2049 : RI President's Closing Remarks @ IA13 - Text
- RI President's Closing Remarks @ IA13 - Text
It has been a wonderful week. I have enjoyed very much seeing a new class of district governors prepare for their year in office.
Every class of Rotary officers is a link in a chain that stretches back to the beginnings of RI. Here in San Diego, I have seen a new link forged. I have seen that it is strong, and I am confident that 2013-14 will be a wonderful year of great Rotary service.
This week, we have learned about our theme for next year: Engage Rotary, Change Lives. Each one of us here understands that theme. We have all made the choice to engage Rotary. We understand how our service can change lives.
This is something I also understood when I became president of Rotary International. I knew that Rotary service could change lives. But at that time, I had not seen it for myself. Rotary service was an idea I believed in very deeply. But it was not a reality I had seen and experienced.
In this Rotary year, all of that has changed. For the first time, I traveled through Africa and many other parts of the developing world. For the first time, I saw extreme poverty, and what it means to live with it. I saw children who are hungry every day. I saw so many people who have no water to drink, nowhere to live, no medicine when they are sick.
Of course, I knew that such poverty existed. But there is a difference between knowing something because you have heard it and seeing it for yourself. When you walk through a slum, when you see children without parents, little children who are eating garbage, it changes everything.
The need is not abstract. It is urgent, and it is real. It makes you want to do everything you can to help these people who are suffering. To walk away feels less than human.
Through Rotary, we do not have to walk away. We can put out our hands and help. And we can help the people we will never see as well as the people in our own communities.
We help because our help is needed, and because helping gives us joy.
And we help because we know that we are all human. We all rely on each other. We give what we can to those who are in need whoever, and wherever, they are.
In Japan, Rotary is very strong. We are glad to help others. But we never expected that one day, Rotarians around the world would come together to help us. This is what happened almost two years ago, when an earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale shook Japan to its very core.
I know that I do not need to tell you the details of what followed: the horror of the tsunami and then the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Waves of up to 40 meters, and water that traveled as much as 10 kilometers inland.
More than 15,000 people died, nearly 6,000 were injured, and almost 3,000 are still missing. The total losses are estimated at over US$300 billion.
These are the numbers that we use to measure the disaster. But there are no numbers to measure what happened to so many lives. In a matter of hours, half a million people in one of the world's wealthiest and most developed countries lost everything. They went from comfort and security to an uncertain future in school gyms, tents, and ruined buildings.
All over the world, people sent help. Rotarians contributed to a disaster fund. Individuals and governments sent teams for search and rescue and helped to meet the needs of survivors.
The entire nation was in shock from the catastrophe. And the warmth we felt from friends around the world helped us to recover, and move forward.
For the first time in almost 70 years, we were not sending aid. We were receiving it. It was something we never thought would happen. But it was a reminder to all of us how fragile our lives really are and how little separates us from those we help.
In Japan, we are used to earthquakes. We are always preparing for earthquakes and tsunamis. Our building standards are the highest in the world. We thought we were ready for anything. But no one ever expected anything like this.
The 東日本大震災, as we call it in Japanese the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster - changed Japan. Japan changed us all. And it changed the way Japanese Rotarians see Rotary. Because humanitarian service looks very different once you have been on the receiving end.
It is easy to look at the people we help through our Rotary service as somehow different from ourselves. Often, they live far away. We do not know their language or their culture. We do not know what it is like to have no running water, no sanitation, no health care, no education. We look at pictures, we read stories in the news about poverty, wars, and disasters. We see, from so far away, the people who are living through such terrible times. But it is hard sometimes to put ourselves in their place. We cannot imagine such things happening to us.
Today, I tell you that they can.
I tell you that there is nothing at all separating us from the people we help. We are all the same. Only the circumstances surrounding us are different.
Do not think that homelessness or hunger or sickness or poverty is any easier for others to bear than it would be for you. It is not.
This is why I tell you today that our Rotary service is more important than you can possibly imagine.
If we take the time and the care to do what is needed, not what is easy for us.
If we have the wisdom and the perspective to understand how important our work is.
If we have the vision to support our Rotary Foundation so that it can be there to support the people who need us most.
When we serve through Rotary, we share the best part of ourselves. We build connections to other people, who may seem so different from us. And by doing this, we create a world of greater peace.
There are so many ways to build Peace Through Service. This year, I have seen how Rotary service brings us all closer together. It allows us to reach out to those in need and to work together for common goals. It allows us to help meet the great needs of people we may never meet. And it gives each of us the happiness that comes from helping someone when they need it most.
My friends, I wish you the best in this Rotary year of Peace Through Service. And I wish you all the success possible as district governors as you Engage Rotary, Change Lives.
Source : Rotary International
Courtesy : www.eflashonline.org