May 27, 2021
Westwood Village Rotary Club

Coming up on June 3rd - Mike Sullivan
Our guest speaker is Mike Sullivan, president of Paulist Productions. He will discuss the book, Baseball As A Road To God: Seeing Beyond The Game, which is currently in production. The book was co-authored by John Sexton, Thomas Oliphant and Peter J. Schwartz; the foreward was written by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is described as, "A love letter to America's most beloved sport and an exploration of the deeper dimensions it reveals." John Sexton, former president of New York University, taught a wildly popular course for 10 years.
WVRC Club Assembly

Our next Club Assembly for members will be held on Thursday, June 24th at 12:30 p.m. We will observe our Club's 92nd birthday and share highlights of our Long-Range Strategic Plan. We have exciting news to share. Be sure to join us for our last meeting of this Rotary year.
WVRC Foundation Donation Challenge

In honor of our Club's 92nd birthday and the successful completion of a challenging year, our Club is holding a WVRC Foundation Donation Challenge - members are encouraged to make a year-end donation to our Foundation, which will be matched 2 to 1 by our Club, up to a total of $5,000. Members will have the opportunity to vote on the worthy causes to receive these donations in our Club Assembly on June 24th.
Westwood Virtual Rotary Club Meeting for May 27, 2021
Nancy welcomed two guests to today’s meeting, incoming district governor, Guilty Javid and her partner Mark Amelie.She also welcomed our guest speaker, Sam Yebri.

Nancy also acknowledged two special guests today, Benjamin Fisher and David Stover.

Nancy advised that there were two announcements:
Show Kuboniwa has transferred back to Japan by his company, The Yomiuri Shimbun, which is Japan’s largest newspaper. Nancy thanked him for being with us for the past two years while here in the U.S. and wished him well.

Tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. the UCLA Air Force ROTC will be holding their annual awards ceremony. Rotary will be presenting their saber of excellence to the Air Force ROTC Seniors. Rotary has presented to Army and Navy ROTC as well.

On June 5th and 6th there will be another Camp Pendleton collection weekend. There will be four collection sites in Studio City, Torrance, Santa Clarita, and Bellflower. These collections will benefit 70,000 Marines and their families, including 10,000 children under 5, and 160 babies born each month.

Guilty spoke about the District Club Leadership Assembly on June 5th, 2021. She encouraged all officers and committee chairs to attend. Please register in advance for individual sessions. In order for your club to be certified for grants, two members must be MOU certified. Nancy mentioned one member was certified and another was working on it.

Rotarian of the month: Nancy recognized Jim Crane, our Sergeant in Arms. Nancy will send him the certificate and it will be on our website.
Tom Barron then introduced our Rotary guest speaker for today, Sam Yebri. Sam is a founding member of “30 Years After”, a group to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian-American Jews in American political, Civic, and Jewish Life. 30 Years After is a 501(c) (3) non profit. Sam is an attorney and a former Los Angeles City Commissioner.

Sam Yebri: Sam stated that it was a pleasure to be with people who take tradition, service, and patriotism so seriously. He is inspired by the work that Rotary does. Sam then acknowledged Guity, Mark and Roozbeh as leaders in the Iranian community.

Sam’s story began in 1981 when he was 1 year old and came to the United States with his family after the Iranian revolution, and the persecution of Jews in Iran at the time. They were granted political asylum and their family settled in Westwood, where Sam grew up and attended school. Sam is so grateful to have come to Los Angeles, and feels a strong tie to the city and to this country. He has always felt the need to “give back” to the community that became his family’s home and safe haven.

On a sense of scale, Sam stated that there are over 500,000 Iranian-Americans in the United States, and approx 200,000 in California. Westwood has the highest concentration of Iranian-Americans in the US.

In 2007, Sam founded 30 Years After, feeling that he had a debt to re-pay to this society.At that time 1400 people attended their first conference in 2008.
Sam feels that 30 Years After has been passed on to a new generation. He feels that this young Iranian-American generation is branching out from medicine, law and business, and moving into philanthropy, culture, tech, and the Arts as well. He feels that the Iranian community is ready to take it’s seat at many tables across the city and be much more involved.

Sam the invited questions from the group:
Gordon asked : “What do you think is the most pressing issue we should be dealing with in our community”?

Sam: Our city is facing a lot of issues. People are losing faith in the city in solving these problems. Homelessness, affordable housing, public safety, helping businesses post COVID, tenant protections, etc. City Hall needs to be revamped. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to restore basic services.

Regarding homelessness, other cities have implemented successful models. Mental health in regards to homelessness is so important. We need to bring common sense back to important issues, such as homelessness, and demand urgent action.

Tom asked: “You have a successful law firm and practice and are involved in the community, and I understand you are running for the 5th District City Council seat in 2022. Why do you want to run for office?”

Sam: I worked for Bill Bradley while in college at Yale, so I had a taste of public service in a more genteel time. I learned then about what public service meant. I’ve felt our city was going in the wrong direction very fast. I sat down with my wife and made the decision to run. We have four young kids under the age of 8. We wanted a city that looked like what I found when my family came from Iran. As a refugee, I feel I have a debt to repay to this city, and for my kids. We have to turn things around in City Hall. I am not taking any money from developers, oil and gas companies, lobbiests, or unions. This is a rel crisis moment.

Mark Amelie: In 2009 I ran for Judge. I went to 30 Years After. I saw these young Iranian-Americans and they knew what they had in the United States. I support Sam fully. We need to be in control as a community, not the politicians.

Mark Rogo: “Can you explain the Iranian artwork piece at Santa Monica Blvd in Century City?"

Sam: The Cyrus Cylinder. King Cyrus was known for bringing new freedoms to the world. It is a source of pride for much of the Iranian-Americans here. This hopefully will start a trend of contributions from the Iranian community to the city.

Ed Gault: “Is the country of Iran fair game? Is there any hope that Iran can transition from Theocracy to Democracy?"

Sam: I absolutely do think there is hope. The people of Iran are educated, young, and are yearning to be free. People are being oppressed. You can’t hold people, or their freedoms down forever. I think there will eventually be a democracy.

Nancy: “I wish our past president Diane Good was here, she is the director at the Salvation Army Transitional Center and does wonderful work, but in the area of homelessness, do you see other cities doing it better”?

Sam: Let’s break it down to constituent issues. We have a big problem with inflow. A big problem with people falling into homelessness. Every day in LA we house 207 people, but 227 people fall into homelessness. LA has been a magnet for people, perhaps due to weather, or city services, but prevention is critical. The outflow is that we have to create affordable housing in a smart way. Long-term strategies will require changing our mental health laws, and identifying root causes. Other cities have done better in building transitional housing models, and doing it much cheaper. There is a lack of common sense, and taking too long. There is also a lack of enforcement and public safety. Tip-toeing around these issues and being politically correct is not working. The city will spend $2.5 billion in 2021 and nothing suggests the problem is getting better.

Philip: “What other low hanging fruit issues would you want to work on besides homelessness?”

Sam: Make sure police are working on crime, preventing it and enforcing it. Adding mental health staff to certain police calls to de-escalate. Public Safety issues such as street racing, etc. Oil and gas wells not being inspected. Rec and Parks, our parks are in disrepair, and we need more green, open space, create more parklets. Business revitalization. Westwood Village should be a gem for Los Angeles. Quality of life issues, Security and restoring services.

Tom: “This city is really run by Councilmembers, not the Mayor.”

Sam: It is the most important job in the city, in my opinion. The most important person in the city is your elected council person. It will be up to them on whether we take back our city.

Nancy: Thank you Sam for this very important discussion. In appreciation, the Westwood Village Rotary Club will make a donation in Sam’s name.

  • Commentary by Youth Chair Phil Gabriel

WVRC 2020/2021 Leadership Team
President: Nancy McCready
Treasurer: Terry M. White
Youth/Vocational Service: Phil Gabriel
Director/Peace: PP Marsha Hunt
Foundation: PP Steve Day
Global Scholarships: PP Chris Bradford
Webmaster: PP Ron Lyster
Director/Merchant Minute: PP Mark Rogo
District Governor: Bette Hall
Immediate Past President: Diane Good
Secretary: PP Diane Good
Community Service: Aaron Donahue
International Service: Nevin Senkan
Program Chair: PP Tom Barron
Membership: PP Mike Newman
Director/Social Media: PP Aly Shoji
Windmill Editor: P Nancy McCready
Assistant District Governor: Michael Lushing