The ABC's of Rotary - Parts I & II

by Cliff Dochterman, Rotary International President 1992-1993

THE ABC's OF ROTARY - PART I

Part One
* Introduction
* Definition Of Rotary
* The Official Rotary Flag
* Rotary's Wheel Emblem & Some Rotary "Firsts"
* Object Of Rotary
* Rotary Mottoes
* 100 Percent

INTRODUCTION

These short articles about Rotary were first published in the weekly bulletin of the Rotary Club of North Stockton, California, U.S.A. That was well before their author, Cliff Dochterman, became president of Rotary International for the year 1992-93.

Originally called "Did Ya Know?" the pieces were prepared to share interesting facts about Rotary International with members of the North Stockton club. Later, in response to requests from other Rotary clubs, the articles were reprinted in collected form. Now, President Cliff has brought the collection up to date in keeping with one of the emphases of his year in office as RI president-to help Rotarians learn more about the colorful history of their organization, its customs and traditions, and the current status of its global programs.

The articles may be reprinted in Rotary club bulletins or presented as Rotary information at weekly club meetings.

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DEFINITION OF ROTARY

How do you describe the organization called "Rotary"? There are so many characteristics of a Rotary club as well as the activities of a million Rotarians. There are the features of service, internationality, fellowship, classifications of each vocation, development of goodwill and world understanding, the emphasis of high ethical standards, concern for other people and many more descriptive qualities.

In 1976 the Rotary International Board of Directors was interested in creating a concise definition of the fundamental aspects of Rotary. They turned to the three men who were then serving on Rotary's Public Relations Committee and requested that a one-sentence definition of Rotary be prepared. After numerous drafts, the committee presented this definition, which has been used ever since in various Rotary publications:

"Rotary is an organization of business and professional persons united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world."

Those 31 words are worth remembering when someone asks, "What is a Rotary club?"

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THE OFFICIAL ROTARY FLAG

An official flag was formally adopted by Rotary International at the 1929 Convention in Dallas, Texas. The Rotary flag consists of a white field with the official wheel emblem emblazoned in gold in the center of the field. The four depressed spaces on the rim of the Rotary wheel are colored royal blue. The words "Rotary" and "International" printed at the top and bottom depressions on the wheel rim are also gold. The shaft in the hub and the keyway of the wheel are white.

The first official Rotary flag reportedly was flown in Kansas City, Missouri, in January 1915. In 1922 a small Rotary flag was carried over the South Pole by Admiral Richard Byrd, a member of the Winchester, Virginia, Rotary Club. Four years later, the admiral carried a Rotary flag in his expedition to the North Pole.

Some Rotary clubs use the official Rotary flag as a banner at club meetings. In these instances it is appropriate to print the words "Rotary Club" above the wheel symbol, and the name of the city, state or nation below the emblem.

The Rotary flag is always prominently displayed at the World Headquarters as well as at all conventions and official events of Rotary International.

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ROTARY'S WHEEL EMBLEM

A wheel has been the symbol of Rotary since our earliest days. The first design was made by Chicago Rotarian Montague Bear, an engraver who drew a simple wagon wheel, with a few lines to show dust and motion. The wheel was said to illustrate "Civilization and Movement." Most of the early clubs had some form of wagon wheel on their publications and letterheads. Finally, in 1922, it was decided that all Rotary clubs should adopt a single design as the exclusive emblem of Rotarians. Thus, in 1923, the present gear wheel, with 24 cogs and six spokes was adopted by the "Rotary International Association." A group of engineers advised that the geared wheel was mechanically unsound and would not work without a "keyway" in the center of the gear to attach it to a power shaft. So, in 1923 the keyway was added and the design which we now know was formally adopted as the official Rotary International emblem.

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SOME ROTARY "FIRSTS"

The first Rotary club meeting was in Chicago, Illinois, on February 23, 1905.

The first regular luncheon meetings were in Oakland, California, chartered in 1909.

The first Rotary convention was in Chicago in 1910.

The first Rotary club outside of the United States was chartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1910.

The first Rotary club outside of North America was chartered in Dublin, Ireland, in 1911.

The first Rotary club in a non-English-speaking country was in Havana, Cuba, in 1916.

The first Rotary club in South America was chartered in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1918.

The first Rotary club in Asia was chartered in Manila, Philippines, in 1919.

The first Rotary club in Africa was chartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1921.

The first Rotary club in Australia was chartered in Melbourne in 1921. (original idea from "Scandal Sheet")

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OBJECT OF ROTARY
In some areas of the world weekly Rotary club meetings begin with all members standing and reciting the Object of Rotary. This statement, which comes from the Constitution of Rotary, is frequently seen on a wall plaque in Rotarians' offices or place of business.
The Object of Rotary is "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise." The statement then lists four areas by which this "ideal of service" is fostered: through the development of acquaintance as the opportunity for service; the promotion of high ethical standards in business and professions; through service in one's personal, business and community life; and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace.

The Object of Rotary has not always been expressed in this manner. The original Constitution of 1906 had three objects: promotion of business interests, promotion of good fellowship and the advancement of the best interests of the community. By 1910 Rotary had five Objects as increased emphasis was given to expanding Rotary. By 1915 there were six Objects. In 1918 the Objects were rewritten again and reduced to four. Four years later they had again grown to six and were revised again in 1927.

Finally, at the 1935 Mexico City Convention the six Objects were restated and reduced to four. The last major change came in 1951, when the "Objects" were streamlined and changed to a single "Object" which is manifested in four separate ways. The "ideal of service" is the key phrase in the Object of Rotary. This ideal is an attitude of being a thoughtful and helpful person in all of one's endeavors. That's what the Object truly means.

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ROTARY MOTTOES

The first motto of Rotary International, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best," was approved at the second Rotary Convention, held in Portland, Oregon, in August 1911. The phrase was first stated by a Chicago Rotarian, Art Sheldon, who made a speech in 1910 which included the remark, "He profits most who serves his fellows best." At about the same time, Ben Collins, president of the Rotary Club of Minneapolis, Minnesota, commented that the proper way to organize a Rotary club was through the principle his club had adopted-"Service, Not Self." These two slogans, slightly modified, were formally approved to be the official mottoes of Rotary at the 1950 Convention in Detroit-"He Profits Most Who Serves Best" and "Service Above Self." The 1989 Council on Legislation established "Service Above Self" as the principal motto of Rotary, since it best explains the philosophy of unselfish volunteer service.

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100 PERCENT ATTENDANCE
Regular attendance is essential to a strong and active Rotary club. The emphasis on attendance is traced back to 1922 when Rotary International announced a worldwide attendance contest which motivated thousands of Rotarians to achieve a 100 percent attendance year after year. Many Rotarians take great pride in maintaining their 100 percent record in their own club or by making-up at other Rotary club meetings.
Although the bylaws of Rotary require members to attend only 60 percent of all meetings, the custom has emerged that 100 percent is the desirable level. Rotary stresses regular attendance because each member represents his own business or profession and thus the absence of any member deprives the club of the values of its diversified membership and the personal fellowship of each member.

From time to time, proposals have been made to give attendance credit to Rotarians who are on jury duty, serving in the community, attending a trade convention, on vacation in remote areas, on shipboard or unable to attend because of ill health or other special reasons. None of these exceptions has been adopted. The policy is very clear-a Rotarian is not given attendance credit if he does not attend a meeting.

There are a few circumstances where attendance credit is awarded when a Rotarian participates in an alternate type of Rotary event. If a Rotarian is requested to attend an Interact or Rotaract meeting, attendance credit may be allowed. When a member attends a Rotary district conference, district assembly, international convention, Council on Legislation, a meeting of an international committee, an inter-city meeting and a few other specially designated events, attendance may be credited. A Rotarian actively participating in a district-sponsored service project in a remote area where it is impossible to make-up may also receive attendance credit.

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THE ABC's OF ROTARY - PART 2

* The 4-Way Test
* Paul Harris-First But Not First
* First Names Or Nicknames
* Four Avenues Of Service
* The Rotarian And Regional Magazines
* International Responsibilities of a Rotarian
* Standard Club Constitution

THE 4-WAY TEST

One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary "4-Way Test." It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of the Chicago-based Club Aluminum Company, which was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company was credited to this simple philosophy.

Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International during 1954- 55. The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than 100 languages and published in thousands of ways. The message should be known and followed by all Rotarians. "Of the things we think, say or do: 1. Is it the TRUTH? 2. Is it FAIR to all concerned? 3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

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PAUL HARRIS-FIRST BUT NOT FIRST
Was Paul Harris the first president of a Rotary club? No.

Was Paul Harris the first president of Rotary International? Yes.

There is an easy explanation to this apparent contradiction. Although Paul Harris was the founder and organizer of the first Rotary club in Chicago in 1905, the man selected to be the first president was one of the other founding members, Silvester Schiele.

By the year 1910 there were 16 Rotary clubs, which linked up as an organization called the National Association of Rotary Clubs. A couple of years later the name was changed to International Association of Rotary Clubs as Rotary was organized in Winnipeg, Canada, and then in England, Ireland and Scotland. In 1922 the name was shortened to Rotary International.

When the first organization of Rotary clubs was created in 1910, Paul Harris was selected as the first president. He served in this position for two years, from 1910 until 1912. Thus, the founder of the Rotary idea, who declined to be president of the first club, became the first president of the worldwide organization, Rotary International.

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FIRST NAMES OR NICKNAMES

From the earliest days of Rotary, members have referred to each other on a first-name basis. Since personal acquaintanceship and friendship are cornerstones of Rotary, it was natural that many clubs adopted the practice of setting aside formal titles in conversations among members. Individuals who normally would be addressed as Doctor, Professor, Mister, the Honorable or Sir are regularly called Joe, Bill, Charley or Jerry by other Rotarians. The characteristic Rotary club name badge fosters the first-name custom.

In a few areas, such as Europe, club members use a more formal style in addressing fellow members. In other parts of the world, mainly in Asian countries, the practice is to assign each new Rotarian a humorous nickname which relates to some personal characteristic or which is descriptive of the member's business or profession. A member nicknamed "Oxygen" is the manufacturer of chemical gas products. "Trees" is the nickname for the Rotarian in the lumber business, "Building" is the contractor, "Paper" is the stationery or office supply retailer. Other members might carry nicknames like "Muscles," "Foghorn" or "Smiles" as commentaries on their physical features.

The nicknames are frequently a source of good-natured fun and fellowship. But whether a Rotarian is addressed by a given first name or a nickname, the spirit of personal friendship is the initial step which opens doors to all other opportunities for service.

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FOUR AVENUES OF SERVICE
The term "Four Avenues of Service" is frequently used in Rotary literature and information. The "Avenues" refer to the four elements of the Object of Rotary: Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service and International Service.

Although the Avenues of Service are not found in any formal part of the constitutional documents of Rotary, the concept has been accepted as a means to describe the primary areas of Rotary activity.

"Club Service" involves all of the activities necessary for Rotarians to perform to make their club function successfully.
"Vocational Service" is a description of the opportunity each Rotarian has to represent the dignity and utility of one's vocation to the other members of the club.
"Community Service" pertains to those activities which Rotarians undertake to improve the quality of life in their community. It frequently involves assistance to youth, the aged, handicapped and others who look to Rotary as a source of hope for a better life.
The Fourth Avenue, "International Service," describes the many programs and activities which Rotarians undertake to advance international understanding, goodwill and peace. International Service projects are designed to meet humanitarian needs of people in many lands.
When a Rotarian understands and travels down the "Four Avenues of Service," the Object of Rotary takes on even greater meaning.

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THE ROTARIAN AND REGIONAL MAGAZINES
The month of April is annually designated as "Rotary's Magazine Month," an occasion to recognize and promote the reading and use of the official RI magazine, The Rotarian, and the regional magazines.

The Rotarian has been around since 1911 as the medium to communicate with Rotarians and to advance the program and Object of Rotary. A primary goal of the magazine is to support the annual theme and philosophy of the RI president and to disseminate information about new and special programs, major meetings and the emphasis of the several official "months" of Rotary.

The Rotarian provides a forum in which both Rotary-related and general interest topics may be explored. The magazine serves as an excellent source of information and ideas for programs at Rotary club meetings and district conferences. Many articles promote international fellowship, goodwill and understanding. Regular readers usually have superior knowledge of the activities of Rotary and how each Rotarian may be more fully involved in the Four Avenues of Service around the world.

In addition to The Rotarian there are 28 regional magazines printed in 22 languages. Although each regional publication has its own unique style and content, they all provide Rotarians with up-to-date information and good reading in April-and all through the year.

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INTERNATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A ROTARIAN
As an international organization, Rotary offers each member unique opportunities and responsibilities. Although each Rotarian has first responsibility to uphold the obligations of citizenship of his or her own country, membership in Rotary enables Rotarians to take a somewhat different view of international affairs. In the early 1950s a Rotary philosophy was adopted to describe how a Rotarian may think on a global basis. Here is what it said:

"A world-minded Rotarian:

looks beyond national patriotism and considers himself as sharing responsibility for the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace;
resists any tendency to act in terms of national or racial superiority;
seeks and develops common grounds for agreement with peoples of other lands;
defends the rule of law and order to preserve the liberty of the individual so that he may enjoy freedom of thought, speech and assembly, and freedom from persecution, aggression, want and fear;
supports action directed toward improving standards of living for all peoples, realizing that poverty anywhere endangers prosperity everywhere;
upholds the principles of justice for mankind;
strives always to promote peace between nations and prepares to make personal sacrifices for that ideal;
urges and practices a spirit of understanding of every other man's beliefs as a step toward international goodwill, recognizing that there are certain basic moral and spiritual standards which will ensure a richer, fuller life."
That is quite an assignment for any Rotarian to practice in thoughts and actions!

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STANDARD CLUB CONSTITUTION
Rotary International is the most territorial organization in the world. It exists in 150 countries and cuts across dozens of languages, political and social structures, customs, religions and traditions. How is it that all of the more than 27,000 Rotary clubs of the world operate in almost identical style? The primary answer is the Standard Rotary Club Constitution.

One of the conditions to receive a charter to become a Rotary club is to accept the Standard Club Constitution, originally adopted in 1922. The Standard Club Constitution outlines administrative techniques for clubs to follow in holding weekly meetings, procedures for membership and classifications, conditions of attendance and payment of dues and other policies relating to public issues and political positions.

This constitutional document provides the framework for all Rotary clubs in the world. When the Standard Club Constitution was accepted, it was agreed that all existing clubs could continue to follow their current constitution. Although most of those early clubs have subsequently endorsed the Standard Constitution, a few pre-1922 clubs still conduct their club affairs according to their former constitutional provisions.

The Standard Club Constitution has to be considered one of the great strengths of Rotary to enable the organization to operate in so many thousands of communities.

Share your ideas on the ABC's of Rotary, Parts I & II, in approximately 100 words, and earn a Make-up

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