Rotarian Reflection – Wes Westerfield

In 1987 Betsy and I made a spring trip to Portugal. Two weeks, if I remember, and a very good time including Betsy’s story, previously sent. We traveled, if not all over, enough to be glad to return the rental car when we arrived in Lisbon, where we spent a few days.

We had planned to go to another Rotary meeting in Lisbon and selected a club with an evening meeting. Not the originating club in Lisbon, which met mid-day but nevertheless a large club in a very nice hotel. She decided to take a pass, thinking that the meeting would be like the one in Evora we had already attended. So, I went and was suitably impressed when I was introduced to retired Admiral X, Congressman Y, former Ambassador Z and their wives because, being an evening meeting, the wives were permanently invited.

I should note that the second language in Portugal is English not, God forbid, from the Portuguese point of view, Spanish. The evening went well with a good meal, nice conversation and the usual dose of Rotary Club business. Then, after all this, much of it in English, the president switched to Portuguese. At length. At the end of his extended remarks, in Portuguese, he turned to me and asked in English what I thought. There I was, ON THE SPOT! I, from the founding Rotary Club.

I have to say first that I speak Spanish—better then than now—and realized that an earthshaking event had occurred, especially earthshaking from a very traditional club member’s point of view: women had been admitted to Rotary!!

At my table, you’ve never heard more excuses why this just wouldn’t work, the unavailability of member classifications being one. With their wives present. I’d have liked to be a fly on the wall when some of the members — remember: retired admiral X, congressman Y, former ambassador Z — got home with their highly educated, sophisticated wives.

So, what did I say? Without any analysis or forethought, just my life passing before my eyes, I said, “I didn’t quite follow what you said, could you please give me a summary in English?” He went on discussing this earth shattering disaster in both languages with other members and then never got back to me. Life went on.

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