Notes from September 2, 2020 Meeting

Fifty-nine Rotarians gathered on the Zoom call shortly after noon to check in and socialize. At 12:27, Lori Walters provided the “Zoom Etiquette” for  members. At 12:30, President Joanne Pierson rang the bell to start the official meeting, she then introduced Tom Strode on the piano with the “Star Spangled Banner.” Ryan Peterson provided the Inspiration with a message focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He called us to extend the love that we know and compel us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Downs Herold chose “Happy Wanderer” for our music selection and encouraged everyone to sing along. Please click here for your listening pleasure.

President Joanne welcomed the members in attendance (79 by this time) and thanked our set up team consisting of Lori Walters, John White; our photographer, Fred Beutler, Reporter, Kathy Waugh and attendance taker, Lauren Heinonen.

Communications Allocations Recipient – Washtenaw Literacy, Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman spoke about the Washtenaw Literacy organization and explained the core values of “believing that literacy is the foundation for a sustainable community.” The organization launched a brand new website on March 15 – two days after the state shut down due to the pandemic. Through the website, Health Literacy became their #1 priority. Meanwhile, Digital Literacy still remains a major focus and the portal provides outreach and online resources.

Rotary grants have been a huge resource in funding the LIFT (Learning is a Family Thing) program. It is a huge issue but became even more difficult after the pandemic hit. The organization is concerned about the academic slide of our children when they are being taught at home and risk not having access to basic literacy skills. The LIFT program has now been expanded to include adults with school-aged children as a result.

Here’s what you can do to help.

  • Attend ABC’s of Washtenaw Literacy on September 10 at 1:00
  • Register at link/ABCs
  • Attend online Virtual Tutor Training
  • Register for training after attending ABCs


Speaker for Today, Ronald Harris, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for BlueCross/Blue Shield of Tennessee – “Overcoming Bias”

Marcia Lane introduced our speaker today and provided some background for our discussion by referring to lyrics from the musical “South Pacific” and the meaning that surrounds them. Click to here to read the lyrics.

Ron Harris’ role at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is to cultivate a corporate culture where diversity and inclusion are aligned with the company’s corporate strategies and values. He reports directly to the CEO and provides strategic leadership. His company was named the best place to work from the LGBQT Human Rights campaign and has received multiple awards for diversity and inclusion.

Ron spoke about unconscious bias and how to consciously seek to overcome this. It’s not about good and bad people – all of us bring a level of unconscious bias to the table. These biases impact our everyday decisions. We don’t even realize that we’re doing it. Being bombarded in our environment, we have to “unlearn” some things.

Ron invited members to close their eyes while he told a story and invited us to visualize this scenario in our minds. He then asked us questions about what we saw. The answers to our questions were a result of our unconscious bias regarding our everyday experiences.

Ron discussed his dislike for the word “diversity” due to it’s understanding that each individual is unique. However, if the individual differences aren’t “seen,” then they are not useful. Diversity is organic, but Inclusion is intentional. Inclusion means all the voices are at the table. All individuals are viewed as talented and contributing. It’s important that we understand that inclusion means people are not one-dimensional.

Bias is neither good nor bad – it can be helpful at times. A bias is a predisposition to see events, people or items in a positive or negative way. Most of our negative biases are based on stereotypes. It’s important to understand the dangers of stereotyping (an oversimplified image or statement applied to a whole group of people, regardless of the individual). We have to work hard to overcome our unconscious biases.


Next Week’s Speaker

Bill Feldt, Board of Directors, Rotarian Malaria Partners, Tackling Malaria in Africa”


President Joanne closed today’s meeting with a quote from Daniel J. Boorstin, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”  She rang the bell at 1:30.