When Rotary runs in the family
District 9920 Governor-elect Leanne Jaggs, of New Zealand, and her husband, Mike, attend the 2009 International Assembly. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
The International Assembly is a family affair for Leanne Jaggs, incoming governor of District 9920, and her husband, Mike, a volunteer firefighter.
Leanne, a third-generation Rotarian, and Mike have brought their nine-month-old son, Brayden, to the assembly in San Diego, California, USA. Accompanying them is Leanne’s father, Stuart Searle, a past governor of District 9920, which covers part of the family’s home country of New Zealand and seven other South Pacific nations and territories.
Her grandfather, George, was also a Rotarian.
"I was kind of born into it," says Leanne. "My brother said two in the family was quite enough. But he’s a policeman, so he does his community service."
The Jaggs family is a good example of the youth RI President Dong Kurn Lee has emphasized as important to Rotary’s future. Leanne says they are definitely atypical of Rotary district leadership in Australia and New Zealand.
She thinks that sends a good message about Rotary.
"It's sharing the message that we are taking change seriously," she says. "We need to change. Rotary is looking at its public image. Some of the world still sees us as that club of old men. Having a female district governor under 40 with a child -- you can’t change more than that."
Leanne says she and her husband brought their son to underscore the need for Rotary to be about family. She would like that idea to be one the focuses of her year as governor.
"We’ll put a family spin on it. We can’t help but do so because of our circumstances," she says.
She says the theme for her district, "Getting Back to the Basics," fits nicely with the 2009-10 RI theme, The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands.
"It’s the individual Rotarians who are going to make a difference," she says. "It’s about getting the clubs more involved."
So far, even Brayden seems to be enjoying the assembly -- or at least allowing his parents to enjoy it. And yes, if the rest of the family has its way, he will become a fourth-generation Rotarian.
"We aren’t going to push it on him, obviously," Leanne says. "But when you grow up around it, it’s almost inevitable."