Rotary International President-elect Barry Rassin laid out his vision for the future of the organisation at the Rotary International Assembly in San Diego, USA, calling on leaders to work for a sustainable future and inspire Rotarians and the community at large.
Rassin, a member of the Rotary Club of East Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas, unveiled the 2018–19 presidential theme, Be the Inspiration, to incoming district governors. “I want you to inspire in your clubs, your Rotarians, that desire for something greater. The drive to do more, to be more, to create something that will live beyond each of us.”
He stressed the power of Rotary’s new vision statement, “Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.” This describes the Rotary that leaders must help build, he said.
“We are a membership organisation first. And if we want to be able to serve, if we want to succeed in our goals — we have to take care of our members first.”
Rassin asked the incoming district governors to “inspire the club presidents, and the Rotarians in your districts, to want to change. To want to do more. To want to reach their own potential. It’s your job to motivate them — and help them find their own way forward.”
Progress on polio
The President-elect noted that one source of inspiration has been Rotary’s work to eradicate polio. He described the incredible progress made over the past three decades. In 1988, an estimated 350,000 people were paralysed by the wild polio
virus; just 20 cases were reported in 2017 as of Dec 27. “We are at an incredibly exciting time for polio eradication,” he said, “a point at which each new case of polio could very well be the last.”
He emphasised that even when that last case of polio is recorded, the work won’t be finished. “Polio won’t be over, until the certifying commission says it’s over — when not one poliovirus has been found, in a river, in a sewer, or in a paralysed child, for at least three years,” he said. “Until then, we have to keep doing everything we’re doing now.” He urged continued dedication to immunisation and disease surveillance programmes.
Sustaining the environment
Rotary has focused heavily on sustainability in its humanitarian work in recent years. Now, Rassin said, Rotarians must acknowledge some hard realities aboThemut pollution, environmentThemeal degradation and climate change. He noted that 80 percent of his own country is within one metre of sea level. With sea levels projected to rise two metres by 2100, he said, “my country is going to be gone in 50 years, along with most of the islands in the Caribbean and coastal cities and low-lying areas all over the world.”
Rassin urged leaders to look at all of Rotary’s service as part of a larger global system. “We want the good we do to last. We want to make the world a better place. Not just here, not just for us, but everywhere, for everyone, for generations.”