International Assembly inspires Rotary leaders to embrace humanity
RI President-elect Kalyan Banerjee and his wife, Binota, greet a guest during the Presidential Welcome Reception at the International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
The next class of Rotary district governors emerged from the 2011 International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA, with new ideas, skills, and friendships that will help them lead during the 2011-12 year.
RI President-elect Kalyan Banerjee began the week by inspiring the 530 governors-elect to Reach Within to Embrace Humanity .
"In order to achieve anything in this world, a person has to use all the resources he can draw on. And the only place to start is with ourselves and within ourselves," he said. Read more.
Later in the week, Banerjee announced plans for the 2011-12 Changemaker Award, which will recognize Rotary clubs that make an extraordinary impact through their work in the Avenues of Service. Read more.
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar shared early success stories of the Foundation's Future Vision Plan. A three-year pilot began on 1 July with 100 districts. All districts will start using the plan’s new grant model on 1 July 2013. Read more.
In his address to the governors-elect, RI Director John C. Smarge spotlighted one of Rotary’s greatest challenges: “Since 2003, we have added 2,552 Rotary clubs yet only increased our overall membership by 226 members.”
Smarge encouraged Rotary leaders to strengthen clubs by branding Rotary as the organization of choice for business, professional, and community leaders throughout the world.
Joseph H. Jones, governor-elect of District 6220 (parts of Michigan and Wisconsin, USA), found Smarge's address inspiring. “Everyone is talking about how we need to grow membership. I’m going to focus on retention,” said Jones, who plans to use Facebook and YouTube to keep club members engaged and excited about Rotary.
Katie Ischkin, president and founder of the Rotary Club of South Metro Minneapolis Evenings, Minnesota, USA, offered her perspective on a new approach to Rotary during the fifth plenary session. The 27-year-old change management consultant said that minor changes in the format of club meetings can go a long way in attracting busy young professionals to Rotary. Read more.
Throughout the week, the incoming district governors took part in training sessions led by past Rotary leaders. Wyn Spiller, one of 40 training leaders, said the discussion groups produced many new ideas, such as forming "buddy clubs" by pairing a club that is strong in member retention with one that is struggling. “We also discussed having a mobile training team of Rotary experts in a district who can come to the clubs,” Spiller said.
The incoming district governors also heard from past RI presidents, including Rajendra K. Saboo, who talked about having passion for leadership, and Bhichai Rattakul, who discussed Rotary’s core values.
RI President Ray Klinginsmith elaborated on those values during the final plenary session.
“Service, fellowship, integrity, diversity, and leadership are our core values, which I prefer to call our Rotary DNA," Klinginsmith said. "Those traits are what distinguish us from other organizations. There is no doubt that we can help our club leaders to Reach Within to Embrace Humanity , and to make the world a better place, because we have been doing it for more than 100 years, and we do it better than anyone else in the world."
At the farewell dinner gala, Rotary leaders met attorney John Hewko, who will take over as RI’s general secretary on 1 July with the retirement of General Secretary Ed Futa. Hewko said his new role will “not be so much a job as a passion” because of his affinity for Rotary’s core values.
Those values were evident throughout the week. Incoming district governors and their spouses presented contributions of more than $330,000 to The Rotary Foundation. Assembly participants also donated 2,154 books in 21 languages to children in the San Diego area and prepared 1,200 literacy kits for communities in New Orleans, Louisiana, site of the 2011 RI Convention.
For Larry Clauberg, governor-elect of District 4650 (Brazil), the event was a turning point. “It was an opportunity to experience how international Rotary really is. We are leaving the meeting as different people than we were when we arrived.”