In the classic film Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O’Toole plays T E Lawrence, the British scholar, military officer and author who helped Arab tribes in their struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire.
Lawrence leads a group of Bedouin warriors through the desert for a surprise attack on the Ottoman port of Aqaba. As they reach the end of the desert, they discover that a soldier, Gasim, has fallen off his camel during the night. But it is morning, and the tribesmen led by Sherif Ali, played in the movie by Omar Sharif, advise Lawrence that going back to find him would be futile, that Gasim would already be dead given the sandstorms and the scorching heat. “Gasim’s time has come; it is written,” one of the soldiers tells Lawrence.
But Lawrence does go back and finds Gasim near death, staggering in the dunes. When they return to camp, Ali offers Lawrence water. Before taking a drink, Lawrence looks at him and says: “Nothing is written.”
This unforgettable scene means more than just a quotable movie line; it represents a way of looking at the world. It is a challenge to fatalism — that we must accept a certain outcome because of the way it has always been. No, Lawrence says, history is not written, yet.
So it is with The Rotary Foundation. We have not yet emerged from the sandstorm of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic fallout from it. We are still occupied by work to raise awareness, deliver critical personal protective equipment, and provide support for frontline workers.
We do not know the day when, standing beside our polio eradication partners, we will announce that for the second time in history, a disease has been eradicated. We do know that, because we have worked steadfastly for years, the end of that story will be written soon.
And thanks to a $15.5 million contribution from the Otto & Fran Walter Foundation, we are also adding a new chapter in the story of our expansion of the Rotary Peace Centers: Plans are underway to launch a new peace certificate center in the Middle East or North Africa.
Rotary is engaged in so many noble efforts; it is an ongoing story that inspires me even more than Lawrence of Arabia. We do not yet know the name of the baby whose life will be saved because of a maternal and child grant from Rotary, or the name of the girl who will learn to read with our support. When will those grants start, and will your district — or you — be directly involved?
Nothing is written. We write it.
K R Ravindran
Foundation Trustee Chair