Monday, July 9, 2007

Banned by the Kiwanis Club

Back in August of last year I was contacted out of the blue by a man I had never met. He said he was the program chairman for the noon Kiwanis Club in town and that he’d been following my ideas in the local newspaper. How would I like to come and speak?

I called him back and arranged to take the afternoon off work so I could drive back from the office and speak to the group. The date was set.

Then he called me a week before the speech and said, “In my 39 years of doing this I have never had to call and un-invite anyone, but I would like to ask you not to come next Tuesday.” He went on to explain that a couple of members, on hearing that I was going to speak, went to the President and demanded that I be removed from the program.

He said those members work for groups that survive on outside funding and they did not want to be labeled the “white racists club” for allowing me to speak.

He went on to say that their concerns were unfounded in his mind. He told me there had been lots of unusual speakers over the years, like Rob Sherman (the atheist), a practicing Hare Krishna, a member of the Arab League, a sex therapist for pets, and an engineer from the sanitary district who gave a presentation on how they treat excrement.

So, that’s how I got banned from making a presentation to the Kiwanis.

As an epilogue, that same man called me a few weeks later and wondered if I would speak in a debate format with a Latino activist. I told him no.

The leadership had changed in the Kiwanis Club and I finally did give a presentation, on Election Day. And there was no protest. I knew who my antagonists were from their questions, but they did not represent the feelings of the group as a whole.

It seems that these clubs are becoming less and less the merchants and professionals in the community and more of the “United Way” types, working for social service agencies. Has anyone else noticed that?

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