South Asia Reception – Let’s respect Rotaractors: John Germ

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You’ve got strong roots in this organisation, you’ve had and continue to have great leadership to take Rotary forward in the next century of service. India used to be a receiving country, most of the grants went to India and South East Asia. But now you are a leading giving country. Not only in leadership but you’re also giving in the ability to train more individuals. Don’t rest on your laurels.”

This was the pep talk given by RI President Elect John Germ at the ­colourful South Asia Reception hosted at the Seoul Convention by RI Director Manoj Desai and spouse Sharmishtha, where the paneer and chicken tikka masala were a big draw for the Indian delegates yearning for home spices.

Reminding Indian Rotarians how they had worked as one big team to eradicate polio, he urged them not to rest on their laurels and remain vigilant on polio as “only a little bit of border separates you from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which still have polio cases.”

From a receiving, you are now a giving country. But don’t rest on your laurels.
RIPE John Germ

He also complimented Indian Rotarians for working earnestly to get the girl child back to school by building separate toilets for them through the WASH programme. “And now you’re working towards total literacy; and you can do all this because you are working together with both the government and the private sector.”

On Rotary’s future, the incoming President said the challenge remains to get more young people into the organisation. “The average age in this room could be 65, or 70; we can’t afford to keep aging this organisation.”

Earlier that evening, he had met many Rotaractors; “they don’t believe Rotary respects them as individuals or as an organisation and only looks at them as labour, not as equals. We should be embarrassed that they feel this way about us.” And when “I asked them what we could do to help them, the answer was: ‘Treat us as equals.’ And we should do that because this organisation will help us to grow and prosper.”

When you come from a tiny country like Sri Lanka, the way they judge your country depends on the way you conduct yourself. I had the weight of Rotary, the weight  of Sri Lanka and Asia.

Striking a mellow note, RI President K R Ravindran said that it was good to “see all my friends here, though we all miss (PRIP) Kalyan (Banerjee). All our prayers are with him as he faces a few challenging days”. As his term came to an end, “the legacy I leave behind is continuity. John (Germ), (RIPN) Ian (Riseley) and I work closely together. The General Secretary (John Hewko) and the Board work together and the Board and Trustees work together.”

Very often “we talk about our zones, and I can say we’ve done very well (Zones 4, 5 and 6A) in both membership and projects, and we are right there among the top in TRF.”

Ravindran added that as the first President from Sri Lanka, “my term as President was much less of power and much more of responsibility.” Unlike Presidents from a big country like US, when “you come from a tiny country like Sri Lanka, when you do something right or wrong, it has a very big effect …
and the way they judge your country depends on the way you conduct yourself. I had the weight of Rotary, the weight of Sri Lanka and Asia.”

So was he sorry to leave, he was often asked. “The answer is no. I am really happy to have my life back, to wake up in my own house in my bed, happy to go back to my business.” And of course, greet his little granddaughter every day at breakfast!

The Rotary leaders who attended the reception, organised impeccably by PDGs Ravi Vadlamani, A S Venkatesh and T V R Murti, were PRIP Rajendra K Saboo, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta and spouse Vinita, RIDN Basker C and spouse Mala, RI General Secretary John Hewko and spouse Margarita, several RI Directors and TRF Trustees, both present and past.

Picture by: Rasheeda Bhagat

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RI Director Bharat Pandya is Treasurer for Rotary International for 2020-21, when Holgar Knaack will be RI President, JohritaSolari will be the Vice President and Stephanie Urchick, the Executive Committee Chair.