February 27, 2009

"USC's Success in Spite of Obstacles"

February 24, 2009: President Harris Pastides from the University of South Carolina spoke to our club this past week. He was also joined at the meeting by a handful of colleagues from USC. We were pleased to welcome these guests and honored to have President Pastides address us. Pastides is the 28th President of USC, having been sworn in on August 1, 2008. He was formerly a professor and a Dean, and has a host of accomplishments to his name, such as being Yale educated. He has also spear-headed many initiatives for the school's improvement during his time there.

Pastides discussed the history of USC and its current direction, and then turned to an overview of the devastating budget cuts and its affect on the school. He gloats that USC has been in existence since the General assembly approved it in 1801, and has been serving the state ever since that time. He is not willing to close campuses/reduce citizens' learning opportunities regardless of tough economic times.

Since mid-year 2008, the budget for USC has been cut 23.8% from the previous year, equaling about 52 million. The enormous budget cut was handed down with virtually no warning to the school's administration. President Pastides said that budget planning by the school is usually done prospectively for the year in advance. The cuts have forced the USC administration to examine all aspects of spending. Pastides noted regretfully that USC has been hit much worse than any other state school, with the closest behind being Alabama, at approximately 10% in cuts. He has had frank discussions with other states' school administrators who are worried over cuts of only a few percent in budget.

Despite the enormous cuts, the President is hopeful that some of the funds from stimulus package at the state level will trickle down to him. He is also optimistic about his school overall. It was a pleasure to listen to President Pastides' optimism and we thank him for the opportunity!

Reported by Jackie Grau, Keyway Committee

February 19, 2009

"Making Contacts at Social Events"

February 17, 2009: Fasten your seat belts, Rotarians, for today we learned how to beat the game of party hopping to come out ahead. Rotarian George Stevens kept us all on the edge of our chairs as he systematically told us how to make contacts and avoid getting "captured" when you attend a social affair, be it big or small.

The first step is to establish your goal and to do so it makes sense to set a challenge to meet 6 people during the course of the event. Prepare an "elevator" speech, i.e. one that you can do in just a few minutes yet make your point known. This would usually involve a very quick introduction of your self and what it is that you do.

In advance, bone up on a few current topics other than the weather to which you can refer and use to break into a conversation. Try not to come off negative; it is better to find something good to say on any subject. Arriving at the event you need to size it up; is it too loud to talk, are there too many people to even begin to talk to, is it so small that you will quickly find yourself trapped with a group for your total stay? The best event is reasonably large, and spread over several rooms or hallways so that you can find brief escape areas. If the groups are small, try to slip into a group of two, focusing on one of the two. If nothing else is apparent, comment on something about the individual; a lapel pin often gives you a great opener. But, when talking with a lady, speak of nothing below her neck! If you get "captured" in a conversation going no where, excuse yourself to get another drink, food, or a rest break. If that fails, find some other poor soul in the room to introduce to your "going nowhere" person, and bail out! If you are fortunate enough to have someone else from your group attending with you, make plans to help each other out when an escape is needed.

When it is all over, write down notes immediately so you have a reference to use to follow up on the good things that happened. Thanks, George, now we all know how to outsmart each other whenever we schmooze the players in a social setting!

Reported by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

February 13, 2009

"The Importance of Place"

February 10, 2009: Our own Number 6 Chalmers Street is home to what may be the only known "slave mart" remaining in the state of South Carolina. Today, the famous address also provides the perfect venue for The Old Slave Mart Museum, where Curator/Director Nicole Green works diligently to carry out the mission of the museum. Nicole says "our mission is to broaden people's understanding of Charleston's role as a slave trading center during the domestic slave trade, which enables us to reach out to our community, and all those whose ancestors' lives were shaped or changed here". The museum details history of the building as well as the domestic slave trade from three perspectives; the buyer, the enslaved and the trader (auctioneer, bankers, brokers, etc).

The Building - Until the mid 1800's, most slave trade was conducted in the streets, however, the crowds became so large that in the mid 1800's a law was passed that mandated that all slave auctions be held in an enclosed space. In 1853, Thomas Ryan and James Marsh purchased 3 parcels of land to house a complex that would become known as Ryan's Mart. The first of those properties was 6 Chalmers Street, which served as an entrance to the other two parcels that lie between Chalmers Street and Queen Street. The land housed 3 buildings, a large jail where those waiting to bought and sold were housed, a kitchen, and a building known as a "dead house or morgue", the complex also had a courtyard enclosed by a brick wall where the auctions took place. In 1859, the complex was sold to Z.B. Oakes who constructed the building as it sits on Chalmers Street today. That building was designed to blend with the existing architecture and provide an office for the continued brokering of slaves. In late 1863, slave auctions ended at Ryan's Mart and in 1878 Mr. Kerrington converted the "slave jail" into a tenement building. He removed the iron bars and added a balcony to the old jail. In the early 1900's, Ryan's Mart became an auto-repair shop and was purchased and turned into a museum in 1938 by Mary Wilson, in 1951 the "jail" was demolished. In 1988 the City of Charleston purchased the building and it opened as the The Old Slave Mart Museum in November of 2007, the museum served over 35,000 visitors during its first year of operation!

The Slave Trade - Trans-Atlantic slave trade moved over 15 million men, women and children from Africa across the ocean, with Brazil receiving over 30% of those enslaved. Only 7% of the enslaved came to America between 1700 and 1775. Charleston was a main port for the trans-Atlantic boats. In 1808 the US Constitution ended our involvement in the trans-Atlantic trade, fueling the domestic trade that moved over 2 million African Americans from the South to the North and out West until the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. The domestic slave trade was an important to the economic growth of Charleston and the region. Slaves were moved by in groups of 25, by ship and by train, the rail road grew due to slave trading. Traders advertised their slaves for sale and prepared them to bring the best profit by "increasing their daily rations, washing and oiling their skin, dying their hair" and coaching them on discussions with potential buyers. Price was often determined by age and sex, one account suggest that's today's equivalent price would be $37,000 for one man. While slavery was treacherous the enslaved made the most of it developing a heritage and culture that would be forever part of history. The Slave Mart Museum provides unique, educational and entertaining exhibits to educate us about the history and importance of slavery to ensure that "we never forget". Number 6 Chalmers Street, what an important place then and now.

Reported by Elizabeth Wooten Burwell, Keyway Committee

February 6, 2009

"The Executive Guide to Economic Meltdown"

February 3rd, 2009: Dr. Hefner described today's economic situation as a situation without historical precedent which makes forecasting almost impossible. "It's like having a crystal ball with hurricane Hugo inside." After a brief review of the "Long Depression" of 1873 that lasted 20 years, the 3 year depression of 1907, and the "Great Depression" of 1929, Dr. Hefner illustrated why the economy today is so difficult to forecast. He also provided a very thorough analysis of a Japanese depression that lasted a decade which was described as a financial disaster. A self-proclaimed empirical economist, Frank uses facts to formulate his forecasts. He drew a laugh from our audience when relating a story about a politician in Columbia who said, "we never thought about using facts."

"We've experienced 26 years of economic expansion, and what works in booms may not work in busts." Recessions magnify problems; a financial meltdown magnifies over-leveraging and weak business plans. What happens when all your assets are paper and no one wants it; or worse, only one person bids on it? What happens when you lending is based on that paper? You have a banking crisis. Dr. Hefner stated in the Great Depression our GDP decreased 25 percent and unemployment was above 25 percent. Consumer prices fell 25 percent and wholesale prices fell 32 percent ... we're not used to deflationary spirals.

He ended his talk with the question, "what will happen 5 years from now?" He emphasized Congress can only tax, borrow, and spend. In depression economics, they only borrow and spend. In the end, what will normal look like? No one knows what sustainable numbers will look like.

Reported by Bill Crowe, Keyway Committee Chair