Nov. 2015 President's
RI President Ravi's Message - November 2015
One sunny morning at the end of June 1991, a van drove through the
busy, rush-hour streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Winding through traffic
to a northern suburb, the van arrived at the Forward Command Headquarters
of the Defense Ministry. Security guards stopped it for inspection.
When they did, the two suicide bombers driving the van detonated
their cargo: thousands of kilograms of plastic explosives.
The roof of the building was blown off completely. Debris was strewn
for blocks. In total, 21 people were killed and 175 people injured,
among them many pupils of the girls' school next door. More than
a kilometer away, the blast shattered every window in my home. My
wife raced toward the sound of the explosion – our daughter's
Our daughter was then nine years old. That morning, she had forgotten
her pencil case at home. At the moment of the blast, she was coming
out of a stationer's shop, admiring her new pencils. Suddenly her
ears were ringing, the air was filled with sand, and everywhere
around her people were screaming, bleeding, and running. Someone
pulled her into the garden of the badly damaged school, where she
waited until my wife arrived to bring her back home – its
floors still covered with broken glass.
Sri Lanka today is peaceful and thriving, visited by some two million
tourists every year. Our war now is only a memory, and we as a nation
look forward to a promising future. Yet so many other nations cannot
say the same. Today, more of the world's countries are involved
in conflict than not; a record 59.5 million people worldwide live
displaced by wars and violence.
In Rotary we believe, in spite of all that, in the possibility of
peace – not out of idealism, but out of experience. We have
seen that even the most intractable conflicts can be resolved when
people have more to lose by fighting than by working together. We
have seen what can happen when we approach peace-building in ways
that are truly radical, such as the work of our Rotary Peace Fellows.
Through our Rotary Foundation, peace fellows become experts in preventing
and resolving conflict.
Our goal is that they will find new ways not only to end wars but
to stop them before they begin.
Among the hundreds of peace fellows who have graduated from the
program, two from Sri Lanka, one from each side of the conflict,
studied together. In the first weeks of the course, both argued
passionately for the rightness of their side. Yet week by week,
they grew to understand each other's perspective; today, they are
good friends. When I met them and heard their story, they gave me
hope. If 25 years of pain and bitterness could be overcome by Rotary,
then what, indeed, is beyond us?
We cannot fight violence with violence. But when we fight it with
education, with understanding, and with peace, we can truly Be a
Gift to the World.
-K R Ravindran, President 2015 - 16
Nov. 2015 Trustee
It is well-established that The Rotary Foundation
is the focus of attention in the month of November, and we try our
best to publicize our Foundation programs and to raise money to
fund the programs during the entire month! But why November?
The idea started in May 1956 when the RI Board designated the week
of 15 November as Rotary Foundation Week. The designation was firmly
in place by 1961 when I was a Rotary scholar in South Africa, and
most of the southern African clubs featured programs about the Foundation
that week. I also observed the same focus when I returned home and
joined the Rotary club in my hometown of Unionville, Mo.
Many of our clubs at that time scheduled low-cost meals at their
meetings during Rotary Foundation Week and donated the savings to
the Foundation. It was a good way to produce Foundation funds at
a time when most contributions were still made by clubs, not by
individual Rotarians. Why did the RI Board select the week of 15
November in 1956 and then expand it in 1982 to the whole month of
November, starting in 1983-84?
My speculation is the initial decision in 1956 was based on the
realization that many clubs in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly
the large clubs, were not fully active during their summer months
of June, July, August. Therefore, it was best to wait and give time
for the clubs to educate their members each year about the Foundation.
And since the Foundation contributions were coming from the clubs,
it gave the clubs time to raise the money, but still send it to
the Foundation in the first half of the Rotary year for investment
purposes. It was a win-win situation for both the clubs and the
Regardless of whether my speculation has merit, Rotary Foundation
Month has been, and will continue to be, a critical factor in the
success of our Foundation. It is the month that our clubs and districts
continue the tradition of educating our Rotarians about the amazing
quality of our Foundation programs and seeking the needed contributions
to make the world a better place.
Our Foundation is a premier organization, and it owes its success
to the support of Rotarians, many of whom have gained their appreciation
of Foundation programs during the traditional emphasis on such programs
in November. The importance of Rotary Foundation Month should not
be discounted, and I hope that all of our clubs will feature the
Foundation during the month of November. It is a significant and
productive tradition, and I encourage all Rotarians to take the
time to attend their club and district Foundation events this month.
Embrace the tradition! Celebrate the Foundation!
- Ray Klinginsmith, Trustee Chair 2015 - 16
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