Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Man Can Change The World

District Governor (7450) Charles E. Streitwieser hands off the microphone to Rotary International Past President Wilfrid Wilkinson during a special meeting of the Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd - Narberth held at the Merion Cricket Club (Ardmore, Pennsylvania) on September 25, 2013. Photo courtesy of Jay Childress

Since our club’s founding in 1926 we had never had such a distinguished guest speaker as we had yesterday when Rotary International Past President Wilfred Wilkinson honored us with his presence. In attendance were fellow Rotarians from throughout the region comprising of hundreds, if not over a thousand years of service. It was not only an inspiring but a humbling experience. Seeing so many great men and women united in Rotary is an amazing experience to be a part of.

The afternoon flew by so quickly that it is hard to recall all of the details but there are a few clear moments and emotions that will forever resonate in my own life. Past President Wilkinson’s remarks were full of not only a passion for Rotary and service but a love for people and the impact that our work has had on this world. Having traveled around the world, he has seen the many faces that have benefited from the efforts of Rotarians and he has seen the diversity that is represented in Rotary clubs around the globe. No matter how different we all may seem, we are all connected to one another through Rotary and through a desire for peace.

In reading about Past President Wilkinson’s achievements and his tenure at the helm of Rotary International there was one quote that I came across that summed up my impression of this great man as the embodiment of the Rotary motto “service above self”.  During his address at the Rotary Convention in Los Angeles, California on June 15th, 2008 he said the following:

“One of the first questions I had from the staff when I was nominated was what I wanted as my RI theme. I was all ready with my answer. I said my theme would be Rotary Shares. Because to me, these words captured all that was good about Rotary and Rotarians. Because to me, Rotary is about sharing. It’s about sharing our time, every week in our meetings with our fellow members and with our communities and with people throughout the world. It’s about sharing our expertise, our talents, and our resources in countless ways. It’s about sharing what we have, with our fellow Rotarians and with those in need. That’s what I told my district governors, when we began this Rotary year. But now I know better. Yes, Rotary Shares means all that, but it means so much more. It means every one of you and every single Rotarian in every Rotary country working together. Working with dedication and working with love, working for a better, safer, healthier, and more peaceful world.”

This is what it means to be a Rotarian. This is what we all strive to do each and every day of our lives. This is how we continue to improve our communities, this is how we touch the lives of people we have never met in places we have never been, this is how we change the world. One person, one club, one community, one seemingly insignificant action, one small project, one life impacted can make all the difference in this world.

Let our work be enhanced through Rotary. Let us work together to serve our communities. Let our actions, through Rotary, be magnified 100 fold. It is in this spirit, with all of us together as one community, that we launched our raffle to benefit The Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd – Narberth’s Community Educational Initiative which supports children from West Philadelphia schools through various programs and projects.

The Paul Harris Fellow Award Raffle is an idea that, to the knowledge of everyone I have spoken with, has never been done in the history of our great organization. By selling tickets for a prize that is unique to Rotary, every Rotarian and every club is sharing in the support of those school children in need in our community. Each ten dollars collected has a Rotarian’s name and carries with it their passion for service and their desire to improve the community. The success of this program will be shared with the holders of the two hundred tickets while the credit goes to every Rotarian for supporting us in this endeavor and making it possible to accomplish such great work.  

It all starts with an idea just like Rotary started as an idea by one man, Paul Harris. Ideas come and go but those which are met with passion and supported by the community quickly take hold and begin to bring about change. One idea can certainly impact a community while some ideas can change the world. This world needs great ideas and this world needs great men. We need, especially during this time in history, passionate people dedicated to making this world a better, more peaceful place. We need people like Past President Wilfred Wilkinson.

Rotary International President Wilfrid Wilkinson answers questions during his visit to the Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd - Narberth. Photo courtesy of Jay Childress.