Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rotarians of the Round Table


After a few late posts the last couple of days I am finally getting back on schedule. My blog today stems from an interesting post by J Armando Jeronymo, a Rotarian in Brazil. He posed the following question and details on the discussion board in the Official Rotary International Group on LinkedIn:

"What historical or fictional characters would you invite to join your club? I had this funny thought a few days ago and decided to share it. Which real character from local or universal history or fictional from books, movies, TV sitcoms or even from your folklore would you like to see in your club? Please let us have the character, the source and your reason for inviting.”

This is a fascinating question to consider and the responses thus far have contained many powerful and influential names in world history. Of course, this got me thinking as well and after about a week of mulling over the countless possibilities I pulled together a list containing mostly overlooked people that would bring an interesting dynamic to Rotary. As you will see, the twenty names below are eclectic to say the least but all offer an interesting perspective.

To begin the list we will look at one of the basic needs that many clubs struggle with… funding. Since any substantial amount of funds is nothing more than a fantasy for most clubs, I have selected two fictional Rotarians to fill this need. While his actions are not “beneficial to all concerned” I think we could guide Robin Hood in the right direction and convince him to modify the means in which he fulfills his charitable giving. The second would be Marty Brewster who could boost the bank account of any club in 30 days!

Next is a man whose recording of Joe Gould’s life was so honest that his life became a mirror for the creative tragedy. Joseph Mitchell didn’t hold back the truth and, subsequently, was never able to publish again. In contrast, Richard N. Goodwin’s pursuit of the truth helped to launch his career in politics while exposing the Twenty One quiz show scandal in 1959.

Like Goodwin, Ben Stein served as a political speech writer and gained national notoriety in the quiz show genre (albeit for the opposing political party and a successful run hosting his own game show). Stein’s diverse background and personable demeanor would lend themselves quite well to any community or media outreach a club would need. However, the person that would probably overshadow Stein in this department would be Former First Lady and the First United States Representative to the United Nations Eleanor Roosevelt a woman with numerous talents, countless achievements, and seldom seen charisma.

Now that a former First Lady has been mentioned I am sure you are wondering what presidents I am including in this Rotary club. I have specifically chosen two overlooked presidents rather than repeating the excellent selections that are commonly made. For my list I am including John Tyler (10th President of the United States) and John Quincy Adams (6th President of the United States). Tyler was selected for his assertiveness and his willingness to break with party lines in order to pursue what he thought was the right decision. Whether you agree with him or not (or both) you have to admire someone that insists on pushing forward rather than left or right. Adams’ inclusion is because of his long standing impact on the American mentality by authoring what is now known as the Monroe Doctrine and for his dedication to service as he is the only President to serve in the United States House of Representatives after his presidency.

At no other time in modern history has there been so many heroic examples of service above self than those examples that can be found in the testimonies of the Holocaust. From Christian X of Denmark wearing a yellow star and Janusz Korczak refusing to leave his children to Hermine Santruschitz (better known as Miep Gies) helping to hide the Frank family and Oskar Schindler doing whatever they could to save as many lives as they could. All put the lives of others in front of their own in service to humanity.

Many of those lived through and those who survived that horrific time went on to live lives of a deep and lasting impact to the improvement and healing of the world. While Golda Mier’s family had long since left Eastern Europe by the time of the Holocaust, she fought to not only open the gates of the holy land but immigration to other countries as well (including the United States) in an attempt to save as many Jews as possible from the Nazi regime.

Fortunately, one man that was able to escape the swift advancement of the Third Reich was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (The Lubavitcher Rebbe). His service as a religious leader not only to the Jews but to the world as a whole serves as a model that we are all made in G-d’s image. To reinforce this message of peace it is important to have other religious leaders as members of the club to include Karol Józef Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II), Lhamo Dondrub (The 14th Dali Lama), and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Ghandi).

Fittingly, the ideal place for this club and this collaboration of religious leaders to meet would be in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To host them would, of course, be William Penn who was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom. He was also known as someone who maintained good relations and honored treaties with the Lenape Indians.

And to represent the Indians of North America would be two overlooked and powerful men. The first is Jim Thorpe who was a dominant athletic force that, toward the end of his life, he was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century (above all the greats including Babe Ruth). Since that time, his legacy continues to fade in the mind of the public and his name is all too often forgotten. 

The final Rotarian at the table would be Amoroleck, Chief of the Monacan Indian Nation, who was captured by John Smith in September 1608. The Monacan Nation has been largely forgotten by history and can’t be found in a common school text book. Because of colonial bias and historical influence on settlers by their rival nation, the Powhatans, the Monacan people have been pushed aside and ‘edited out’ of the historical record. Maybe by having Chief Amoroleck present, we can revise the text.


So, that is my round table of Rotarians. There are many others that came to mind obviously but this is the mix that I thought would promote the most discussion amongst the members as well as providing some structure and leadership to the club. I did my best to pull together a list of people that don’t immediately come to mind (of course, there are always a few exceptions).

Now let’s make things interesting… below is a list of alternative members (also mostly of the uncommon variety and all of which could have easily been included above). Would you swap out any of the above with any of the people found below? Are there any other people above or below that the club cannot do without?