Rotary International President Ron Burton's May & June 2014 Messages
Dear fellow Rotarians,
MAY 2014 - I've had a unique opportunity to be a part of the polio eradication campaign from its very beginnings, more than a quarter century ago, to where we are now, which is truly "this close" to the end.
None of us knew back then how long eradication would take, or how many obstacles we'd meet along the way. I'm not sure how we would have felt about taking on the challenge if we had known. But there is one thing I know for sure: that every single day of the last 29 years has been worth it. Because over those years, we have saved millions of children from being paralyzed by polio. There's no way to put a price tag on that. And today, we are closer than ever to a world in which no child will be paralyzed, ever again.
It's been a long race to the finish line.
That line is now in sight. But we'll only cross it if we keep moving
forward. And the only way to do that is with the help of every single
Rotarian, everywhere in the world.
I'm glad to report that the End Polio Now – Make History Today campaign is going well. Rotary met the terms of the new agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and received US$70 million in matching funds in January, which will be fully committed in this calendar year. We have four more years of this agreement remaining, during which the Gates Foundation will match two-to-one every dollar Rotary spends on polio, to a maximum of $35 million per year. I encourage all of you to do what you can to help us make the most of this opportunity. I know that together, we can engage Rotary to end polio – and change the world, forever.
JUNE 2014 - We have a saying in Oklahoma that you need to leave the woodpile just a little higher than you found it. To do that, I needed to ask you to get involved. Involvement is what our theme this year – Engage Rotary, Change Lives – is all about. And, as each of us has done that – as each of us has gotten up out of our chairs and truly engaged Rotary – we have changed lives.
This year, I asked each one of you to bring in one new member. The Board has laid a foundation for strengthening membership around the globe: Sixteen regional membership plans are now in place. They are built around making sure that we give people a reason to be in Rotary. I believe that if we can get prospective members to help us with a project – it could be reading to kids, or working in a soup kitchen, or picking up trash along the highway – the rest will take care of itself. They will realize that they made a difference in someone's life. And they'll also realize that when you give through Rotary service, you get so much more in return.
I also asked each one of you to make a gift of some amount to our Rotary Foundation. All of our governors did that and became the first class in the history of Rotary to make that commitment.
Sometimes we get comfortable in going to our club and not having any responsibility. Maybe it's because we haven't been asked to be more engaged. And, of course, it's great to go to your meeting and see your friends. But if you want to get fired up, you need to be doing projects. Hands-on projects are great equalizers. When you're unloading boxes off a truck, you're just like the next person, and that person is just like you. When everyone's serving together, there's a camaraderie, and that's how you keep people engaged.
Rotarians sometimes don't realize all that Rotary is doing and is capable of doing. If they could witness the impact of the projects I have seen this year, it would change their lives. They would understand that they belong to an organization whose members have a common desire to do something good and who, working together, accomplish incredible things.
I continue to be in awe of the good I see
Rotarians doing. I am firmly convinced that the woodpile is just
a little higher because of your efforts. It is my hope that each
one of you will continue to Engage Rotary, Change Lives.
Rotary International Foundation Chair D. K. Lees
RI Trustee Chair's monthly message-
MAY 2014 - We have seen when Rotarians are
motivated, they will rise to a challenge. Not long ago, we reached
the US$200 million milestone through Rotary's Challenge for polio
eradication, in response to grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation. We not only met our goal but exceeded it, raising $228.7
The decision to accept this offer was not made lightly. We know that we have already asked Rotarians for a great deal, and they have been so generous already. We are "this close" to interrupting transmission of the wild poliovirus worldwide. This is an incredible achievement, but we still have much work to do to make a polio-free world a reality.
For decades, we have been working to get the number of polio cases down, year by year. Every year that had fewer cases of polio than the one before was a good year. But now we are in a new stage – the final battle of our war against polio. Now there is no such thing as "good enough." There cannot be a single case of polio left anywhere in the world.
This means that every outbreak, however small, must be met with a massive response. We can do this only if we have the resources. And that is why we cannot wait to raise this money – to End Polio Now and make history today.
JUNE 2014 - Some of you know the words of actor Christopher Reeve: "So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they become inevitable."
I began my year as Rotary Foundation trustee chair with four goals: to eradicate polio, build ownership and pride in our Foundation, launch our new grant model, and engage in innovative partnerships and projects. It has been an exciting year of change, growth, and new achievements, and as I end my term, I am inexpressibly proud of the work I have seen Rotarians do.
Perhaps one of the most important milestones we have seen this year was the World Health Organization's certification of Southeast Asia as polio-free. This was a long-awaited declaration. Just five years ago, India represented nearly half of all polio cases worldwide. The 11 countries in the region – Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – are home to 1.8 billion people and represent the fourth of six regions worldwide to be officially certified polio-free. This landmark didn't happen on its own; it embodies a lot of hard work by many dedicated volunteers.
In my final month of service as trustee chair of our Rotary Foundation, I leave feeling grateful. I'm grateful for the opportunity to know so many of you hard-working and devoted Rotarians, and I'm grateful for all your help in making the four goals I set out with become a reality.
Dong Kun (D.K.) Lee
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Rotary eClub NY1 * Updated 2014