My Introduction to Rotary
by Freda Deskin
In the late 1980’s I was invited to the Norman noon Rotary Club in Norman to speak on my experience with the US Space program.
I arrived early and was met with a warm welcome by the president of the club. He politely led me to the head table, expressed his gratitude and told me the club’s agenda for the luncheon meeting. We engaged in small talk about my background and the people I had the opportunity to work with at NASA.
As we ate our lunch and chatted, the room began to fill with local businessmen who were members of the club. I couldn’t help but notice a dozen or so television sets on rolling carts lined along the walls parallel to the tables where the members were seated. I was a bit puzzled and then I remembered; the University of Oklahoma was playing in the basketball playoffs starting at 12:30!
It became clear to me the men were planning on watching the game during my speech. Sure enough, as the time for the game grew near, the carts of televisions were pulled closer to the
rows of tables and the sets were turned on with the volume off. How was I going to handle this without offending the members?
When I was introduced the members welcomed me with smiles. Before I began speaking, I stood there for about 5 seconds before speaking. I told them I could see they were all OU
basketball fans as I was. I told them that I thought the game was very important and that I,too, would love to see it. I paused and told them what I had to share with them was also important. It became very quiet.
I asked the members if we could make a “win-win” bargain. I suggested we all watch the game and that I would come back another time to speak. I was playful, but I was serious and I had no
animosity toward them. I would have loved to see the game!
One-by-one, the members turned off the television sets and pushed the carts back against the wall. They gave me their answer. I gave my speech. Not one member left. When I finished they
gave me a standing ovation.
A few months later I became a faculty member at OU and Rotary International began allowing women as members. I received a letter from the Norman noon Rotary club asking me to be a
member of their club. The very club I deprived of their championship game.
I joined the Norman Rotary along with Judy Hatfield, Susie Symcox and one or two other women. It was a great club and a great experience. I made many life-long friendships.
That is what I love about Rotarians. When given the choice, they do the right thing even if it hurts just a little.