Burlingame Rotary Club
Founded in 1925

High Gear Bulletin


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

High Gear Editor: Guy Smiley


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The meeting started at 12:15 with Alex Buljan filling in for Burlingame Rotary DJ Chris Ramirez, streaming Halloween mood music along with the requisite Monster Mash as we were pressed by Fritz to get to the buffet. Lunch was brought to us by the fabulous Kiki’s duo, but with lots of spooky surprises.
Marc Friedman led us in the pledge.
Sheryl Young gave the invocation, reflecting on words she had heard in Jordan, “peace is a gift.” She told us how it made her so proud to be part of Rotary with its role in peace, especially the Rotary Peace Scholarship. She also noted that Rotary is active in Jordan and Egypt.
She also shared some tidbits from her trip about having one foot in the past and one in the present as she made her way through Jordan and Egypt. She started in Petra, which is 2000 years old to pyramids going back 4500 years. Sheryl learned that Ethiopia wants to put in a dam that would cut off much of the water used by Egypt. 90% of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile. She noted the disturbing lack of freedom of speech and told us that people could be jailed for up to 45 hours without a stated reason.
Sheryl, the ultimate optimist, came back to “peace is a gift” and how Rotary helps bring peace around the world, even here. She recognized and expressed gratitude to our speaker, Alden Cunningham, and the other service members in our Club, who helped bring peace. She closed by saying, “we are lucky to live in such a peaceful space.”
Guests of the Club and Visiting Rotarians
Sheryl introduced her grandbaby, Madeline Ann. She joined Fritz’s President’s club in honor of Madeline’s first meeting and Colonel Cunningham’s service.
Alden introduced his wife, Carol Cunningham, who told us that she was happy to be back and encouraged us to keep up the good work.
Mark Friedman introduced Dr. Jen Fong, BHS’s new principal.
Zoomers for the meeting included Pier, Mike Heffernan, and Pete Wanger.
Marc reminded us that our November 9 lunch would be at BHS, hosted by the Italian Boosters. The Italian exchange students will join us there for La Corneta.
Bill Tiedeman reminded us about the District raffle. Tickets are due by mid-next week to be included in the drawing. He refreshed us on how the money is used—partnering with other Clubs to create goodwill and bolsters peace around the world.
Before making his announcement, Mark Johnson commented on the web and spiders in Kiki’s shepherd’s pie. He let us know that Lage had knee replacement surgery a week ago. Lage is doing fine and is being taken care of by his family.
Great news—the Fun Fairies Fly Again! Wednesday, November 16 at 6pm. Suzanne and Mark will graciously host us, AGAIN, at their home. Watch your email for the official invite.
Then it was costume time. Several intrepid (probably more like obedient) Rotarians heeded Fritz’s call for us to wear costumes to lunch for the annual contest.
  • Mike Heffernan got the best Zoomer costume for his well-traveled elf hat.
  • Jennifer got up and said, “cymotrichous,” a National Spelling Bee-winning word. She told us that she wasn’t an ordinary bee. No, Jennifer was a spelling bee.
  • Jay Miller came as a cowboy, but was not in costume. It was something in his closet from when he was a wrangler. Yippee-ki-yay!
  • Bobba initially identified as an Indian country bumpkin, showing us all the handy things he could do with this turban—from wiping his face to hauling wood. He then transformed into a District policeman from his village in India, where he mostly patrolled barefoot.
  • Jerry Winges, dressed all in black, was a Scottish golfer in mourning, because he couldn’t get his hole out of the bunker.
  • Emily was a pirate with a fountain pen in place of a sword. It is a pandemic acquisition driven by Charles Voltz’s Fun with Fountain Pens Zoom program.
  • Marilyn rocked her dirndl, which was the same one she got in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1968.
Jennifer Pence introduced today’s speaker, our very own Colonel (R) Alden M. Cunningham, whose autobiography, A Cold War Warrior’s Report: a Lifetime of Leadership in Service, was published in August. Yes, it’s available on Amazon or wherever you buy your books. He experienced levels of war, from a conventional and guerilla war in Vietnam to a no war no peace armistice in Korea and to the insurgency in Nicaragua. In the 1980s, he wrote award-winning articles on Mexico’s National Security and US Strategic Options in Nicaragua.
Alden’s talk was broken into six parts, following the sections of his book.
Editor’s note: Alden kindly gave me the outline he used for his talk, so thanks for the details included in the following.
Part I Early Childhood 1941 to 1951
Alden lived in San Mateo, Arcadia, and, for a time, in the Hayes Mansion. His father died in 1947 when Alden was 6. After this, his mother took the family to live with an aunt in Mexico, where he learned to speak Spanish, and be more on his own in a foreign environment. This was an inflection point for Alden. He attributes the life lessons instilled by his father’s death and the subsequent years to changing his life’s direction.
Part II The San Rafael Military Academy and West Point Years 1952-1963
Alden went to high school at the San Rafael Military Academy, where he developed leadership skills, time management, and discipline. He was introduced to West Point during a trip to New York City in 1955 and was subsequently accepted to West Point as a cadet. He was selected as Cadet Battalion Commander 1958-1959 and graduated despite tremendous academic and physical pressures. His takeaway from West Point was always to persist and keep going.
Part III Active Service in the Regular Army of the United States 1963-1990: The Field Artillery Years 1963-1975
After West Point, Alden was sent to Germany, where he moved from the 1/2nd Artillery Battalion to the 5/81st Artillery Battalion, a move that got him an extra $233 added to his $110 base pay. While in Germany, he met Carol, and they were married in 1965.
From Germany, he deployed to Vietnam (19670-1968). His initial assignment was SOG or Vietnamese Airborne Division, which he said was slipping the noose and not being in special forces. Fate intervened once again when scheduled leave was pushed from early January to late January/early February. This meant that his vacation put him in Thailand with his wife when the Tet Offensive began. Alden noted, sadly, that he lost classmates in the Tet Offensive.
After Vietnam, Alden went to Middlebury College and got a master’s degree, then went to Korea as BN XO and later 2nd Division G5, which he called a minor hit to hit to his career, but the perfect transition to the FAO program.
Editor’s note: We are now getting into Forest Gump territory.
  • Worked at the Pentagon as part of the Army Staff, the Panama Canal Treaties, and Function Transfers, which led to President Jimmy Carter’s congratulations and appreciation.
  • Participated in Chief of Staff briefings discussion Army positions on the treaties, translation, and advice regarding the Sandinista takeover.
  • Served as a Deputy Delegate to the Inter-American Defense Board and had the chance to be blessed by Pope and Saint John Paul II.
  • Was Assistant Army Attache in the Defense Attache Office (DAO) at our Embassy in Mexico City – the lynchpin of reporting with roughly between 500 to 600 quality reports (won the equivalent of the State Department Certificate of Honor for my report on the “Mexican Army’s Political Clout and How the Use It,” expansion of military relations programs, and service to the embassy.
  • Accepted as a student at USAWC DCS in 1982
  • After USDAO Mexico was assigned as Director, Americas Studies at the US Army War College, completed DCS, and graduated in July 1984, the start of a long 18-year association with the College.
  • Volunteered for DATT Nicaragua position; chosen as DATT Nicaragua (three bosses).
  • Told my office that even though we were a small office, our Purpose was extremely important, with a mission to collect against intelligence requirements emanating from Washington, DC in what was then a strategic hotspot receiving much national attention in order to keep our political and military leaders well and accurately informed so they could make the best possible strategic decisions.
  • Received Defense Meritorious Unit Award as a result of our efforts to realize our Purpose by improving office morale, aggressive travel program (YANKEES IN THE WAR ZONE MAY 1986, EL NUEVO DIARIO, WASH POST, LA TIMES), source expansion, dynamic reporting (600 reports including year-end net assessments).
  • Departed Nicaragua in December 1986 and returned to USAWC to resume my old position at the USAWC – duties expanded, USIA program, speeches, and writings recognized.
In 1984, Alden joined the Rotary Club of Carlisle, which began 38 years of service (to date, more to come!). The same year, Carol launched her (soon to be very successful) real estate career.  
Part IV The Mexico Advisory Service Years 1990 to 1995
Alden launched Mexico Advisory Services in 1990. It was a business venture, but more a business adventure (BLING IS THE THING – MONEY AND GOLD CHAINS AT THE AIRPORT). He didn’t make or lose much money, but Alden met some interesting people and had fun.
Part V The Army Contractor Years 1995 to 2008
  • Call from MPRI
  • Scenario writing and work in SCE/SDME
  • Work in DDE
Work continued in earnest on the Rotary front. Alden was President of the Rotary Club of Carlisle from 2000-2001. During this year, he led the crafting of the Club’s vision statement. He served as the Governor of District 7390 from 2005-2006. During this time, he surpassed $100 per Rotarian, established the Paul Harris Society in D7390, emphasized leadership, strengthened key district committees, and emphasized the importance of awards for clubs and individuals. Alden received the Rotary Rotary Means Business Award and District 7390 2022 Outstanding Service Award.
Part VI The Retirement Years 2008 to Now
FINALLY, Alden retired. Since 2008 he and Carol have traveled and spent more time with friends. Resurrecting his mad skills from Mexico and West Point, Alden has become a force with tennis and table tennis.
Alden closed by saying that the key takeaways from his life are the value of persistence and perseverance, that FAMILY is everything, and his philosophy of life—Be Good and Do Good, Work Hard but Work Smart, and Have Fun.
Fritz presented Alden with a Polio Plus certificate for five vaccinations in his name.
Next week’s speaker will be Renatto Guerra - Director of College Programming
From Mentee to Mentor
Renatto Guerra is Director of College Programming at Improve Your Tomorrow. He was, also, one of our early Burlingame Rotary Scholars. He will talk about the impact of mentoring in his life and how he’s paying it forward by helping young men of color into and through college. He will discuss recent trends in challenges in college success for first-generation students as well as highlight success stories and projects.
As stated, we request an RSVP so we can give the caterer a number. Simply click on the link below and let us know if you plan to attend or not. Thank you in advance, and hope to see you all there.
The meeting adjourned at 1:30pm.
Link to Recording
Watch the recording of the Zoom meeting here.
Nov 02, 2022 12:15 PM
Trends and Challenges in College Success for First-Generation Students
Trends and Challenges in College Success for First-Generation Students

Renatto Guerra is Director of College Programming at Improve Your Tomorrow. He was, also, one of our early Burlingame Rotary Scholars. He will talk about the impact of mentoring in his life and how he's paying it forward by helping young men of color into and through college. He will discuss recent trends in challenges in college success for first-generation students as well as highlight success stories and projects.

As stated, we request an RSVP so we can give the caterer a number. Simply click on the link below and let us know if you plan to attend or not. Thank you in advance and hope to see you all there.

Join us for our Rotary lunch meeting at our new location

Burlingame Community Center

850 Burlingame Avenue

Room - Sequoia A

Wednesday, November 2, 2022 at 12:15PM

If you cannot attend in person you may participate via Zoom.

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Meeting ID: 893 5521 9667

Passcode: 336001

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Meeting ID: 893 5521 9667

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Nov 30, 2022 12:15 PM
American Medicine is Sick: What would Hippocrates Do?
View entire list
Member Birthdays
Bill Tiedeman
November 14
David Mendell
November 15
Mark Lucchesi
November 16
Doug Person
November 22
Lage Andersen
November 22
Fritz Brauner
Sue Brauner
November 13