After months of preparation, on October 2nd a dinner program, “The Time for Civil Discourse is NOW,” featuring a keynote address by the general secretary of Rotary International: John Hewko was hosted for almost 250 people at the Stanford Faculty Club. The event was the brainchild of the Palo Alto University Rotary Emeriti Group, a group of distinguished former Palo Alto University Rotarians, who are using their intellectual capital and position in the community to improve civil discourse.

 

Club member Okke Schrijvers gave an introduction to this timely topic drawing on stories about Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. During John's presentation, he drew on the example of Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio to highlight the importance of civil discourse, and the powerful role Rotary can play in improving civil discourse. Over the years of attempting to eradicate polio, there were many falsehoods spread about the vaccination efforts. Rotary was able to overcome the obstacles and resistance by listening and understanding people’s concerns. John then linked the topic of civil discourse to the last US presidential election and the role that media, old and new, have played in polarizing the citizenry. John concluded with recommendations for how the lessons learned during polio eradication could be applied more broadly.

 

The evening program was recorded and the video is available on the Palo Alto University Rotary Club Youtube channel at https://youtu.be/m7UGRjv0qDk. Feel free to share this link with others as we all work towards the goal of improved civil discourse.

 

Funding for the evening was generously provided by The John Ernest Foundation of our charter president Ken Kaufman.

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