Last Week at Rotary

Thursday, January 11, 2018


“Cincinnati Attorney Awarded “Alternative Nobel” Prize”

 Our speaker this week was Rob Billott who recently won an international award known as the “Alternative Nobel” prize. He is known for the New York Times Magazine article entitled,“The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” The article described his 30+ years working on a case on chemical pollution of the Ohio River.

Jack Scott introduced Rob Bilott to the club. Jack said Rob had represented Terracon Consultants many years ago. Jack said he had been so impressed with the quality of Rob’s work, that Jack had written a letter to Taft Stettinius & Hollister (TSH) law firm recommending Rob “be made partner” at TSH.

Afterward Jack went on to say Rob became involved in a case with a major chemical company in West Virginia whose impact has been felt world-wide thanks to an article in the January 10, 2016 issue of The New York Times Magazine entitled “The Lawyer Who Was DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Soon after, he was awarded the “Alternative Nobel” Prize from Stockholm.

Rob lives with his wife, Sarah, and their three sons in Crescent Springs, Kentucky. 

Rob began by saying he was going to tell us a 30-minute lunchtime story spanning 18 years. He said I joined TSH as a lawyer 27 years ago. At that time there were no chemical companies involved in TSH’s Environmental Department. It all changed one day, however, when the phone rang in late 1998. It was a farmer who said he had had over 100 cows to die on his farm. Rob asked him why he was calling with this information. The farmer said he had gotten my name from “my grandmother” who also lived outside the same town, Parkersburg, WV. The farmer said for many years he had noticed a pipe discharging a sudsy, foam substance onto his farmland where the cattle stood. He had called it to the attention of everyone in town, including DuPont, who happened to be the largest employer… no avail. Washington Works, a division of DuPont, manufactured Teflon in Parkersburg. After consulting lawyers, the EPA, and DuPont, showing each one incriminating videos for years, he reached out to me nearly at wit’s end. He sent me the videos and when we at TSH saw them, we thought that something was “clearly going on.” The problem was that the farmer clearly had a case, but he couldn’t pay. We decided to do it “on contingency” which means that we’d get paid if he won. 

I began by pulling all records, permits, and licenses. No problems were recognized. I talked with the DuPont lawyers. I called in experts like independent scientists. By late 2000, I couldn’t find any chemical connection. DuPont concluded, “The farmers are killing their own cows.” Back then there were no emails for discovery, so I arranged everything I had collected chronologically. I saw one letter about PFOA. I couldn’t find any information about it so I asked DuPont and learned that I must obtain a “court order” to compel them to report on the chemical they were using (PFOA). I learned that it was a chemical that had been used since 1951. It was a “man-made” chemical created by 3M. DuPont called it C8 due to it’s having 8 carbons. It was used to manufacture Teflon. After it was used in manufacturing,  it was dumped into the Ohio River, onto landfills, and its fumes escaped up the smoke stacks at the Washington Works plant. It was a “grandfathered” chemical so it was beyond regulation. I saw many memos about the amount (100s of thousands of tons) within DuPont. I learned that it is a unique chemical in that it never degrades. Once ingested, it coats “blood and organs” forever and it continues to accumulate. It was confirmed to be an animal carcinogen by the 1980s.

By 1984, DuPont sampled the local drinking water and confirmed that it was also in the public’s drinking water. They decided not to tell the public. By 1988, DuPont was regulated to keep the composition to 1 part per million, but the reality was they registered 2 parts per million and again did not report this. When the chemical’s foam was found in the landfill, DuPont settled the farmer’s case. The public’s drinking water hazard remained. I sent the information to the EPA on March 1, 2001, thinking the “Feds” would set standards. There was no action taken. 

By this time, the community learned about the problem and wanted it out of the drinking water. DuPont saw increasing cancer rates, just as they had seen in the animals, but claimed there was no evidence of PFOA being the cause in the rise of human cancer cases. We filed a class-action suit against the world’s largest chemical company, DuPont, when the chemical wasn’t even regulated. By 2002, the Ohio River was sampled. At least 70,000 people were drinking this water. It was determined that not only were they exposed, but also its contamination extended at least 48 miles down the Ohio River to every community along the its way. 

You might wonder what the EPA was doing. In 2003, the EPA thought it might ban PFOA. In 2004, the EPA sued DuPont. DuPont settled the lawsuit. It doesn’t disclose the suit. 

Eventually DuPont was forced to pay for the drinking water to be filtered with granulated carbon. The community wanted to know about what this did to people drinking the water. Three epidemiologists were selected to look at all the information that was published and unpublished.  In 2005, DuPont paid $70M to the local community. The community decided to use the money to pay class-action members to have their blood analyzed. No one had ever sampled this many people. As it turned out, nearly all 70,000 people came in right before Christmas. Each one walked out with a check. Entire families came. This became the largest human health study ever done. Twelve different studies were designed over seven years. DuPont paid another $33M. Each class member was to be monitored. If someone had the disease, they were paid damages by DuPont. When blood levels were as low as 0.5 parts of PFOA per million, cancers such as kidney, testicular, and thyroid were detected as well as high cholesterol levels. DuPont couldn’t dispute the results. They had 3,500 people with at least one of the six diseases. In all three trials, DuPont was held liable for consciously contaminating the community without disclosing the ramifications of its actions. 

In 2006, the EPA settled with DuPont for $16M which, incidentally, amounted to one day’s worth of profit for DuPont. DuPont said it would not make any more. 

I thought, “What about these chemicals (PFOA and its derivatives) that are already out there in new products like stainless carpet, fire extinguishing foam, and cable wire to name a few that are continuing the leaching process into the drinking water? In 2012, a sampling of the US drinking supply was urged. The use of PFOA still had not been regulated. I thought it had to be a nationally recurring problem. 

By this time the article in the New York Times Magazine had come out (January 6, 2016). This is the same time as Flint, Michigan’s water pollution problem was uncovered. In the last year, all communities are learning about this. 

In 2016, the EPA asserted an informal guideline about PFOA. It is still not regulated. Fortunately, the states are now stepping up.

This chemical is used in fire-fighting training activities. There is a need to sample the drinking water at military bases. Everyday a new community learns about this. The Department of Defense (?) is paying millions of dollars to filter drinking water. 

Related chemicals, like PFAs, have never been studied. Dupont’s GenX with 6 carbons is thought to be less toxic. Yet in 2013, the first cancer study was conducted and it found that GenX caused the same tumors as PFOA. This demonstrates the need for a new system for filtering our public drinking water. EPA regulations still can’t force clean-up. 

This problem has been brought to light by the US Tort system. The US Tort system, one of the best legal systems in the world, is the only way the people are being helped. This time it is all because one farmer stood up. 

We all have it in our blood. A UC researcher saved blood samples from 1990. 

 The average level of PFOA nationally was 2 – 4 parts per million.

 In Cincinnati the average was 16 parts per million and in N. Kentucky it was 13.

 In West Virginia, it was 23. 

Cincinnati put in a granulated carbon filter activation system in 1992. Northern Kentucky did the same in 2013.


Thursday, December 21, 2017


Cincinnati Regional Business Committee

When Teach For America, a nonprofit organization attracting college graduates to teach in inner-city schools, was looking to expand into Cincinnati, the new Cincinnati Regional Business Committee (CRBC) stepped up with the largest commitment, $300,000 over three years.

Build Our New Bridge Now, the business coalition supporting the Brent-Spence Bridge Project, is co-chaired by three CRBC members.

Economic development initiatives from REDI Cincinnati to the new Martin Luther King Jr. interchange have all had heavy support from CRBC members and CRBC was a major contributor to the new GreenLight Fund to spur social entrepreneurship.

Quietly over the years, the CRBC, a vehicle to get more of the region’s mid-cap company CEOs and executives to invest their talent and treasure into community issues, has stepped up and is having impact.

Come and listen directly to the President of CRBC, Scott Robertson, to learn about their current and future goals on improving the Tristate area.

Scott started his career with Globe Business Interiors (GBI) in 1984 and became Chairman/CEO in 1992 and sole owner in 1998. GBI partnered with Carl Satterwhite to form RCF Group in 2003. Scott is deeply involved in numerous civic and community organizations and has had roles with many more throughout his career.  Currently, he is President of the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee (CRBC) as well as a member of the Board of Directors for the Lindner Center of HOPE, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Foundation Board, Cincinnati Museum Center Board, Cincinnati Zoo Board of Directors, The Commonwealth Club, Lindner Center of HOPE President’s Advisory Board, Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority Board, REDI Cincinnati Executive Board of Directors, Steinhauser Inc. Board of Advisors, United Way of Greater Cincinnati Tocqueville Society, and the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO) Cincinnati Chapter. 

Doug Bolton introduced Scott Robertson. He told us Scott had been a member of Rotary and had served on the Rotary Board for a period of time. His father had been a Rotarian for over forty years. 

Scott created his own firm, RCF Group, in 2003. Today it is the 6th largest minority firm in our region with $70M in revenues and 80 employees. It has become both a friend and a competitor with P&G.

When Scott began speaking he said it was good to be back in Rotary. He said his Rotary heritage is great because not only his father, but also his brother were members of this Rotary Club for a very long time. He told us that he had learned so much from his time in Rotary. He said, “I use a lot of what I learned from Rotary in the Cincinnati Regional Business Community’s Mission Statement which says ‘Ignite and accelerate change in the Greater Cincinnati Community leveraging its unique assets.’” 

What are the CRBC’s unique assets? Actually they are not dissimilar from those found in Rotary. These assets are the unique individuals who bring passion and care to engage collectively to solve problems. Today there are 98 members. Each brings something of themselves. To generate seed money from each member paying dues which we leverage to solve problems. We also engage around the Chamber of Commerce. 

How do we leverage ourselves? We prioritize any gaps in leadership with CEO engagement that can have the most impact; for example, REDI Cincinnati, Teach for America, Centrifuse, Green Light Fund, and bringing Southwest Airlines to the Greater Cincinnati Airport. We generated $300,000 for Teach for America. To get Southwest Airlines into Cincinnati’s airport we negotiated for 12 years. All the way up to the final negotiations, Southwest wanted more than “just the right city.” They also wanted business terms that guaranteed $5,000 worth of tickets for two years for each of 80 members. This turned out to be the single most important reason for their final decision to come to the Cincinnati region. 

The CRBC was founded in late 2012. We already had P&G, UC, and Kroger, but we also wanted to engage madcap CEOs in civic affairs. We began to engage the community in various ways. First of all, we benchmarked against St. Louis. We shared a professional staff with the Chamber and with CBC. What began with 41 members, more than doubled to a membership of 98. It is rather amazing what we’ve been able to do to make things happen. We have a focus on education, government affairs, job growth and entrepreneurship, regional assets, and community improvements. We weren’t used to dealing with the environment. We’ve experienced a sea change actually as all our members have grown in their knowledge. 

What is the leadership of CRBC? It is a co-chair arrangement with two co-chairs for every committee.

Where is CRBC headed? We want to reduce childhood poverty and to solve the opioid crisis. We have asked the Sheriff of Newtown to speak at our meeting. We realize that we must be part of the solution, but haven’t figured out yet what we can do. Third, we want to create an ecosystem among the workforce. We understand that people without a car who want to work must commute for at least two hours. We need to work toward reconstructing our business system. We will invite the political candidates to speak at our meetings. We want to get to know each one so we can work with them to solve issues such as these. 

1. Who are the “mid-cap” CEOs? What size of company do they run? We have no defined the size. We mean CEOs who have the capacity to participate time-wise.

2. What is the goal for the public schools? We introduced Teach for America with measured outcomes. We want to see that school board candidates are progressive thinking and student focused. We also funded a study regarding teacher involvement. We learned that Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has adopted a practice of hiring teachers for the next school year way too late to find the most excellent teachers. We want to turn this around by encouraging them to hire sooner. When Mary Ronan was the Superintendent, we went to her and asked how we might help facilitate a change in hiring practices. We offered to go to local colleges to focus them on CPS. The result was profound. 100% of the teachers were hired by mid-summer. There was no blame or force. We just offered our help. We are a voting democracy.

3. Funding the CRBC? Is it pay to play? We have a budget with $11M to spend on initiatives. The Green Light Fund spends $10,000 – $50,000 for five years to fill gaps in social services. The Family Initiative (FII) was founded by a tech guy on his way to a Centrifuse meeting who literally fell in love with Cincinnati enroute to the meeting. He thought, “We need to come to Cincinnati.” The GCF saw fit to give $1.8M to FII. As a result, instead of 100 families receiving help, FII helped 500 families. This shows how we leverage. 

This is my first engagement publicly to speak about CRBC. Actually I filled in for who would have been your speaker, Senator Rob Portman. We feel it is “the right time” to put a spotlight on our accomplishments.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

Presented by
Assistant Fire Chief Thomas C. Lakamp
Cincinnati Fire Department
and Dr. Christopher Janowak, U.C. Health

Launched in 2015 by the White House, Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and a call to action. Stop the Bleed is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives. 

No matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene. A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within 5 minutes, therefore it is important to quickly stop the blood loss. Those nearest to someone with life threatening injuries are best positioned to provide first care. According to a recent National Academies of Science study, trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans under age 46.

To learn more or to get involved in the Stop the Bleed Campaign, view their website at

Deb Caley, as a Board Member of the Cincinnati Fire Association, introduced Assistant Fire Chief (AFC) Thomas Lakamp as Dr. J was unable to be at the meeting to speak. Deb said, “AFC Lakamp is a 29 yer veteran of the Fire Department that delivers fire safety, special operations, and emergency response delivery to the city. Not only is he a UC grad twice with a Masters in Homeland Security, but also he is an adjunct instructor.” AFC Lakamp began his remarks by saying Dr. J is in Iraq. He will be back next month. There are so many ways Dr. J has shaped the medical service delivery in our city that I am humbled to stand in his place.

In addition Dr. Christopher Janowak, from Trauma and Critical Care at UC will be presenting on behalf of Dr. J. He said we are pushing a CPR initiative and other trauma-related emergency services. We are learning from the lessons Dr. J has learned from the battlefield to decrease the impact of injuries. 

This is the 5 year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. We must prevent this type of traumatic event from ever happening again. The Hartford Consensus II has looked to see what might have been done to improve survival. The number one cause of death in that setting was blood loss. In CPR the patient is awake so the care giver can determine when death comes.  The Hartford Consensus III and IV is determined to help first responders. For example, at the Boston Marathon many of the injured had to be treated by emergency responders. 29 victims received improvised tourniquets. A pressure tourniquet is used ideally in this situation. The Consensus program offers a 2.5 hour course for the lay population and 1.5 hours for previously medically-trained persons. We at UC are not doing this alone. It is a UC/Fire Department partnership. We are attempting to make this available to our city to be prepared. We have already done the program in many school districts. We are preparing people for cultural events like the recent Turkey Trot and Flying Pig in May. We have already trained more than 800. We are using combat tourniquets and bleeding control techniques. The more involved we are, the better it is for the city. 

AFC Lakamp said, “I feel that I must begin by describing the Cincinnati Fire Foundation. It was founded in 2008. They are responsible for the emergency room, for sponsoring our celebrations at the Fire Department, and for financing this effort. We used to have to wait until the police secured a scene, but inadvertently it took so long that victims bled to death waiting for treatment. Even if it took 4 – 5 minutes, the patients were already dead when we got there. The new protocol has made all the difference.”

We have taught faculty and students in the Cincinnati Public Schools. We have offered an Emergency Medical Treatment program at Western Hills High School. The goal is to deliver this aid whenever the need arises inside or outside of school. Once the students work with the Fire Department on campus in our program, they are encouraged to “just stop in” at the Fire Department later if there is a need. The cost is approximately $23 per student if we put it together ourselves. We have done 37 at Western Hills High School. We are presently working on the Oyler School in Price Hill and several other at-risk school locations. 

We would like to cultivate corporate partnerships. We have offered the course to the Reds’ Security Staff and to several private businesses. Stop the Bleed needs gloves, tourniquets, and gauze. The cost to offer Stop the Bleed per student is $37. Training courses are offered if not free, for a nominal cost, at the Cincinnati Fire Department. 


How should we prepare for an event? In a pinch use anything like a belt to save a life. Best of all, though, is to apply direct pressure. Usually that will control any bleed. Teaching and training puts this into everyone’s mind. We teach how to pack a wound, even though some victims won’t make it. 

How do you treat shock? 
We are not focusing on this with lay people.


Thursday, November 16, 2017


As Attorney General (AG), Mike DeWine’s priority is protecting Ohio’s families.

To better protect our kids, AG DeWine created a special Crimes Against Children Unit to help identify, arrest, and convict sexual predators. He has also increased training for law enforcement and educators to help improve school safety, as well as human trafficking, child abuse, missing children, bullying, and for the needs of foster youth.

AG DeWine is working to rebuild Ohio’s neighborhoods, investing $75 million from the national mortgage settlement to help demolish abandoned and blighted properties. He has also made commitments to support anti-gun violence programs and community groups that are working to repair our hardest-hit communities.

AG DeWine has a long and distinguished career in public service focusing on protecting Ohio children and families.  DeWine served as Greene County Prosecuting Attorney, in the Ohio State Senate, in the United States House of Representatives, as Ohio Lieutenant Governor, and in the United States Senate.

Mike DeWine grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio and married his high school sweetheart, Frances Struewing, while both were students at Miami University. The DeWines, who have resided in Cedarville Township since Mike graduated from law school, are the parents of 8 children and 23 grandchildren. His son, Pat DeWine, is an Associate Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.

I want to talk with you about Ohio’s future. Ohio is an amazing state with a great future. I believe the spotlight will return to the Midwest and specifically to Ohio. The next several decades will be ours. The reason for this is our abundant resources. We have water and other states do not. We also are blessed with natural gas. The fact that it comes from one of Ohio’s poorest areas, southeastern Ohio, is good for their economy and great for Ohio. 

Presently we face two major challenges. We must tackle the drug problem and improve our educational system. As I travel around the state, employers say to me every time, “I can’t find people who can pass the drug test, or if they can, they don’t have the skills to do the work we have.” Employers tell me they would like to expand their business, but they just cannot find workers. 

I have spent 20 years in the judicial community: first in the House and then in the Senate. However bad you think the drug problem is; it is worse: death claims 15 people every single day. We’d be outraged if terrorists killed 15 people every day.  Yet, there is no sense of urgency for the drug problem. Babies are born addicted to drugs. Children’s Services are bursting at the seams. One half of the kids have at least one parent battling drugs. Jails have become detox centers. Emergency squads carry Naloxone to bring drug overdose victims back to life. Drugs are having a major impact on Ohio’s economy. 

I ask business leaders if they test for drugs before they hire someone, what percentage of those interviewing walk out before the test is given. And further, how many once tested, fail the test? I have done my own sampling and think that the number is approximately 40%, anecdotally. This means that MANY Ohioans are not living to their potential! This problem has a huge impact on Ohio’s economy. Therefore we are facing this problem head on. I have set up a Twelve Point Program that you can see at

This problem, like most, can only be solved locally. The pill problem is centralized along the river and largely in Adams and Brown counties. Many counties in Ohio have fought back by grass roots efforts. Usually a mother or a dad who has lost a child brings everyone together in a community. I have appointed a group of six parents whose job is not to enforce law, but instead to encourage grass roots efforts in the most offending communities. Carol Baden, Rotarian Pete Baden’s wife, is one of the six. She can be a spokes- person if you are not happy about some aspect of the problem. We are not experts, but we are doing this every day. 

Secondly, the program must begin in kindergarten and continue through the 12th grade. Training should be age appropriate in many areas such as nutrition and wellness. Kids think they are invulnerable. I have written a 24-page report to help schools start a program at every single school. We would like to make the training more uniform because today it is a “hodge-podge” offered at some and not at others. I would like to call attention to a program in Colerain Township. Don Molloy heads up the Quick Response Program. This entails finding someone in the Colerain schools who has overdosed, has gone to the hospital, and has nearly died. If they live, Colerain finds that the experience becomes a “teachable” moment. The victim is taken to and enrolled in a detox program immediately.  There is another good program in Lucas County. Law Enforcement people say they see this every day. Ohio is “a very local government state.” This independence means they cover a lot of territory and get a lot done, but it also means with 950 Police Departments, Ohio is decentralized. This is not good for taking on the Mexican drug cartel. The Mexican Cartel has established a good business plan: they no longer rely on Afghanistan for Poppies, they grow them and process them in Mexico. They bring their supply over the border in their internal and physical cavities. They bring it to Cincinnati, and then sell it. Nearly 80% of the Fentanyl and heroine pain patients are now on drugs. A person can buy heroine in Cincinnati on the street for $10. Unfortunately, a person’s desire for relief from pain grows and soon what cost $10 escalates to needing multiple doses and the cost rises in many cases to $1,000 per day. Few can finance such a habit so approximately half the crime goes to financing this insidiously, increasing scourge. 

Only now are the 950 police departments beginning to share data. We have adopted a new model that originated with Homeland Security for a multi-jurisdictional task force to consolidate the information that exists within police departments. We are also focusing on drug cartels. We are trying to stop the drug inventory at the source. Drug money often goes for guns. We HAVE to rein this in!

1. Drug Courts are hard on drug sellers who are instigating addiction among the population.  Law enforcement is bringing in many addicts. To counteract they are providing intense “tough love” by giving the addicted victim a choice between two hard places: incarceration or recovery. We are getting good results. Usually victims of heroin addiction don’t recover the first time, but by the second or third time if they keep trying, they do.

South of Youngstown we busted a team of 4 brothers from Cleveland and a cousin involved in a major drug operation in Columbiana County. It takes a holistic approach. 

2. Why would Sheriff Jones prescribe Narcan only one time? Sheriff Jones is a personal friend. I urge the police to carry Naloxone. The Sheriff often gets there first. We have a film of the EMS squad responding at a fast food restaurant to a victim. You can see it on the Ohio Attorney General Webpage. The film shows how the victim is brought back to life. 

I have heard stories told by women who were brought back two or three times. One said, “I was so nasty to the police, but the truth is: they saved my life.” 

3. What is your plan for education? The jobs and drug problem must be addressed first. What we need to see is 65% of Ohioans getting some form of education beyond high school: from a professional school like one that teaches welding or plumbing, etc. all the way to a degree program at a university. This is essential to providing for a life in the middle class with home ownership and raising a family of one’s own. The hard truth is that we are currently at 43% and there is no plan submitted by our Governor for getting us to 65%.

I think of a mother whom I spoke with during my travels around Ohio. She said she had a son at Great Oaks and she is happy because he graduated and now he has a good high tech job. She admitted that she fought his decision to go to Great Oaks rather than to college. She said, “He was right. I was wrong. The reason I fought so hard was that when I was in school, only the dumb kids went to schools like that.” Everyone needs to visit these schools to see the high tech education that is being taught to “digitally smart” kids. All a parent wants is for their son/daughter to be happy and to have a job to support themselves for which they have a passion. This is the American Dream. 

Another aspect of our educational program is to address the issue of kids growing up in difficult circumstances arising from a dysfunctional home environment. This is occurring in every county; however some are more concentrated than others. Many of them will not achieve the American Dream. Some schools are trying to make a difference to these children. All schools whether they be public, private, parochial, or charter, are facing this. Some have programs that are working. What they all have in common is their belief that every kid can learn. Everyone in the child’s life must embrace this outlook. Inspired by their successes, we are only reaching a fraction of the kids experiencing this. We MUST reach more! There must not be any more languishing unproductively in school. 

Long ago John F. Kennedy said, “The job of the President is to lay before the nation the unfinished business of the people.” The Governor’s job is to deal with this unfinished business among our kids. If we don’t, we are creating a permanent underclass of citizens. 

Honoring Our Rotarians on Veterans’ Day

Prior to the meeting because we had recently celebrated our Vietnam veterans on Veteran’s Day, we honored all of our former fighting men and women for the time they spent in the military on our behalf beyond the Vietnam War. All the military branches had representation. Each one stood for a moment. 

Of special notice, our Ira Abrahamson served in the Ohio National Guard from 1948-1950, as Captain in the US Coast Guard  from 1950-1951, and as Lt. Col. and Chief of Ophthalmology in the Army from 1951-1953. He served in the operating room where he began his life-long mission correcting vision and detecting the “lazy eye.”  This experience inspired him to create the Ira Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute at University of Cincinnati Hospital and the Vision Screening program in Rotary.



Thursday, November 9, 2017


Vietnam War Commemoration

Brigadier General Arnold was commissioned on January 28, 1982 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps as a Distinguished Military Graduate. He has 38 years of military service, and served three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq in special operations task forces. General Arnold graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. He earned his MBA at Cleveland State University and a Masters in Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army War College.

He began his military career as an enlisted soldier with five years of service in an Airborne Pathfinder Detachment.  He was commissioned as an infantry officer. His branch transferred to Special Forces (Green Berets) upon graduation from the Special Forces Qualification Course. During the next 12 years, he served as Detachment Executive Officer, Special Forces A-Team Commander, and Company Commander in the 11th Special Forces Group.

His key assignments include:  Company Commander of a Psychological Operations Company, Battalion Operations Officer, Battalion Commander, three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq in Special Operations Units: J5 (Plans) officer for Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) South Afghanistan, Commander, Coalition Special Operations Forces Afghanistan, Operations and Liaison officer Combined JSOTF West and Task Force 20 Iraq , Assistant Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Special Forces Command, Brigade Commander, Division G3, Deputy Commanding General of the 81st Regional Support Command, and Commanding General of the 100th Division.  

General Arnold’s military decorations include our nation’s highest award for military service, the Distinguished Service Medal. Other awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Stars, Iraq Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, Danish Parachutist Badge, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, and Special Forces Insignia for Combat Service.

Today we celebrate the brave and the proud who served in our place for our nation’s freedom. There are 380,000 veterans nationally and 320 in the local area who served in the Vietnam War era from November 1, 1955 through May 15, 1975. Many Rotarians served in a branch of the military during this era. Ron Ott, an Army first lieutenant who served from 1970 – 1975, introduced his fellow Rotarians who also served. They are: 

Rich Dineen, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve, served 1968-1974
Jerry Ernst, a staff sergeant in the Army Artillery and Infantry, 1962-68
Rick Findlay, a captain in the Army Artillery, served 1971-1975
Fred Fischer, a Naval petty officer, served 1971-1975
Al Koncius, an Army sergeant, served 1965-1971
Tom Lippert, a Navy lieutenant commander, served 1954-1962
Jeff Long, a Naval lieutenant commander, served 1964-66 and 1969-73
Bob McElroy, a Naval petty officer, served 1965-1969
Greg Moratschek, in Special 5 of the Army, served 1970-1972
Bill Stille, a journalist seaman in the Navy, served 1968-1971

Steve Drefahl  introduced Brigadier General Arnold. Post military, the General worked at GE in advanced training and later became a CEO of a technology firm. He decided to leave to return to the service where he became a brigadier general. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award and a Bronze Star. He recently completed Fire Fighter School. He and his wife reside in Columbus, Ohio. They have two grown children.

The General said, “Thank you to all you Veterans and to the others who support us.” When someone here pointed to my array of decorations, I told them, “This is to show that I have been married for 35 years to the same woman. You should see what she got for her service!”  We in the Green Berets, or Special Forces, personify “Service Above Self.” We are called “America’s Quiet Professionals.”

The Green Berets were established in 1952. They are the most versatile military unit in the world. They are the first on the ground in a crisis. They are experts in direct action. When compared with Navy Seals whose mission is a specific task, the Army Rangers go into their mission for a  few hours to a few days. The Green Berets tend to go in for periods that encompass a few weeks to a few years. Each one is told that to be prepared to be behind enemy lines for more than one year. Commanders who lead know every weapon available. It takes longer to become a Green Beret than it does to be a fighter pilot. Their skills are unique. They are fluent in foreign languages and cultures to support a nation’s cause. They are skilled at unconventional warfare. They work close to the ground often in isolation. Their advanced military skills make them most exposed to combat and therefore they have the highest casualty rates. They don’t receive any extra pay. They put their service above themselves. It is an intense brotherhood. They are excellent marksmen as well as adept at lariat training. 

The Green Berets were the first to go into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. Training for the America’s Memorial Response Team, shown in a picture, earned them the nickname “Special Horses.” Their skills include skiing in snow and uphill. Their training includes underwater training and swimming in the ocean. They lead behind enemy lines like in Syria today.  Their most valuable capability is their language, custom, and culture mastery which enables them to come into a village and lead a team of Afghans to build a school or hospital to benefit the Afghan people. One of our best projects was building a sanitary sewer system with the Afghans. 

A picture was shown of a Special Forces medic treating a man who was shot in his hand where 3 tendons were severed. Without treatment, the man would either have had a club hand or it would have had to be amputated. Three months after the Special Forces medic operated on the man’s hand, the man was using it naturally. 

In another picture, we saw a helicopter landing on a mountain ridge line amongst the rocks to drop off a team of Special Forces who intended to embed themselves. In one ridge line overview of an agricultural village, the General told us his men noticed a truck carrying a group of Taliban coming into the village. At dusk that night they saw two more trucks coming into the village. Both had considerable weaponry. I was 80 miles away from the Special Forces team. I authorized two special ops helicopters to fly back at night to the ridge line to pick up  the men. Before long another truck arrived in the village. The infrared glasses showed the enemy shooting. We went toward the objective. We could see a strobe light with our infrared glasses. People were moving in the middle of the night. We knew that shouldn’t be. Flying slowly we picked up the guys. We weren’t airborne more than 20 seconds before we could see that the enemy had parked a truckload of children directly in front of the other trucks. They were gambling that we had seen them with night vision glasses or if we didn’t and we shot them, they could use it against us. This is what we deal with every single day. 

There is a company of Special Forces, of 70 Green Berets, outside Columbus, Ohio.  They will deploy in January for Afghanistan.

Recently we had our second annual fund raiser gun shoot. Rotary members are welcome to participate or to help sponsor it. 

1. Are you familiar with Ashley’s War a book about women in training for war enabling Delta Force. I am a very vocal proponent of women in the military.

2. How do Navy Seals differ from Special Forces?  They are two entirely different cultures. The Special Forces are more mature. (We laughed out loud at that.) The General quickly said, “Special Forces are older and have to be successful at their first career. A Navy Seal can be right out of high school.”


Thursday, November 2, 2017


Artie Kidwell grew up in Covington, Kentucky and now lives in Erlanger, Kentucky.  He earned a degree in Information Technology from Thomas More College. His corporate career led him into the information technology division of the Palm Beach Company. 

Artie had always dabbled in magic and in December of 1992, he decided to give up corporate life and open “The Magic Shop” in Covington. He is now an internationally renowned magician.  

An example of Artie’s Magic can be found here:

Ron Ott introduced Artie Kidwell and said that he had known Artie for better than 30 years at Palm Beach. One day when Ron met Artie at the Palm Beach office, Artie told him that he was quitting to become a full-time magician. Ron said he was shocked by the news. Since then Artie has done his magic tricks all over including working his tricks at a funeral. Our best connection is that we both love Bobby “The Brain” Heenan (a wrestler). Here is Artie “The Wizard” Kidwell, Kentucky’s greatest magician, or at least the best in Erlanger on Elizabeth Street, 3rd house on the left! 

Artie’s act began by amazing us with scarf tricks, then he went into “speaking Kentucky” with such economy of verbiage as “Imowen” for I’m going, “Isposeso” for I suppose so, “geetyet?” for Did you eat yet?, “smore” for Do you want some more?, “Hereyar” for Here you are!, and “Here’s an aspern.” for Here is an aspirin. Next he peaked our curiosity with rope tricks. He finished doing tassel tricks and, of course, the typical card trick with a volunteer and a good sport, Vickie Hunter.

He described how he had gotten into doing magic. He said that he had been in data processing at Palm Beach. Cincinnati Bell helped to make him famous with his idea that was a lot like the internet at a time well before the internet. He thanked Ron Ott for that nice gesture. In 1992, he began doing magic. In order to earn a decent living to match his wife’s “steady teaching job,” he traveled all around and did magic on roofs, bar- and bat- mitzvahs, weddings, and even the funeral that Ron Ott mentioned. When I did the funeral, I was asked to entertain the 30 – 40 children during the funeral service. All these experiences made me a much better person than when I was in the corporate world. Rolled up in the word “magic” is love. Tell those you love at least once a day that you love them. 

At the conclusion, President Al asked Artie if he had known the toothbrush was invented in Kentucky. The punch line was that “It had to be or otherwise it would have been known as a ‘teeth’ brush.” See what you miss when you aren’t here with us???