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Rotary Club of Oakland Civic Luncheon Meeting, April 21, 2022

President Dudley Thompson called to order the 5,384th Civic Thursday meeting to order – highlighting the fact that Oakland Rotary is the 3rd Rotary Club established and we are proudly a diverse group of over 270 members. Our membership includes business owners, professionals and community leaders. 

Pres. Dudley then asked all to join him in reciting our Rotary Vision Statement which, in part, states that together we see a world united to take action.

Davey Warner, soon-to-be-inducted new member and avid outdoorsman shared a lovely and inspiring quote by Harold V. Melchert inviting us to “live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.” 

Past President & Past District Governor Ed Jellen introduced Dianne Dorn,  Past President of the San Leandro Club and Assistant District Governor, Area 4A. Ruth Stroup was pleased to welcome her “GlenFriends” to the meeting. Keri Butkevich introduced guest and husband Nickolai, and David Stein introduced Dan Walters, president of the Bay Area Council of Boy Scouts of America.

Rotary Ukraine Disaster Relief Fund: In keeping with the meeting’s focus on Ukraine, President Dudley reminded us of our own fundraising efforts ignited by a generous club donor’s $10,000 challenge grant that with an additional $5,000 became a $15,000 total challenge. We have matched this gift successfully and the Club is donating $30,000 to the Rotary Foundation Disaster Response Fund assisting those affected by the war in Ukraine. So far, according to the Rotary International website, 53 disaster response grants, totaling nearly $1.5 million have been awarded.  Many thanks to all club members who joined in this generous response.

John C. Weaver Jr., M.D. Memorial – April 30th: Rotarians are invited to attend the Memorial honoring the life of our esteemed colleague, John C. Weaver, Jr. M.D., whose passion was appreciated and loved by many in our club, and especially those in the World Community Services Committee who accompanied him on his travels for humanitarian projects.

The Memorial will take place Saturday, April 30, 3:30 pm at Piedmont Community Church, 400 Highland Avenue, Piedmont.

National Volunteer Week: This week being National Volunteer Week, Pres. Dudley asked us to celebrate by volunteering for some of the upcoming events listed on our website’s Event Calendar. Dudley also thanked the volunteers who made the virtual Civic Thursday meeting possible.

Golf Tournament at Poppy Ridge Golf Course: The Golf Tournament on April 29th at Poppy Ridge Golf Course is sold out.

Sarah Chavez-Yoell introduced new club member Robert Kenney who is an attorney and serves as PG & E’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory and External Affairs. He is an East Bay resident and proud father of two sons. In his spare time Robert enjoys spending time with family, playing tennis, riding his bike and going to the movies. Welcome Robert!

David Stein introduced our guest speaker with an impressive list of achievements. Thomas E. Graham is a Distinguished Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the Senior Director for Russia on the National Security Council Staff during the George W. Bush administration and a special assistant to the president while managing a White House-Kremlin strategic dialogue. He is a co-founder of the Russian, East European and Eurasian studies program at Yale University, and has been a sought-after lecturer in global affairs and political science since 2011. 

Thomas’s excellent commentary gave us a behind-the-headlines look at what is happening in Ukraine, why it happened, Putin’s motives and what likely lies ahead for better or worse. He stressed that the nature of the conflict from the Russian standpoint is larger than the war in Ukraine.  He said that Moscow sees as a threat the expansion of NATO’s euro-atlantic region in the years following the cold war when Russia was weakened. Even if the war in Ukraine is resolved, we will likely still see an attempt to destabilize the NATO bond among nations. Moscow’s fear of encroachment is so strong that the present war in Ukraine is seen by some experts as part of Russia’s larger goal to take control of the seaports and the entire territorial region along the Black Sea, for security and economic reasons. 

Putin so far has underestimated Ukraine’s resistance. The timing of the invasion was likely influenced by the fact that Zelensky was a new president who scored low in the polls in his inaugural time before the invasion, easily replaceable in Putin’s mind.  Zelensky also had made a concerted approach to NATO to make good on its 2008 promise to work toward adding Ukraine. This made Moscow nervous, as did the observation that NATO countries had begun to help train other countries on defensive exercises. Putin had little active resistance from NATO in other invasions, and he did not expect the united front it displayed this time.

Ultimately, Putin underestimated both Zelensky and the Ukraine Resistance, while overestimating the readiness and capability of his military. Thomas opined that whatever comes next in the Ukrainian-Russian war, there is likely no negotiated future for the conflict simply because Moscow wants Ukraine to surrender, and they will not do so. Putin sees victory as his only solution to Russia’s security and his personal future. He declared a goal to win the war by May 9, an important Russian Victory Day Holiday celebrating its triumph over Nazi Germany. Whether he will resort to maniacal weaponry to get there, or instead focus on seizing the Donbas region to declare victory, remains to be seen in the days ahead. He is already a war criminal for the organized atrocities committed by Russian soldiers on civilians. Thomas feels it will take a decade or more for Ukraine to recover from all that has happened so far. And the impact on its people much longer, if ever.

Click here to watch Thomas E. Graham's video segment.

Missed our meeting, but interested in checking out the next one? Click below to learn more. https://www.oakland-rotary.org/calendar

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