I am sure you all must be experiencing butterflies in your stomach and are brimming with several ideas and plans to make your term memorable. I too have felt the same on various occasions, including very recently, when I took over as your president. It means that you care, and that you want to do the best. Keep that fire going,” said RI President Jennifer Jones, addressing the DGEs and DGNs at the GETS/GNTS seminar in Abu Dhabi.
Her emphasis was on providing comfort and care to the team. “You may think you can do your job well, but if you don’t spend time nurturing, grooming, inspiring and encouraging those who are going to be working with you, you will not be successful,” she said and related how visiting an ailing club member brought joy to them both. When she had recently attended her club meeting, she learnt that one of the club members had suffered a stroke. “I suggested that we should go visit her. But some of them said that it was a long drive and there is so much of traffic. Some said maybe we can call her, or connect with her on Zoom. I visited her and that brought so much joy to both of us. I held her hand and we shed some tears. But at the end of the visit, I could see her calm and happy.”
Reinforcing her message to the incoming district leaders, the RI president said, “Take care of your members. Don’t run away, don’t take the easy step. Take the extra step. Make sure you are there for them because they could be there for you as well. Be the best you can be. We all say that there is no politics in Rotary. But we know that there are too many complaints and too many charges. We need to be better with each other. Try to make Rotary better. Remove the words ‘my year’ from your vernacular, because it is ‘our Rotary’.”
Don’t water the weeds, advised Jones. “You would receive long emails, and they will be negative about everything you do. Instead spend time watering the flowers, nurturing those who want to grow along with you, and you will be an evolved person by the end of your term. I know I am a different person now than I was five months ago.”
Acknowledging the presence of RIPN Stephanie Urchick, Jones remarked that she had not had the chance to formally welcome her as the president-nominee until now. “We have been friends for well over a decade,” she said, and told the DGNs: “You could not be in better hands with Stephanie as your leader when you are serving as governors with her.”
Referring to RI director Drew Kessler, US, who was at the seminar along with his spouse and two children, Jones said, “Including our children, grandchildren and families shows that we all travel this journey in Rotary together. As you plan events in your districts, make sure you take your family along. This way we will have the next generation of leaders.”
Jones urged the delegates to acknowledge and remember the services of the past leaders. “As much as we focus on bringing the younger generation in, we cannot forget the past. We need to celebrate and lift up those who have given us the privilege to be in this room today,” she said.
A PR and communications specialist by profession, she told the incoming district leaders how a good action photograph can impact Rotary’s image. “We are people of action. We need to show who we are and what we do. Focus your camera on the beneficiaries and their happy faces when you inaugurate a service project in your district. When you do your training sessions take photos of Rotarians engaged in conversation, not their mugshots. People need to see that we are people of purpose and excellence. Do not underestimate the fact that we are gifted with an opportunity to change the world.”
Acknowledging the presence of RI vice-president Nicki Scott, general secretary John Hewko, and RIDs Mahesh Kotbagi, A S Venkatesh, Muhammad Faiz Kidwai, Vicki Puliz and Kessler, Jones jocularly commented, “nearly 90 per cent of the board is here and I think we can convene a board meeting. If any of you want to change something in Rotary, we can take care of it here.”
The two-day seminar was a prelude to the Visakha Vista zone institute held at Vizag and was convened jointly by RI directors Kotbagi and Kidwai for the DGEs and DGNs of zones 4,5,6 and 7 (India, Sri Lanka and Nepal) and 1B, 9 and 10 (Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong).
“You can create miracles when you network and learn with an open mind. We have put you on this track to make you lead effectively, set lofty goals and enjoy what you do,” said Kotbagi, adding that the event was significant “as you have the RI president, president-nominee, RI general secretary and the board of directors here to guide and support you as you get ready to take on the mantle.”
This is the first physical seminar in three years for the incoming district leaders of zones 1B, 9 and 10. Kidwai urged them to lay greater emphasis on environment projects. “We must now go beyond planting saplings. As Rotary leaders we must lend our voice to influence policymakers to support developing countries facing the grave effects of climate change. I believe that each one of the 1.4 million Rotarians of the world have the power to influence people. Ignite that power.”
PRID Kamal Sanghvi, the general trainer, urged the delegates to “see possibilities where others see a dead end. The world’s needs are more diverse and greater. Making the world equitable and just is a steep mountain climb, yet you have the power to make that happen. Go full throttle as you are the drivers of your district and Rotary.”
Pictures by Jaishree