R. I. President Ravi's Theme/ Message

Nov. 2015 President's Message

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 school.

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

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Nov. 2015 Trustee Chair's Message

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 Foundation!

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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