The ABC's of Rotary - Part V & VI

by Cliff Dochterman, Rotary International President 1992-1993

THE ABC's OF ROTARY - PART 5

* Invocations At Club Meetings
* Opportunities For Fellowship
* Senior Active Membership
* Honorary Membership
* Membership In Rotary International
* District Governor
* The District Assembly

INVOCATIONS AT CLUB MEETINGS

In many Rotary clubs, particularly in Judeo-Christian nations, it is customary to open weekly meetings with an appropriate invocation or blessing. Usually such invocations are offered without reference to specific religious denominations or faiths.

Rotary policy recognizes that throughout the world Rotarians represent many religious beliefs, ideas and creeds. The religious beliefs of each member are fully respected, and nothing in Rotary is intended to prevent each individual from being faithful to such convictions.

At international assemblies and conventions, it is traditional for a silent invocation to be given. In respect for all religious beliefs and in the spirit of tolerance for a wide variety of personal faiths, all persons are invited to seek divine guidance and peace "each in his own way." It is an inspiring experience to join with thousands of Rotarians in an international "silent prayer" or act of personal devotion. Usually all Rotary International board and committee meetings begin with a few moments of silent meditation. In this period of silence, Rotary demonstrates respect for the beliefs of all members, who represent the religions of the world.

Since each Rotary club is autonomous, the practice of presenting a prayer or invocation at club meetings is left entirely to the traditions and customs of the individual club, with the understanding that these meeting rituals always be conducted in a manner which will respect the religious convictions and faiths of all members.

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OPPORTUNITIES FOR FELLOWSHIP
Most Rotarians are successful professional and business executives because they hear opportunities knock and take advantage of them. Once a week the opportunity for Rotary fellowship occurs at each club meeting, but not all members hear it knocking.

The weekly club meeting is a special privilege of Rotary membership. It provides the occasion to visit with fellow members, to meet visitors you have not known before, and to share your personal friendship with other members.

Rotary clubs which have a reputation of being "friendly clubs" usually follow a few simple steps: First, members are encouraged to sit in a different seat or at a different table each week. Second, Rotarians are urged to sit with a member they may not know as well as their long- time personal friends. Third, members invite new members or visitors to join their table just by saying: "Come join us, we have an empty chair at this table."

Fourth, members share the conversation around the table rather than merely eating in silence or talking privately to the person next to them. Fifth, Rotarians make a special point of trying to get acquainted with all members of the club by seeking out those they may not know.

When Rotarians follow these five easy steps, an entirely new opportunity for fellowship knocks each week. Soon Rotarians realize that warm and personal friendship is the cornerstone of every great Rotary club.

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SENIOR ACTIVE MEMBERSHIP
"Senior active" is a form of membership reserved for members who have provided substantial years of service to Rotary and is usually regarded as a mark of Rotary distinction. Being a senior active member signifies that a Rotarian has been involved in club activities over a long period.

A Rotarian automatically becomes "senior active" upon completion of 15 years of service in one or more Rotary clubs. Senior active status is also conferred upon a Rotarian with ten or more years service who has reached the age of 60, or with five or more years of service who has reached the age of 65. A Rotarian who serves as a district governor is also eligible for senior active membership.

One of the benefits of being senior active is that the Rotarian no longer must reside or have his place of business within the territorial limits of the club. If a senior active member moves to another city, he may be invited to join Rotary without having an open classification. When a Rotarian becomes senior active, his/her classification is released to enable another individual to join Rotary.

It is important to remember, senior active is not a classification, it is a type of membership. A senior active member is always identified by "former classification," which describes a business or profession.

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HONORARY MEMBERSHIP
"Honorary" is one of the four types of membership a person may have in a Rotary club. This type of membership is the highest distinction a Rotary club can confer and is exercised only in exceptional cases to recognize an individual for unusual service and contributions to Rotary and society. An honorary member is elected for one year only, and continuing membership must be renewed annually.

Honorary members cannot propose new members to the club, do not hold office and are exempt from attendance requirements and club dues.

Many distinguished heads of state, explorers, authors, musicians, astronauts and other public personalities have been honorary members of Rotary clubs, including King Gustaf of Sweden, King George VI of England, King Badouin of Belgium, King Hassan III of Morocco, Sir Winston Churchill, humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, Charles Lindbergh, composer Jean Sibelius, explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, Thor Heyerdahl, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Dr. Albert Sabin, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and many of the presidents of the United States. Truly, those selected for honorary membership are those who have done much to further the ideals of Rotary.

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MEMBERSHIP IN ROTARY INTERNATIONAL
If you asked a Rotarian if he or she belonged to Rotary International, the individual probably would look puzzled and answer, "Of course I'm a member of Rotary International." But in this instance, the confident Rotarian would be technically wrong. No Rotarian can be a member of Rotary International!

The explanation of this apparent contradiction is simple. The constitutional documents of RI state that membership in Rotary International is limited to Rotary clubs. Over 27,000 Rotary clubs belong to the organization we call Rotary International.

A Rotary club is composed of persons with the appropriate qualifications of good character and reputation, a business or professional classification and who serve in an executive or managerial capacity. The Rotarian belongs to a club-the club belongs to Rotary International. This technical distinction is not obvious or even known to most Rotarians and seldom does it create any problems or complications. It does explain, however, why the Rotary International Board of Directors places expectations upon and extends privileges to Rotary clubs, rather than to individual Rotarians.

If someone asks if you belong to Rotary International, your most accurate answer would be, "No, I belong to a Rotary club." But I doubt if anyone would understand the difference, or, in fact, would really care.

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DISTRICT GOVERNOR
The Rotary district governor performs a very significant function in the world of Rotary. He or she is the single officer of Rotary International in the geographic area called a Rotary district, which usually includes about 45 Rotary clubs. The district governors, who have been extensively trained at the worldwide International Assembly, provide the "quality control" for the 27,000 Rotary clubs of the world. They are responsible for maintaining high performance within the clubs of their district.

The district governor, who must make an official visit to each club in the district, is never regarded as an "inspector general." Rather, he or she visits as a helpful and friendly adviser to the club officers, as a useful counselor to further the Object of Rotary among the clubs of the district, and as a catalyst to help strengthen the programs of Rotary.

The district governor is a very experienced Rotarian who generously devotes a year to the volunteer task of leadership. The governor has a wealth of knowledge about current Rotary programs, purposes, policies and goals and is a person of recognized high standing in his or her profession, community and Rotary club. The governor must supervise the organization of new clubs and strengthen existing ones. He or she performs a host of specific duties to assure that the quality of Rotary does not falter in the district, and is responsible to promote and implement all programs and activities of the Rotary International president and the RI Board of Directors. The governor plans and directs a district conference and other special events.

Each district governor performs a very important role in the worldwide operations of Rotary. The district governor is truly a prime example of Service Above Self performing a labor of love.

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THE DISTRICT ASSEMBLY
In view of the annual turnover of Rotary leadership each year, special effort is required to provide the 27,000 club leaders with appropriate instruction for the tasks they will assume. The annual district assembly is the major leadership training event in each Rotary district of the world.

The district assembly offers motivation, inspiration, Rotary information and new ideas for club officers, directors and key committee chairmen of each club. Some of the most experienced district leaders conduct informative discussions on all phases of Rotary administration and service projects. The assembly gives all participants valuable new ideas to make their club more effective and interesting. Usually eight to ten delegates from each club are invited to attend the training session.

Another important feature of a district assembly is a review by the incoming district governor of the program theme and emphasis of the new RI president for the coming year. District goals and objects are also described and plans are developed for their implementation.

The success of each Rotary club is frequently determined by the club's full representation and participation in the annual district assembly.

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THE ABC's OF ROTARY - PART 6

* The District Conference
* Youth Exchange
* No Personal Privileges
* "Every Rotarian An Example To Youth"
* World Community Service
* Women's Groups Associated With Rotary Clubs
* Functional Literacy Program

THE DISTRICT CONFERENCE

Most Rotarians have never attended a Rotary district conference. They have not experienced one of the most enjoyable and rewarding privileges of Rotary membership.

A district conference is for all club members and their spouses, not just for club officers and committee members. The purpose of a district conference is for fellowship, good fun, inspirational speakers and discussion of matters which make one's Rotary membership more meaningful. Every person who attends a district conference finds that being a Rotarian becomes even more rewarding because of the new experiences, insights and acquaintances developed at the conference. Those who attend a conference enjoy going back, year after year.

Every one of Rotary's more than 500 districts has a conference annually. These meetings are considered so important that the Rotary International president selects a knowledgeable Rotarian as his personal representative to attend and address each conference. The program always includes several outstanding entertainment features, interesting discussions and inspirational programs.

One of the unexpected benefits of attending a district conference is the opportunity to become better acquainted with members of one's own club in an informal setting. Lasting friendships grow from the fellowship hours at the district conference.

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YOUTH EXCHANGE
Rotary Youth Exchange is one of Rotary's most popular programs to promote international understanding and develop lifelong friendships. It began in 1927 with the Rotary Club of Nice, France. In 1939 an extensive Youth Exchange was created between California and Latin America. Since then the program has expanded around the world. In recent years more than 7,000 young people have participated annually in Rotary-sponsored exchange programs.

The values of Youth Exchange are experienced not only by the high school-age students involved but also by the host families, sponsoring clubs, receiving high schools and the entire community. Youth Exchange participants usually provide their fellow students in their host schools with excellent opportunities to learn about customs, languages, traditions and family life in another country.

Youth Exchange offers young people interesting opportunities and rich experiences to see another part of the world. Students usually spend a full academic year abroad, although some clubs and districts sponsor short-term exchanges of several weeks or months.

Approximately 36 percent of Rotary Youth Exchange students are hosted or sent by the clubs in the United States and Canada. European countries account for about 40 percent, and 12 percent come from Australia and New Zealand. Asian clubs sponsor 5 percent, and 7 percent come from Latin American countries. Over 70 percent of all Rotary districts participate in Youth Exchange activities.

Youth Exchange is a highly recommended program for all Rotary clubs as a practical activity for the enhancement of international understanding and goodwill.

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NO PERSONAL PRIVILEGES
Frequently, friends ask whether Rotarians receive special business benefits from their Rotary membership. Should Rotarians expect a special discount or some preferential service just because they are dealing with a fellow Rotarian?

The answer is clearly "no." The Rotary Manual of Procedure expressly states the Rotary position on this matter. The policy, originally approved by the RI Board of Directors in 1933, is that in business and professional relations "a Rotarian should not expect, and far less should he ask for, more consideration or advantages from a fellow Rotarian than the latter would give to any other business or professional associate with whom he has business relations." Over 50 years ago the concept was expressed that "true friends demand nothing of one another, and any abuse of the confidence of friendship for profit is foreign to the spirit of Rotary."

On the other hand, if new or increased business comes as the natural result of friendship created in Rotary, it is the same normal development which takes place outside of Rotary as well as inside, so it is not an infringement on the ethics of Rotary membership.

It is important to remember that the primary purpose of Rotary membership is to provide each member with a unique opportunity to serve others, and membership is not intended as a means for personal profit or special privileges.

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EVERY ROTARIAN AN EXAMPLE TO YOUTH
In much of the official literature of Rotary International relating to service to young people, a special slogan will be found- "Every Rotarian an Example to Youth." These words were adopted in 1949 by the Rotary International Board of Directors as an expression of commitment to children and youth in each community in which Rotary clubs exist. Serving young people has long been an important part of the Rotary program.

Youth service projects take many forms around the world. Rotarians sponsor Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, athletic teams, handicapped children's centers, school safety patrols, summer camps, recreation areas, safe driving clinics, county fairs, child care centers and children's hospitals. Many clubs provide vocational counseling, establish youth employment programs and promote use of The 4-Way Test. Increasingly, drug and alcohol abuse prevention projects are being supported by Rotarians.

In every instance, Rotarians have an opportunity to be role models for the young men and women of their community. One learns to serve by observing others. As our youth grow to become adult leaders, it is hoped each will achieve that same desire and spirit to serve future generations of children and youth.

The slogan accepted over 40 years ago is just as vital today. It is a very thoughtful challenge-"Every Rotarian an Example to Youth."

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WORLD COMMUNITY SERVICE
World Community Service is the Rotary program by which a club or district in one country provides humanitarian assistance to a club in another country. Typically the aid goes to a developing community where the Rotary project will help raise the standard of living and the quality of life. The ultimate object of World Community Service is to build goodwill and understanding among peoples of the world.

One important way to find a club in some other part of the world which needs help on a worthy project is to use the WCS Projects Exchange, a list of dozens of worthy activities in developing areas. The exchange list is maintained in the RI Secretariat in Evanston and is readily available upon request. It outlines projects, provides estimated costs and gives names of the appropriate contacts.

Clubs which need assistance, or are seeking another club to help with a humanitarian project, such as building a clinic, school, hospital, community water well, library or other beneficial activity, may register their needs. Clubs seeking a desirable World Community Service project may easily review the list of needs registered in the Projects Exchange. Thus, the exchange provides a practical way to link needs with resources.

Every Rotary club is urged to undertake a new World Community Service project each year. The WCS Projects Exchange list is an excellent tool to find a real need, a project description and cooperating club in a developing area. The job then is to "go to work" to complete the project, and at the same time build bridges of friendship and world understanding.

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WOMEN'S GROUPS ASSOCIATED WITH ROTARY CLUBS
Some very significant programs of Rotary service are not conducted by Rotarians. This is true because of the many projects sponsored by organizations of Rotarians' wives and other women relatives associated with Rotary clubs around the world.

Women's groups-often called Women of Rotary, Rotary Ann Clubs, Las Damas de Rotary, Rotary Wives or, the more formalized organization, The Inner Wheel-annually conduct hundreds of notable projects of humanitarian service in their communities. The women's groups establish schools, baby clinics, food and clothing distribution centers, hospital facilities, orphanages, homes for the elderly and other service activities, and they frequently provide volunteer service on a day-to- day basis to operate child-care centers for working mothers and provide necessary resources for Youth Exchange students. Usually the women's groups complement and supplement the programs of service performed by the local Rotary clubs. Many of the women's groups actively conduct international service projects as well as local projects.

The RI Board of Directors in 1984 recognized the excellent service and fellowship of the clubs and organization of women relatives of Rotarians and encouraged all Rotary clubs to sponsor such informal organizations.

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FUNCTIONAL LITERACY PROGRAM
It has been estimated that a billion people-one-fourth of the world's population-are unable to read. Illiteracy of adults and children is a global concern in both highly industrialized nations and in developing countries. The number of adult illiterates in the world is increasing by 25 million each year! In the United States, one quarter of the entire population is considered functionally illiterate.

The tragedy of illiteracy is that those who cannot read lose personal independence and become victims of unscrupulous manipulation, poverty and the loss of human feelings which give meaning to life. Illiteracy is demeaning. It is a major obstacle for economic, political, social and personal development. Illiteracy is a barrier to international understanding, cooperation and peace in the world.

Literacy education was considered a program priority by Rotary's original Health, Hunger and Humanity Committee in 1978. An early 3-H grant led to the preparation of an excellent source book on the issues of literacy in the world. The Rotary-sponsored publication, The Right to Read, was edited by Rotarian Eve Malmquist, a past district governor from Linkoping, Sweden, and a recognized authority on reading and educational research. The book was the forerunner of a major Rotary program emphasis on literacy promotion.

In 1985 the RI Planning and Research Committee proposed, and the RI board approved, that the Rotary clubs of the world conduct a ten-year emphasis on literacy education. Many Rotary clubs are thoughtfully surveying the needs of their community for literacy training. Some clubs provide basic books for teaching reading. Others establish and support reading and language clinics, provide volunteer tutorial assistance and purchase reading materials. Rotarians can play a vitally important part in their community and in developing countries by promoting projects to open opportunities which come from the ability to read.

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