Posted by John Dean on Jun 10, 2020
President Casey Blair (Financial Services: Private trading | KCB Trading, LLC) called the meeting to order at 11 AM and welcomed Rotary International President-elect Holger Knaack who was joining us as today's guest speaker all the way from Germany. Over 60 people–including a number of District 5150 leaders and members of other local clubs–attended today’s virtual meeting. President Casey began the meeting with a quote from the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "In the end, we will remember not the word of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Then, he presented and read a Statement signed by the presidents of all ten San Francisco Rotary clubs. The Statement expresses Rotary’s support for racial equality and social justice. Read the Statement here.
Rotary International President-elect Holger Knaack
President Casey then called upon Past President and Past District Governor Eric Schmautz (Banking: Management | Wells Fargo) and President-elect JT Forbus (Accounting | Bogdan & Frasco) to introduce RI President-elect Knaack. Eric noted that Holger has held numerous positions within Rotary over the years, including serving as co-chair of the organizing committee which successfully brought the 2019 Rotary International Convention to Hamburg. Holger is the first Rotary International President from Germany. JT described meeting Holger for the first time when they were tablemates at the Presidents-elect Training Seminar (“PETS”) in San Jose, CA earlier this year. JT recalled that he enjoyed discussing with Holger the common concerns and challenges facing Rotary clubs across the world.
President-elect Knaack began by saying that Germany’s COVID-19 lockdown began almost immediately after he returned home following PETS. Holger described how since Germany's lockdown, Rotary quickly adapted to the situation: Zoom meetings are commonplace for most clubs and for the Rotary leadership team. Despite the fact that Germany and most of Europe are re-opening, Holger remarked that due to concerns about a “second wave” of the virus, he will likely travel far less than previous Rotary International presidents. Zoom meetings will continue to be standard practice for the next year or so.
Holger announced several goals for his term as RI President:
  • Attract more young Rotarians.
  • Encourage more women to join Rotary and to seek leadership positions. He noted that US clubs are far ahead of most European and Latin American clubs in this regard.
  • Add more clubs and look at alternative club models (such as “e-clubs”). He wants young Rotarians to feel free to create their vision of a Rotary club.
In these challenging times, Holger urged everyone to make sure we take care of our fellow club members and reach out and engage them via email, telephone, Zoom or other means. He pointed out that Zoom, Skype, and similar technologies allow us to connect with people all over the world and to create a more modern Rotary club in the process.
In a nod to the demonstrations in US cities and in cities around the world on the topics of social justice and racial equality, Holger stated that although Rotary is by design a non-political organization, that certainly does not mean that when things go wrong, Rotarians must stand speechless. Referring to the Statement issued by the ten San Francisco Rotary club presidents, Holger added that Rotarians must stand up on fundamental social issues.
Asked to share his thoughts on climate change, Holger noted that in the US, the issue of climate change has become politicized, while in Germany, it is simply acknowledged as a scientific fact. "Climate change affects everyone in the world," he added. Holger stated that the Rotary International Foundation would consider some climate change-related issues at its June meeting in two weeks. 
With the world economy facing a recession, Holger noted that the RI Foundation must continue to look at alternative funding models. He added that he is very concerned about a significant drop in donations to the RI Foundation in the coming year or two while the world economy recovers from COVID-19. Alternative funding sources and projects which are (or may become) self-sustaining need to be considered.
COVID-19 has also dramatically changed how Rotary engages with youth. It has forced Interact clubs to meet via Zoom and has forced Rotary International to consider how to handle Rotary Exchange students when the program resumes in 2021. As Holger noted, all of us are adjusting to this as we go.
Holger closed by saying he hoped that he could visit our Club in person before his term ends.
Rotarian of the Month
President Casey announced Bob Hermann (Information Technology: Administration | Retired) as Rotarian of the Month. President Casey cited Bob’s many activities within Rotary and the community. Most recently, Bob oversaw the distribution of donated See's chocolates to our charitable partners.
Upcoming Events
President Casey encouraged everyone to continue to stay involved with Rotary during the COVID-19 social distancing protocols. There are a number of varied activities coming up, including:
$20 for Twenty Seconds
Those pledging today included: 
  • Lisa Stark (Communications and Media), who introduced Anita McDonald of the Catalina Rotary Club in Tucson, Arizona. Anita is the District Governor-elect Nominee for Rotary District 5500.
  • Rhonda Poppen (Grant Writing | GRANTdog), who is visiting family in Virginia and described air travel in the post-COVID-19 environment. Rhonda pledged $40 in recognition of her mother who was frying chicken for dinner that evening.
  • John Mathers (Management Consulting | eVo Associates), who pledged in appreciation for the Statement issued by the San Francisco Rotary club presidents on the topic of racial equality and social justice.
  • Tom Brunner (Nonprofit Management | Glaucoma Research Foundation), who pledged $60 in appreciation of the Statement issued by the San Francisco Rotary club presidents on the topic of racial equality and social justice; in recognition of President Casey’s efforts to make these virtual Club meetings a reality; and in honor of RI President-elect Knaack speaking to our Club.
  • Jianying Chen (Healthcare: Acupuncture | American Institute of Zhizhen Therapy and New Qigong), who pledged $20 in appreciation that his tenants have resumed paying full rent effective July 1.
The meeting was adjourned shortly after 12 noon. 
Photos and editing by Dora Dye