February 16, 2015 Rotogram: 26

K-12 Education Funding

Patsy Brumfield is the communications director of Better Schools, Better Jobs – a statewide initiative for full funding of K-12 schools in Mississippi. Joe Thompson will introduce her.

Next Week: MSU Softball

Vann Stuedeman coaches the 9-1 Mississippi State University softball team. Joe Thompson will introduce her.

For the Record—February 9

Invocation and pledge: Richard Blackbourn

Attendance:                                          76.5%

Present — 117 (43 exempt, 1 honorary)

Absent — 64 (13 exempt, 11 honorary)

Makeup reported: Joe Bumgardner.

Guests: Member guests were John McWhorter and Frank Davis of Joe Thompson, Florence Box of Larry Box, Bill Roberts of Jack Forbus, Bryan Prather of Shelton Jones and Bob Fritzius of Zach Rowland. Guests of the club were Alison and Scott Calhoun, Carson and Mark Lawrence, Jazlyn and Gloria Douglas, Randy Witbeck, Larry Wilson, Max Garzoni, RYE student and James Carskadon, Starkville Daily News.

Meeting Notes

  • President Michelle welcomed Jeff Davis as a new Rotarian.
  • She thanked Carrie-Beth Randall for arranging for the club service t-shirts that were distributed to members.
  • Members were encouraged to thank rodeo sponsors for their support.
  • Following the meeting, the Dictionary Committee labeled books at Carey Hardin’s office. The president reminded members that the committee would welcome others to help with distribution to all of the county’s third graders.
  • She also reminded members to drop spare change in the polio eradication boxes at the secretaries’ table.

2015 Starkville Christian School web






Teacher and Students of the Month — Starkville Christian School math teacher Alison Calhoun was recognized by W.C. Johnson as Teacher of the Month. The former Boeing engineer selected Jazlyn Douglas and Carson Lawrence as Students of the Month. She said they were not just capable, but they go beyond expectations. Lawrence’s thirst for knowledge and Douglas’ willingness to mentor other students are their hallmarks.

District Conference in Biloxi

The president called for applications for the club’s executive administrator. Interested applicants must submit a letter of interest with qualifications to her by Feb. 28.

Happy Birthday!

Rotary’s 110th anniversary is February 23! This year also marks 30 years of PolioPlus.

Between the LionsPre-school readings are covered for the rest of the month, but volunteers are needed for later.

  • Feb. 17-Warren Housley
  • Feb. 18-Dave Boles
  • Feb. 19-Cindy Palmer
  • Feb. 24-Brent Fountain
  • Feb. 25-Ned Browning
  • Feb. 26-Trish Cunetto


Starkville Native Addresses Recent History through Fiction

February 9 — The U.S. State Department should redraw its foreign policy using Rotary International’s Four-Way Test according to author Sheldon Webster.

“In my opinion it’s way on the wrong track,” said the Starkville native. “We’re the greatest nation on the planet. We have so much to offer. We’ve just got to realign ourselves.”

After an international career in accounting, the Birmingham-based writer has embarked on a five-book series of historical fiction. The works range over three decades from the Bay of Pigs through Vietnam and the Central American Contras.

His latest book, House of Kampuchea—C.I.A.’s Cambodian Killing Fields, focuses on the Khmer Rouge rule of the Southeast Asian country. Noting that the now ten-year task was tougher than he had imagined, Webster said, “You can’t finish the book until the history’s completed. The war trials in Cambodia are now in their fifth year.”

The Central Intelligence Agency reference in the book focuses on clandestine U.S. support of the rogue Communist group. In its efforts to contain Chinese and Vietnamese expansion, the U.S. government destabilized Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite massive Khmer Rouge human rights violations, the support continued into the 1990s.

The 1984 Academy Award winning film, The Killing Fields, is the best known popular reference to the group’s four year reign of terror.

In a wildly misguided social experiment, the Khmer Rouge uprooted the Cambodian population. Their efforts to purge the society killed a quarter of the nation’s eight million people.

Central to the task were 158 re-education units based on the Chinese Communist Cultural Revolution model. Leader Pol Pot’s idea was to strip the nation to its bare bones and restore it to its grandeur known 1,000 years earlier.

The move began in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge captured the capital Phnom Penh and told the people to evacuate under imminent threat of American air raids. Conditioned to years of bombing, more than a million people headed to the countryside. They never returned from the labor camps.

In the new Democratic Kampuchea, borders were closed, army personnel and civil servants were executed, money was abolished and cities were abandoned. Society was purged of the educated, foreigners and the old social classes. Webster said even people who wore glasses were killed because that indicated they could read.

Just one gruesome example among many is Wat Phnom Sampeau atop the Killing Cave near Battambang. As victims exited the pagoda built on a huge limestone outcropping, they fell 300 feet to their death in a huge cave hole in the ground.

Webster uses Tuol Sleng Security Prison S-21 as his writing focus. Thus far, he has made three research trips to Cambodia. His first foray was in 2007 about the time Westerners were allowed back into the country.

When he attempted to bluff his way into the war crimes trials of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, he was met with “eight AK-47s pointed at my head.” Under the urgent advice of his driver, he beat a hasty retreat to his base, the Foreign Correspondents Club.

At the FCC, on his second trip, the Shades Valley Rotarian saw a reference to the Rotary Club of Phnom Penh. Visiting the club gave him valuable contact with a purge survivor and her husband, a Malay humanitarian worker, and a former Cambodian foreign services staffer. Their stories have greatly informed his work.

The ECCC is a product of Cambodian and U.S. efforts outside of the International Criminal Court to punish Khmer Rouge officials. Part of the U.S. motivation is to exempt its officials from any liabilities. To date, the ECCC has cost about $250,000,000, mostly underwritten by the U.S.

“Forty years later, the country is still one massive mine field lacking water and health care,” said Webster. “I think it’s a bad investment of a budget that mainly comes from the people in this room. It’s a sad chapter in American and world history — a chapter that’s pretty much been erased.”

“However, I’m optimistic as an individual and a grandfather that the world has become transparent by an invention called a smart phone,” he added. “It makes millions of people throughout the world reporters.”

Invoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex warning from his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, Webster warned, “We have to have a strong military so nobody’s going to fool with us. On the other hand, if you have a foreign policy that encourages the largest armaments industry in the world, they must have a war so they can shoot their missiles and shells.”

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