Program Report: Rotarian and former NC Supreme Court Justice Willis Whichard on Civility in Public Discourse

As I was preparing to write this report, I did two things, the first I’m not proud of and the second I hope I can persuade everyone reading this to do.

First, I sent a snarky reply to a Facebook post of a former student of mine who is at the opposite end of the political scale from me.

There’s a lot of that kind of thing going on, I’m afraid…on the internet, on TV, in the newspapers and sometimes at the dinner table.

The second thing I did was read the speech that Justice Whichard delivered to us on Civility. Because there were so many people who requested copies of it, Executive Secretary Sharon distributed it to the entire Rotary mailing list with Justice Whichard’s permission. Even though it triggered my shame for being uncivil on Facebook, I have to say that this was one of the most moving and well prepared presentations I have heard in all my years as a Rotarian and it was made by a guy whose list of accomplishments have left him nothing further to prove.

Why was it so good and why does it deserve to be read? First, Justice Whichard is a great storyteller and examples he gave range from the tragic (Hamilton’s death at the hands of Burr) to the merely discourteous (Obama called a liar during a State-of-the-Union.) There were stories of reconciliation (Jefferson and Adams) and stories of the warm relationships of political opponents (Reagan and Tripp O’Neil.) He included stories from his own political history of opposition and reconciliation as well.

He invoked names from more recent North Carolina history to counter a growing trend of anti-intellectualism including Frank Graham, Bill Friday and Bill Aycock, to make the point that the Jeffersonian answer to objectionable speech is more and better speech, not repression of speech.

He also quotes the Czech dissident, statesman and writer, Vaclav Havel, to make the point that the fullest purpose of civil discourse is to educate ourselves as well as others.

Even my best effort can only make this report a pale reflection of the speech, so again I urge you to read it. If you’ve lost track of it, you can click here and get it.  I would also suggest reading the two articles from last May’s Rotarian Magazine, the first on Civility and the second on the Four Way Test. These were recommended by Dallas Stallings in his introduction to this series of programs during the previous meeting. Dallas also introduced Justice Whichard, although this was hardly needed.

This will be a hard act to follow but anyone who was skeptical about how good a program about civility could be, will be looking forward to next week’s program featuring Christopher and David Gergen and with Sam Miglarese wrapping it up on week three.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

New Member: John Blanton

John is an 8 year resident of The Triangle. He is passionate about causes that aid underprivileged children, most recently volunteering with Habitat For Humanity and The Ronald McDonald House of Durham. John’s professional background is primarily in sales, currently serving as a Senior Sales Executive at Randstad Technologies. In addition, John is the Founder of Peak Capital Group — a growing value-add real estate investment firm supporting Durham and surrounding counties. He began his career coaching and mentoring youth athletics with a focus on baseball and performance training. Throughout his sales career, John has held many different production and leadership roles supporting Fortune 500 clients throughout The Triangle. John is married to Jordan and they have two young daughters. John is Co-Sponsored by President Todd Taylor and PDG Newman Aguiar. Welcome, John!

Paul Harris Fellows

Nancy Marks made Paul Harris Fellow presentations to the following individuals from United Methodist Retirement Home:

DeWitt Howard (not present) – Executive Director

Stacy Dobson – Chief Financial Officer

Jonathan Erickson – Regional Operations Manager

Nancy’s daughter, Sarah Marks, was also present and assisted with the presentations. We welcome this group to our growing list of Paul Harris Fellows.

Paul Harris Fellow: Vince Simonetti

Vince Simonetti (L) receives his award from Wade Gresham (R)

Vince Simonetti has beeen a member of our club since 2003 and the only person to own the classification of a music shop owner.  Vice also owns the largest privately held tuba museum in the world.
He still shows off his musical talent especially when he and Meg hang out at Wal Mart playing and singing, probably raising more money for the Salvation Army than anyone else in our club.
 
Vince is a dedicated Rotarian joining in many activities of the club as well as leading our Rotary Singers as they present special music at various meeting.  His wife, Ethel who attends meetings often, also frequently sings with the group. He and Ethel can also be seen working together for Rotary at Centerfest.

Presentation: Betsy Kessler – DPAC Group Sales

Following an invocation from Rotarian Kim Blair, the awarding of Paul Harris Society honors to folks integral to Croasdaile Village Retirement Community and finally the Rotary induction of John Blanton by fellow Rotarian Eric Benson, the day’s speaker, Betsy Kessler from DPAC group sales was introduced by Rotarian Carver Weaver. 

Carver Weaver introduced Betsy to the Club

Betsy and her DPAC team are behind the group pricing rates that the Rotary Club has been able to secure and allow more than 20 children from East Durham Children’s Initiative and several International Rotary Youth Exchange students to attend the Aladdin performance this past autumn. 

 Originally from the Philadelphia area, in 2008, Betsy became the first hire at the DPAC as a sales representative. In November that year, DPAC opened with four shows and has grown that number into 8. Since its inception, it has consistently ranked top 10 in the nation in sales and ended 2019 ranked third.  [Read more…]

New Member: Brian Alvo

Brian Alvo is the Founder of NextGen Center. The concept of service is the cornerstone of Brian’s career path. That service began as a civilian analyst with The United States Marine Corps — and then as Executive Director of a nonprofit educational foundation in Nicaragua. With an MBA from Duke University, Brian has over 10 years of diverse professional experience spanning multiple industries. As a Director of Corporate Development at LabCorp, Brian led strategic teams to realign and grow divisional business into national programs. He was also the VicePresident of Business Development and Strategic Accounts at one of the fastest growing technology companies in Durham – where he helped grow the company from 14 to 50+ team members in less than 2 years’ time. Brian is sponsored by Elisabeth Wiener. Welcome, Brian!