A Greek philosopher once wrote that great enterprises begin with small opportunities. But I don’t think it’s true. Great enterprises don’t begin with small opportunities. They begin with great opportunities, which have a way of looking small. Every one of us here has been given a great opportunity.”
And that was not in being a DG or an RI President, said RI President Elect John Germ, delivering, unfolding his theme Rotary Serving Humanity at the International Assembly in San Diego. That came when a Rotarian invited you to his club meeting. “That was an interesting chance to meet some good people, and do some good work, and have some fun along the way.” And to serve.
All those at the Assembly had been given a great opportunity … “to motivate, inspire and direct our clubs to better, more effective and more ambitious service. What we do with that opportunity — that’s up to each of us. But the decisions we make won’t end with us. The effects of our work, our decisions, will ripple out all over the world to people we’ll never meet, but whose lives Rotary will change.”
Such as the women who now walked down dirt paths with water jars on their heads, to fetch water from a polluted stream an hour away from their homes. But next year they’ll get safe water from bore wells Rotary will dig near their homes. Similarly, girls in India, who now leave school at 12 or 13 because their school has no toilets, will get toilet blocks that Rotary is building.
Next year children of Pakistan and Afghanistan won’t have to worry about being paralysed by polio “because we’ll have vaccinated those children. And soon, their countries and the whole world will be polio-free. All of that can happen if you, and your club presidents and your Rotarians, recognise that the opportunity to join Rotary was the opportunity of a lifetime. A great opportunity to change the world for the better, forever, through Rotary’s service to humanity.”
Rotary was poised at that moment which might “be known as the greatest year in Rotary’s history: the year that sees the world’s last case of polio. We are so close — so much closer than we’ve ever been before.” Almost all of South Asia and Africa were now polio-free. The work started over 30 years ago, Rotarians stuck with it all this time. “And soon, $1.4 billion — and more than 2.5 billion immunised children later — we’re going to finish it. And when that moment comes, we need to be ready for it, to be sure that we are recognised for that success, and leverage that success into more partnerships, greater growth, and even more ambitious service in the decades to come.”
But the world would have to know and recognise Rotary’s work, “because the more we are known for what we’ve achieved, the more we’ll be able to attract partners, funding and members to achieve even more.” But Rotary’s credit won’t come from Evanston, Germ said.
“We need you to get the word out through your clubs and in your communities about what Rotary is and what we do. And we need to be sure that our clubs are ready for the moment that polio is finally eradicated.”
Apart from membership focus should be on greater service. “We can’t forget that the reason Paul Harris founded Rotary, 111 years ago, is still very much the reason people come to Rotary today: to find people who share their values, believe in honesty, diversity, tolerance, friendship and peace, and who believe that serving humanity is the best thing they can do with their time on this earth.”
Rotary’s diversity is its strength; “we still hang The Four-Way Test on the wall, because high ethical standards don’t ever go out of style. And we still believe, as Paul Harris believed, that serving humanity is the most worthwhile thing any one of us can do with our lives. And that is why our theme in 2016–17 will be simply Rotary Serving Humanity.”
And next year Team Rotary — all its 1.2 million members, will continue to work, serve and strive together, “for our shared goal of a better world.”
Urging the incoming DGs to use every opportunity, however small it seemed, to change lives, Germ said: “One good work at a time. One day at a time. That’s all it takes. That’s what we’re here for in Rotary. Next year, it’s going to be your responsibility to make sure that Rotary serves humanity as much as it can, as well as it can, and that Rotary changes as many lives as it can for the better. So that the mothers who are still carrying water on their heads, and the girls who have had to leave school, and every one of the world’s children who are still at risk for polio, see their world change for the better next year because of Rotary Serving Humanity.”