Engage Rotary, Change Lives
Ron D. Burton
Good morning! Welcome to Rotary's 2013 International Assembly.
Standing here today, I can't help but think back to Nashville, Tennessee, 26 years ago. That was when I attended the International Assembly as an incoming district governor. It was an incredible experience, just as I hope this assembly will be an incredible experience for all of you. But there is something else that links the International Assembly of 1987 with the International Assembly of 2013 and it's not just that Ron Burton was at both of them.
Twenty-six years ago, my classmates and I were not only gearing up to be district governors but were also gearing up for the biggest, most ambitious program in Rotary's history: PolioPlus. We were getting ready to tackle the first fundraising campaign in the history of Rotary and the biggest commitment, by far, that Rotary had ever made: to eradicate polio from the face of the earth.
Even then we knew it wouldn't be quick or easy. However, if we had known then that we would still be working in 2013 to finally finish the job, I'm not sure a single one of us would have agreed to be governor. But we knew then, as we know now, that we could do it. And we knew then, as we know now, what success would mean to the children of the world, to the generations that would follow them, and to the generations of Rotarians who would be inspired by our success to achieve even more.
Twenty-six years ago, I sat in the class of Rotary district governors that began the job of eradicating polio.
Today, I stand in front of the class of Rotary district governors that will finish it.
I learned a lot about polio that week in Nashville. And I've learned a lot more since then. But the most important thing I learned and that all of us learned was that whether we lived some where where there hadn't been a case of polio in 30 years or somewhere with thousands of cases a month, we could do something about it. We could save kids from life in a wheelchair, or on crutches, or crawling in the dirt. We all realized that, through Rotary, we could change lives. We'd heard those words before, but over that week, they became very real and almost took on a life of their own.
And I don't think any of us ever looked at Rotary the same way again.
The challenge for Rotary leaders at every level for me, for you, for the club presidents is making sure that every Rotarian can have that experience of epiphany, that moment of realizing what Rotary is, what doors it opens, what a privilege it is to be a Rotarian.
My friends, it is an incredibly exciting time to be a Rotarian. I believe Rotary's best days are ahead of us. We are writing the last few pages of one chapter of Rotary history, as we move ever closer to the end of polio. And we are writing the very first pages of a new chapter as we roll out our Future Vision plan.
Future Vision is a new era for our Rotary Foundation. It takes everything that is wonderful about Rotary and raises it to a new level by encouraging bigger, more sustainable international projects while providing increased flexibility for local projects, both of which address the needs of the community being served. It's a big transition a big change from business as usual and helping your clubs through that transition is part of your job. With the help of your district Rotary Foundation chair, you will help your clubs understand Future Vision, benefit from the changes, and do the most they can with their resources to effect positive change in our world.
In my home state of Oklahoma, if you meet someone who's a big talker, you might tell him to put his money where his mouth is. Well, I'm a big talker about our Rotary Foundation, and I put my money where my mouth is because I believe that the Foundation should be the charity of choice for every Rotarian, and even more so for every Rotary officer. If you're going to ask other people to donate, you need to be donating yourself. It's called "leading by example." And that's why, before this assembly, I asked every one of you to make a donation in your own name to The Rotary Foundation. I'm proud to announce that every one of you did as well as every RI Board member and every Foundation Trustee. Together, we raised US$675,000.
Now, I have to believe that some of this is money that The Rotary Foundation probably would not have received had I not asked. And I think that this is an important lesson for each of us here today: if you want somebody else to do something, you can just sit around and wait for them to get the idea, or you can ask. Doesn't it make a lot more sense to just ask?
When I was in high school, I was a very active member of the Key Club. You probably all know that Key Club is not a youth program of Rotary International. It's a youth program of a different service organization: Kiwanis International. And I always assumed back then that, one day, I'd be a Kiwanian.
But do you know why I'm standing up here as president-elect of Rotary International, and not president-elect of Kiwanis International, training their incoming officers?
Because no one ever invited me to a Kiwanis Club and no one ever asked me to join Kiwanis. I did, however, get invited to, and asked to join, the Rotary Club of Norman, Oklahoma. I'm here today because someone asked me.
You have to ask. You not the person sitting next to you or the person in charge of the membership committee or someone else who you might think would be better at it or who maybe has more time. Membership is not someone else's job, it's my job, it's your job, it's every Rotarian's opportunity.
You have to ask. You need to find those people who are waiting to be asked, find the people who never thought about Rotary, and let them know that you'd like to have them in your club. And if you do a good job and they say yes, and they become members your job isn't over. It's only just beginning, because you need to mentor them, make sure that they find a meaningful role in the club and that they get satisfaction out of Rotary.
If we kept every new member who joined Rotary, we wouldn't need to talk about membership anymore. We get plenty of new members in Rotary every year about 120,000. But every year, just about that many members leave. And that's why our numbers have stayed the same, at about 1.2 million members, for more than 15 years.
It's time to do something about it not just talk about it but actually do something about it. The first thing we need to do is take a look at those who are leaving and find out why they're leaving and what, if anything, we can do about it. We are committed to seeing Rotary membership climb to 1.3 million by 2015. That's an absolutely achievable goal but we need to determine why so many who come in the front door go right out the back door. In 1987 Rotary was given
the opportunity to extend membership to women. It was, indeed, a red-letter day for Rotary. But if you look around you, it quickly becomes very obvious that there should be a lot more women in
this room today than there are. There is no reason that half of the incoming governors shouldn't be women. That's something we all need to work on. Additionally, we need to work on bringing
younger members into Rotary making sure that today's Rotaractors, Interactors, RYLArians, Youth Exchange students, Foundation Scholars, and Group Study Exchange team members be come tomorrow's Rotarians.
In many cases we must encourage clubs to become a little more flexible in some of their rules and traditions. That doesn't mean that everything has to change it means that times have changed and we must be willing to change if we want to survive. Whether it is the willingness to adjust certain things in an existing club, such as trying out new meeting times or meeting places, or reconsidering our formats for new clubs, we must take a hard look at ourselves and be willing to adapt.
Every Rotarian should ask themselves: Would I join my Rotary club today? If not, why not? What needs to change to make my Rotary club more attractive and one that I can be proud of?
Every Rotarian is different; we all have our own reasons for joining Rotary. They are as varied as the individuals themselves. Sometimes the reason you joined Rotary isn't the reason you stay. But every one of us here and everyone who's made the commitment to take a leadership position in Rotary every one of us has had that experience of finding the thing in Rotary that gets us excited about Rotary.
And whatever it is to you, however you got that feeling that made you a Rotarian for life that is what I want you to share, what I want you to help other people discover, so that they can find that feeling for themselves. When Rotarians get involved when they get engaged lives change.
And that is why, my friends, my governors, our theme in 2013-14 will be Engage Rotary, Change Lives.
In 2013-14, your job as district governor will be to inspire Rotarians, get them engaged, share with them the gift that every one of you has been given to be a positive force for change in our world. By your example, show them the kind of potential that each of them has through Rotary. Help them chart their own courses in Rotary, so that each one of them will find the thing in Rotary that speaks to them so that they will open their eyes and their hearts to the power of Rotary service and be inspired.
The most important thing we can do for the future of Rotary is make sure that Rotarians are en- gaged and that each one of us is doing the most we can. If we really want to take Rotary service forward, then we must make sure that every single Rotarian has the same feeling about Rotary that each one of us here has today. We need to make sure that every Rotarian has a meaningful role to play, that they're all making a contribution, and that their contributions are valued. Because when that happens, the members who come in the front door don't go right out the back. They stay in Rotary, they become Rotarians, they bring in new members, and they make a difference. The job of membership isn't done when we bring in a new member. It's not done until that new member is engaged in Rotary, is inspired by Rotary, and uses the power of Rotary service to change lives.
Each one of you has been chosen. You were chosen to be members of your clubs, and you were chosen to be district governors. And each one of you has made a choice the choice to take on the responsibility of Rotary leadership.
How much your districts achieve how many Rotarians you inspire, how many lives those Rotarians go on to change depends on you: your enthusiasm, your dedication, your openness to new ideas, and sometimes your willingness to go out on a limb. Because after all, that's where the fruit is.
But no matter how much you accomplish no matter where this year of Rotary service takes you. I can promise you this: the life you change the most will be your own. .
The moment is here. The time is now. We begin this journey together and together we will lead Rotary to a better future, as we Engage Rotary, Change Lives.
Source : Rotary International
Courtesy : www.eflashonline.org