Theme, Gates grant highlight of assembly
Bill Gates (left) and RI President-elect John Kenny at the 2009 International Assembly. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
As incoming district governors depart from the 2009 International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA, they leave with a big responsibility.
The future of Rotary and its legacy of doing good in the world have been placed squarely in their hands.
But the 530 district governors-elect leave armed with the resources needed to carry out their responsibilities: renewed energy, enthusiasm, and a heightened sense of empowerment in leading their clubs in fulfilling the 2009-10 RI theme, The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands.
They also go home encouraged that one of Rotary’s longest-standing campaigns has received a big boost with the infusion of US$635 million into the global effort to eradicate polio -- a new $255 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced by Bill Gates at the assembly, an additional $100 million that Rotary will match over the next three years, which is part of the US$200 Million Challenge grant -- as well as a combined $280 million pledged by the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom that does not count toward the money to be raised for the Gates Foundation matching grant.
“I leave this assembly proud to be a Rotarian,” said Ajoy Chatterjee, of District 5580 (part of Ontario, Canada; parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, USA). “I find the theme an exceptionally timely one. This gathering of district governors is really a phenomenal feat. It is like the United Nations, and there is no religious discord, political strife, or warfare.”
During the week, incoming district governors were challenged by RI President-elect John Kenny to continue working for the health and well-being of children and their families everywhere through the emphases of water, health and hunger, and literacy. Kenny stressed that individual clubs, empowered by autonomy but working together through the structure of the RI Strategic Plan, are the backbone of the organization.
Many district governors during the week expressed their appreciation at the emphasis on local clubs.
“The goals we set, whatever our action plans, it is in our hands, everyone has to be involved,” said Kazeem Mustapha, of District 9125 (Nigeria). “And this is a good thing.”
RI President Dong Kurn Lee reminded participants that membership is critical to the future of the organization. He encouraged districts to achieve Kenny’s goals of a minimum net membership increase of one member per club, a retention rate of 80 percent, and the addition of at least one new club per district.
Lee also noted that diversity is important to membership growth.
An example of that diversity is incoming governor Leanne Jaggs of District 9920, which covers part of New Zealand and seven other South Pacific nations and territories. She is one of a few women district governors from her region and the first under age 40. Overall, 50 district governors-elect are women. She and her husband brought their nine-month-old son to the assembly with her father, a past district governor, to stress the importance of family in Rotary.
District governors-elect also learned more about the Future Vision Plan, whose simplified and streamlined procedures will help The Rotary Foundation move forward into a second century of service.
Trustee Vice Chair Ron Burton explained that the Future Vision Plan pilot is a critical step in validating the strategies and assumptions in the plan. “We are confident in the plan, but we also recognize that it will have challenges and unknowns that will be addressed and evaluated by the districts that agree to participate in the pilot.”
District governors may apply to participate in the pilot through Member Access.
Other sessions inspired the incoming class of district governors on topics including vocational service, leadership, public image, and service to youth.
Spouses also had plenty of opportunity to be encouraged in their role, especially through two speeches by individual Rotarians who have been making a difference, Fary Moini of the Rotary Club of La Jolla Golden Triangle, California, USA, and Deepa Willingham, a district governor-nominee.
Kari Kontula, of District 1410 (Aland Islands; part of Finland), summed up the experience this way.
“It has been a very, very good experience for me,” he said, “to see what all is happening in Rotary and to be friends with everyone.”