Rotarian Reflection – Marilyn Lopez

I joined Rotaract in 2002 after attending a college activity fair and in 2005 I had the opportunity to participate in a Rotary/Rotaract International trip to Managua, Nicaragua to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity. This experience was so fulfilling and life changing that it encouraged me to join Rotary after I finished graduate school. I joined Rotary in 2008 and as my career moved me throughout the country, I always knew there would be kindred spirits and like-minded individuals within Rotarians. I have found friendships and purpose in all the clubs I have been a part of, and I am beyond proud to be part of Rotary One for the last two years.

Photo: A Rotary Club of Branson, MO and College of the Ozark Rotaract Club Trip to help build homes alongside Habitat for Humanity participants in Managua, Nicaragua (2005).


Rotarian Reflection – Betsy Meisenheimer

In the late ‘80s, we spent a couple of weeks touring Portugal. We did a circular route starting in Lisbon and driving north as far as Porto along the Atlantic coast and then south along the mountains separating Spain and Portugal.

We stopped in a small town in the mountains and saw there was a Rotary meeting that evening. We decided to attend and had a lovely time sharing dinner with the local Rotarians. Language was a bit of an issue, but between our Spanish and their English/Spanish, we managed.

However, the high point of the meeting was the presentation. At the time, Portugal and Spain were applying for admission to the EU and had to update many of their social services to meet the EU standards, especially health care. That evening, the local health care providers made a presentation to the Rotary club detailing how the current health infrastructure could be reconfigured to meet the EU requirements and what investment was required to do so. The Q & A following the presentation was intense and prolonged. The health care team clearly wanted the Rotarians to understand the process and gain their support. The Rotarians were equally clearly interested and wanted to be involved in these important changes for their community. It was a wonderful demonstration of Rotarian involvement in improving their communities.

Rotarian Reflection – Mark Smith

For me, Rotary has always been a part of my life. My grandpa became a Rotarian when he was a younger guy and my father was part of the Vincennes Indiana club (district 6580). I always saw all the good things they did around my small hometown. When I was 16, I had my first hands-on experience with Rotary when I attended RYLA which is a Rotary-sponsored youth leadership project.

After college, I became a member of the Evansville Indiana club (district 6580). My father was so excited that he drove up and made us take a very awkward staged photo (pictured below) so he could send my grandfather. This is when I started to fully understand the sheer impact Rotary has around the world. I personally got more involved by helping organize charity races or attending the President-Elect Training Seminar (PETS). From Evansville, I saw the effect the club can have on a city and with PETS learned how Rotary has an impact on a global scale.

I then moved to Chicago and obviously wanted to join the first Rotary club. Again, my father was extremely proud as Rotary One has an almost illustrious reputation in southern Indiana, and my grandfather would have been ecstatic. I found a home at Rotary One. Every week I get to see friends, hear about the amazing work in Chicago and around the world and enjoy the ULC coffee which I swear is the best in the country. You get to hear about Meals on Wheels, The Night Ministry, Make a Wish, etc. I’ve even gotten involved with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Schuler Scholars, and Chicago Engineers Foundation after hearing about them at Rotary. It’s also a place where you can network. Through Rotary I found a jeweler for my wife’s wedding ring, a real estate agent for buying a house and even a mentor who graduated from U of C Booth who helped me through the program.

Rotary has always been in my life, but every year that goes I learn more ways the organization has impacted the world in a positive way.

Rotarian Reflection – Wes Westerfield

In 1987 Betsy and I made a spring trip to Portugal. Two weeks, if I remember, and a very good time including Betsy’s story, previously sent. We traveled, if not all over, enough to be glad to return the rental car when we arrived in Lisbon, where we spent a few days.

We had planned to go to another Rotary meeting in Lisbon and selected a club with an evening meeting. Not the originating club in Lisbon, which met mid-day but nevertheless a large club in a very nice hotel. She decided to take a pass, thinking that the meeting would be like the one in Evora we had already attended. So, I went and was suitably impressed when I was introduced to retired Admiral X, Congressman Y, former Ambassador Z and their wives because, being an evening meeting, the wives were permanently invited.

I should note that the second language in Portugal is English not, God forbid, from the Portuguese point of view, Spanish. The evening went well with a good meal, nice conversation and the usual dose of Rotary Club business. Then, after all this, much of it in English, the president switched to Portuguese. At length. At the end of his extended remarks, in Portuguese, he turned to me and asked in English what I thought. There I was, ON THE SPOT! I, from the founding Rotary Club.

I have to say first that I speak Spanish—better then than now—and realized that an earthshaking event had occurred, especially earthshaking from a very traditional club member’s point of view: women had been admitted to Rotary!!

At my table, you’ve never heard more excuses why this just wouldn’t work, the unavailability of member classifications being one. With their wives present. I’d have liked to be a fly on the wall when some of the members — remember: retired admiral X, congressman Y, former ambassador Z — got home with their highly educated, sophisticated wives.

So, what did I say? Without any analysis or forethought, just my life passing before my eyes, I said, “I didn’t quite follow what you said, could you please give me a summary in English?” He went on discussing this earth shattering disaster in both languages with other members and then never got back to me. Life went on.

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