Rotary International President's Message

Rotary International President's Message (3)

Here in the United States, another summer is winding down. And for the Maloney family, every summer ends with a return to my hometown of Ridgway, Illinois, for the annual Popcorn Day festival, where I am honored to serve as the “Popcorn King,” the master of ceremonies for the day’s events. 

Regardless of the season, every family has its own traditions. I would like to suggest a new one for yours: Find an opportunity to introduce your family to Rotary. One of my family’s traditions is to take our daughters and grandsons to the Rotary International Convention. The 2020 convention in Honolulu will be a wonderful way to introduce your children and grandchildren to the internationality of Rotary. We are planning many family-oriented events for everyone to enjoy.

Any time is a fabulous time to bring family members on a Rotary service project or to a fundraising event. But perhaps you have not seen many family-friendly events at your club. That is precisely why one of my top priorities this year is to make most Rotary events welcoming to family members.

We must foster a culture where Rotary does not compete with family, but complements it. We should never expect our members to choose between the two. That means being realistic in our expectations, considerate in our scheduling, and welcoming of children at Rotary events on every level.

Often, the young professionals that Rotary needs to attract in order to remain a dynamic 21st-century service organization are the very people who have the greatest family responsibilities. We must not keep these prospective young members away from their families by holding events on evenings and weekends at which their children are not welcome.

For too long, we have closed the doors of many Rotary events to children and sometimes even spouses. What wasted opportunities these are! Every chance we have to pass on the gift of Rotary to young people is one we must take if we are going to grow Rotary and ensure that the next generation is fully engaged in our mission.

So let us open our doors and do it in a fun way, with opportunities that make our children and grandchildren want to learn more about Interact, Rotaract, and Rotary membership. Start small if you must — perhaps by holding some of your meetings at more family-friendly times — but think about how you can continue these kinds of events for years to come.

Bringing children to Rotary events is not just fun; it also exposes them to the world! Make this a memorable year for your family — and an unforgettable year for the ever-expanding family of Rotary as Rotary Connects the World.

During 2019-2020, I am encouraging Rotarians and Rotaractors to grow Rotary. We must grow our service, we must grow the impact of our projects, but, most importantly, we must grow our membership so that we can achieve more.

Let us try a new approach to membership, one that is more organized and strategic. I am asking every club to form an active membership committee consisting of people of different backgrounds who will look methodically at the leadership of the community.

Your club's membership committee will then apply Rotary's classification system — designed to ensure that the range of professions in your community is well represented — to identify potential leaders with the skill, the talent, and the character that will strengthen your club. If your club's membership committee is unsure how to proceed, look to the club membership committee checklist on Rotary.org for clearly defined steps to organizing its work.

How else will we connect to grow Rotary? We will also form new types of clubs — either independent clubs or satellite clubs — with different meeting experiences and engaging service opportunities, not just where there is no Rotary, but also where Rotary is already thriving. No Rotary club in the world can possibly serve all segments of its community. Therefore, we must organize new clubs to engage the community leaders who cannot connect with our existing clubs.

Growing Rotary is all about taking the connections that make our organization unique in the world and strengthening and multiplying them. Let us commit ourselves to growing Rotary and to welcoming the next diverse generation of women and men as Rotary Connects the World.

I love to travel! I even enjoy the mundane process of getting from here to there. But last year, my wife, Gay, and I had one of those experiences that would strain the optimism of even the most cheerful traveler. We found ourselves with six hours to wait, at an airport where we were not scheduled to be, on a day we had not planned still to be traveling, having woken up that morning at a hotel unknown to us the night before. It was one of those days.

As we waited at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Gay and I took a walk to people watch. We went from one end of the terminal to the other and back, looking at every gate, every destination, every group of people waiting for their flights.

Each gate was its own island of humanity. When we walked down the center of the concourse, we were in New York, moving along with everyone in one river. But when you veered off into those seats, you left that current and landed on an island. You were already in Delhi or Paris or Tel Aviv.

As we started our walk, I thought: "All these different people, all these different countries, all in one place. This is like Rotary!" But as we walked past gate after gate, I realized something. It was not like Rotary at all. Because everyone in that river was heading for an island. And every island stayed an island. The people heading to Taipei might be talking to one another, but they were not talking to the people heading to Cairo or Lagos.

Contrast that with Rotary. Rotary allows us to connect with one another, in deep and meaningful ways, across our differences. It connects us with people we would never otherwise have met, who are more like us than we ever could have known. It connects us with our communities, to professional opportunities, and to the people who need our help.

Connection is what makes the experience of Rotary so very different from walking along that concourse at JFK Airport. In Rotary, none of us is an island. All of us are in Rotary together, whoever we are, wherever we are from, whatever language we speak or traditions we follow. We are all connected to one another — part of our communities and members not only of our clubs, but also of the global community to which we all belong.

This connection is what lies at the heart of the Rotary experience. It is what brings us to Rotary. It is why we stay. Please join your fellow Rotarians on this journey as Rotary Connects the World.

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