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  • Fairbury News staff

Smeltzer shares experiences




Part of the online presentation is shown to members of the Fairbury Rotary on Tuesday.

Fairbury Rotarians learned about an independent watchdog organization which examines freedom and democracy around the world.


Mike Smeltzer, the son of Rotary President Joan Smeltzer, spoke about his job at Freedom House in New York City during Tuesday’s weekly meeting held via Zoom.


“Freedom House has about 150 that work for it and the vast majority work in programs,” Smeltzer explained.


The organization also has a research side which Smeltzer works on. He is a research analyst for the company, examining Russia and other countries. Freedom House evaluates the various countries in the world and gives them a score, looking at the categories of: electoral process, independent media, civil society and local democratic governance.


“In the last couple of months, I’ve written about the coronavirus in Russia,” Smeltzer said.

Smeltzer admits there is plenty of unhappiness from those countries which are rated poorly. The number of democracies has actually decreased in the past 10 years. Countries such as Hungary and Serbia are falling away from democracies.


“Their leaders are no longer even pretending to play by the rules of democracies.”


In order for the United States to promote democracy in the world, the country must understand problems in other countries. The U.S. government funds the Freedom House organization.


“We really do believe democracy is the best form of government in the world because it keeps us safe,” Smeltzer concluded.


The Fairbury Rotary Club plans to resume in-person meetings starting next Tuesday in the basement of Dominy Library, which reopens to the public on Monday. Library visitors will not be allowed to put puzzles together and kids won’t be able to play with toys.


“What we are trying to do is limit the amount of time people are in the library,” explained Jim Paternoster.


Computers will be sanitized and wiped down after each use.


Mark Steffen noted boxed lunches would be provided for Rotary meeting attendees instead of the traditional buffet-style meal.

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