: Do something about it

His was a truly inspiring and impressive talk.

RI outgoing president Shekhar Mehta 

He introduced the RI past presidents 

Speaker: Gordon McInally, RI President elect, from Scotland 

He talked about what he plans to focus on during his 2023-2024 term

The Filharmonic

This is an a cappella Filipino group from L.A. Great music!

http://www.thefilharmonic.com/

Their closing song was Imagine, by John Lennon.

Speaker: Jennifer Jones, the RI President for 2022-2023

She is the first female president of Rotary International EVER!!!

Her theme for her Rotary year is: Imagine Rotary 

Zuma Zuma, a dance and acrobatic group from Africa. Here’s a link:

http://www.zumazuma.com/

They were amazing — and terrific!!

Next year’s RI Convention will be in Melbourne Australia, May 27 – 31.

The theme of the convention will be “Imagine… What’s Next”.


Johnson Space Center

Tristan drove down from Dallas and the two of us went to the Johnson Space Center on June 9th. They have perfectly preserved the Command Center for the Apollo moon missions, exactly as it was in the 1960s. A few photos follow:

This is the exterior of the building that houses the Command Center:

The building where some of the Orion components are being assembled and tested:

Tristan posing in front of the Saturn 5 rockets: