A report on Joe Hamilton’s talk wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t begin with a statement of what almost all Rotarians feel about the annual talk by a District Governor. What Rotarians feel was amply demonstrated by the fact that there were fewer tables set up than usual; the decision makers knew that fewer Rotarians would attend. It was also demonstrated by chatter that took place outside the dining hall before the meeting: it could be summed up in one long groan.
And, you know, that’s a reasonable reaction. We’re generally forced to sit while the DG drones on about his plans for the year or about what Rotary has done in the past. And, in many cases, the speech isn’t delivered – it’s read.
So imagine our surprise today when the DG talked to us – talked. Except that, at first, he asked us to view a 5-7 minute promotion piece for the district conference. The film showed Joe and wife Kathi enjoying themselves in a place called the Amitrage Resort in Napa – the site for this year’s convention. Part of the piece showed Joe playing a piano piece by Chopin. There was some discussion at our table about whether it was really Joe. I expressed the opinion that it WAS Joe; any recording would have … well … been a much better performance. Then Joe and Kathi were seen enjoying a massage, a few moments at swimming pool side. And a lot of time in the wine tasting room. As a matter of fact, that was hilarious. They slowed down their speech, so that it seemed that they were deeply under the influence of the wine.
So, with that out of the way, Joe proceeded to tell us about the time he was at San Jose State. It was a period of panty raids and other campus trivia. But it was also the beginning of a civil rights awakening. It was the period when the infamous Bull Connors was operating against black protesters in Alabama.
And Joe Hamilton joined the protesters. He described, very simply, the march in his city of Gilroy – how he and his fellow protesters were treated by some of the residents of the city – the dangers they experienced, the humiliations they underwent,
It was an incident that, he said, changed his life. And – wrapping up his talk – he compared the 200 marchers there, in the 1960s, with the Rotarians of today. The common denominator, he told us, was Peace thru Service. Stretching it a bit, but both the civil rights people and today’s Rotarians, actively working to bring justice and peace to the community.
It was a good talk, and it was well received. We’ll still have cause to wince when we learn that the day’s speaker will be the district governor, because the more normal DG talk will surely continue for years But maybe there’s a lesson for future DG's in what Joe Hamilton managed to do for us today.
I suspect that the general reaction was not much different from mine, but it would be interesting to learn what others think.
Respectively Submitted By: Bob Kieve, Rotary Summary Committee
Photos Provided By: Paul Tumason, Rotary Photography Committee