Rotary Shares is highlighted at convention
RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson welcomes Rotarians at the opening plenary session.
Photo by Alyce Henson/Rotary Images
A buzz of anticipation filled the packed hall as Rotarians waited to hear Rotary International President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson’s words of welcome and inspiration at the opening plenary session of the 2008 RI Convention in Los Angeles. They were not disappointed.
Wilkinson, introduced by Aide to the President John Germ as “a man who truly believes that service to humanity is the best work of life,” spoke with passion about the theme of his presidential year, Rotary Shares.
“All over the world, all throughout this year, I have seen how Rotary Shares,” Wilkinson said. “I’ve seen that Rotary Shares in every amazing way you could imagine, and then some.”
He highlighted some of the work that he and his wife, Joan, have seen, including in Sri Lanka, where Rotarians continue to rebuild after the devastating 2004 tsunami.
“It’s been three and a half years since that terrible catastrophe,” Wilkinson said. “You don’t see it in the news anymore. But Rotarians haven’t forgotten, because they’ve been busy rebuilding.”
Wilkinson also spoke about the challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave Rotary US$100 million to use in the fight against polio. Raising funds to match the grant will be a major push in the coming Rotary year.
“What I think is so significant about this grant is what it says about Rotary -- that the Gates Foundation gave the money to Rotary International before we had raised even one penny of matching funds,” he said.
Los Angeles Host Organization Committee Chair Gerry Turner drew the audience’s attention to Rotary’s Wide World of Books project, which is collecting children’s books from convention goers to support Rotary’s literacy initiative. Reaching the goal of collecting 250,000 books will set a world record, while at the same time improving the selection of books at schools and libraries in Southern California and Nevada.
An always popular element of the opening plenary is the parade of the flags of Rotary’s more than 200 countries and geographical areas. The flags were carried out by Youth Exchange students from throughout the world studying in the western United States.
“We honor the places we are from,” said RI Vice President Mike McGovern, “and we recognize that the Rotary community is one that we all belong to, regardless of the place we call home.”