The real test of a good leader is not only to inspire his team but to come out with simple yet brilliant ideas. “The biggest problem we had in those days (when Gary Huang was RI President in 2014–15) was membership which was sliding. The simple idea he gave Rotarians was look within your home for getting new members. And that is how the idea of making spouses also Rotarian originated, and India inducted the highest number of women members during that year under his leadership,” RI Director C Basker said at the Light up Conclave organised in Chennai by D 3232, for the District Governors during PRIP Gary’s presidential year, when the theme was Light up Rotary.
Under the guidance of the then RI Director P T Prabhakar and the extraordinary leadership of the Light up DGs “we showed to the world that India can make a difference… in membership, particularly women’s membership, TRF contributions and huge PR projects such as My Flag My India done by PDG ISAK Nazar; and PDG Ganesh Bhat who organised a programme with 500 artists playing the veena in one stadium. Across India we did things that were liked by Indians,” he added.
From that year Rotary in India has not looked back and continued to grow, said Basker. Paying a tribute to the leadership of DG R Srinivasan, he said that he carried his entire team with him with his smile and affection and had set a great example by working along with PDGs such as Nazar, who is now the District Trainer, Natarajan Nagoji, DGE Babu Peram and DGN G Chandramohan.
The kind of hard work women Rotarians do is difficult to match by many of us male Rotarians.
— TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta
Basker also urged the DGs, who he calls ‘Trendsetters’, to help him convert India, which had always been a receiving country in polio immunisation, to one that gives. “Let’s not forget that our children got immunised because somebody paid for the vaccines. Today it is our duty to give others… everybody sitting in this hall is blessed with enough wealth. So we should now give to immunise children of other countries against polio. With your support we can make India the top of the world in the End Polio campaign.”
PRIP Gary began his speech by asking the audience to do the “happy clap”, and added cheerfully, “Nobody remembers what I said but everybody remembers my happy clap!” Explaining how he had zeroed in on his theme, he quoted Confucius who had said it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. “There are so many problems in the world, and many people say there is nothing that I can do to solve them. So they sit quietly and watch the suffering of so many and don’t do anything. The right way is to light a candle. I light one, you light one, 1.2 million Rotarians together light a candle each and imagine what a difference that can make!”
He urged every Rotarian in the huge hall to think of doing something, however small, to make things better. “After all, Rotary is a big organisation and together we can make a difference, and do something big. Of course we can’t solve all problems, but let us do as much as we can, with whatever we have.”
Gary said in polio eradication work, Rotary helped immunise over 2.5 million children, one child at a time. “When we started there were 1,000 cases of polio reported every day and 350,000 children were either killed or paralysed across the world every year. Thanks to your hard work there hasn’t been a single new case of polio in India in the last five years. “
Today there were only three countries with polio — Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. “We know it isn’t easy but Pakistan’s Rotarians have made it a priority to eradicate polio. It is now only a matter of time, and I am sure our dream will be achieved by 2019. When that happens there will not be words adequate enough to say ‘thank you’ to all of you. Our Foundation has done so much good across the world and you can proudly say I was part of that. So nothing you do is ever small, it all adds up. Every candle you light makes a difference.”
TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta said his friendship with PRIP Gary went back 30 years; “I don’t know how many people sitting in the audience have been in Rotary for 30 years!” An exceptional president of RI who had shown amazing leadership, during his year both membership and TRF contributions had taken a jump, and “for the first time TRF giving crossed $100 per capita.”
Of course, as last year was the TRF Centennial year, “we raised more money but Gary really charged up India and changed Rotary in India. His idea of making spouses Rotarians really clicked and some of them have today become presidents of their clubs. The kind of hard work these women Rotarians do is difficult to match by many of us male Rotarians,” Gupta added.
PRID P T Prabhakar said as RI President, Gary had motivated his team to achieve greater heights. “His idea of ‘Rotary Days’ was a wonderful PR idea which we should continue every year, with each club doing something to promote the image of Rotary. The best project of the year was ‘My Flag My India’ which created a Guinness record, putting Rotary on the global map. We were also number one in membership, and Director C Basker was the Rotary Coordinator and he did wonders with the numbers, with Zone 5 getting 63 per cent of the global growth in membership which was 70,000 Rotarians.”
Prabhakar added that the figures achieved during PRIP Gary’s year “in membership still hold the record and I feel this will remain so for a long time. He also honoured our District (3230) by being with us for the Chennai Institute (and other projects) for one whole week.”
PDG ISAK Nazar, District trainer and organiser of the Light up DGs conclave said the one word to describe Gary’s leadership was inspiration; “if you can inspire your colleagues, associates and friends, you are a great leader and if you can transform that inspiration to others you are a successful leader.”
He added the conclave had been convened for the “Light up Governors and we will continue this because light up leaders are not only for the year, but for the decade.”
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat