2010-11-10, John Strebler, Ambassadorial Scholar

President Richelle Ponder called the meeting to order for Barbara Rose Farber’s invocation specially mentioning Veterans Day.  After the Pledge of Allegiance, Janet Green led the singing of “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee).”  I did not write down who was this week’s mystery greeter, but I know I paid a fine for not greeting them. 

Visiting Rotarians and guests were introduced, followed by Earl Phillips’s introduction of students.  Devin Blackwell from Las Cruces High had not previously attended a meeting, and Charlie Yaryan introduced her to the club.  She is a member of the LCHS Performing Dance troupe, and plans to teach special education.  Paulina won the auction for Jim Scott’s tickets to the upcoming Aggie basketball game, with the proceeds going to the current club project. 

President Richelle reminded us that District Governor Tim Parker would visit the club on November 17, that there would be a special board meeting with him at 11:00, and that the district is conducting a blood drive next week in honor of his visit (Parker works with United Blood Services in Roswell). 

Happy dollars honored Charles Tharp’s grandson Alexander in Los Alamos both for his progress toward a prestigious Siemens scholarship and being a member of the state champion soccer team.  Mary Ellen’s granddaughter Courtney Walker of Sugarland, Texas, was named all-District in volleyball.  Charlie Yaryan honored the 235th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.  Curt was happy to have been in the top 90 percent of his high school class.  Jim Scott’s new great-grandson Noah was born earlier in the day. 

The Program

John Strebler and Jim MaxonNovember Program Chair Jim Maxon introduced speaker John Strebler, who was an Ambassadorial Scholar to Chile in 1993.  The Ambassadorial Scholar program is an educational initiative of the Rotary Foundation.  Rotary Districts choose and fund (from the district’s portion of annual fund contributions) scholars to spend a year studying in another country.  Strebler’s visit represented a district in Missouri, where he was attending Truman State College.  His interview committee for the application process included the mayor of St. Louis and a vice president of Chrysler Corp.  The process begins some time before the year abroad; for example, applications to be Ambassadorial Scholars in 2012 are due by March 2011. 

Strebler chose to go to Chile to observe first-hand the transitions taking place there.  Chile, a country that stretches 2000 miles north to south and is about as wide (east-west) as New Mexico, in 1993 was undergoing significant political and economic change.  During 1973, democratically-elected Marxist President Salvador Allende was replaced by military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and Chile’s socialist economy moved toward a free market system.  Educational and infrastructure reforms begun in 1973 have made Chile a strong and stable economy; in fact, Strebler said that from 1960 to 2006, Chile was the only country in the Western Hemisphere to have greater worker productivity than the United States. 

Strebler’s personal journey was also significant.  He, unlike most of the other scholars in the country, chose to attend the public University of Chile.  The others, from schools like Rice and Harvard, chose similar private schools in Chile.  He believed he would be more at home in the public university.  After the first few days of school, he abandoned the “preppy” wardrobe he had brought, wearing five t-shirts and two pairs of jeans to school (not to Rotary functions) for most of the remainder of the year.  He spoke nothing but Spanish and worked hard to assimilate into the school.  Early in his stay, he was visited by the leader of the communist student group on campus with vague threats against the “gringo.” 

Strebler has observed changes from a more elitist and wealthy class of Rotarians in Chile, seeing new clubs beginning in entrepreneurial classes, and believes that the spread of Rotary has assisted with peaceful transitions.  He visited about 30 Rotary and related youth functions, speaking to clubs ranging from 12 to over 500 members.  He worked hard to emulate Rotary’s ideals, and tried to remember that “every day we are all ambassadors.”  When a flood occurred in the area of his school, he participated with the relief effort organized by the campus socialist group.  On his last day there, the communist student leader told him that before this year he hated all gringos, but now he was just really suspicious of them. 

After the Program

Paulina won the 50/50 drawing (although I am unclear that qualifies as news) and reported that $95 raised with today’s fines added to our contribution to Gospel Rescue Mission.  President Richelle then led the Four Way Test and adjourned the meeting. 

<prior week    following week>

Guests of Rotarians

Guest    Host
Barbara Andrew Mary Ellen McKay
Mireya Jurado Jim Maxon

Visiting Rotarians

Rotarian Home Club
Dawn Hawthorn Mesilla Valley

Student Guests

Student School
Devin Blackwell Las Cruces
Danae Hornung Mayfield
Joseph Medina Oñate
Sarah Schatzman Mesilla Valley Christian


Rotarian Date Club
Don Dresp 11/3 Rio Grande
Dave Lemen 11/17 Rio Grande

Submitted by Bill Harty Bill Harty