Historic Moments – Polio and the Council
James L. Bomar, 1979-80 RI President, administers the first drops of vaccine to a Philippine child 29 September, 1979, launching the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort which set the stage for Rotary's efforts to end polio. Rotary Images
For more than 20 years, Rotary has led the private sector in the global effort to rid the world of polio. The Council on Legislation has played an important role in affirming Rotarians' support for the cause.
Long before PolioPlus became an official program of Rotary International, many Rotary clubs had been helping victims of the disease through projects that provided resources such as wheelchairs.
But before Rotary could emerge as a major player on the world stage in the campaign to eradicate polio, a shift had to occur in program policies.
In 1919, the organization had established a policy of not asking Rotarians to back a particular corporate project unless it felt it was willing and capable of giving the effort its "hearty support." A resolution adopted during the 1923 RI Convention built on that sentiment, reinforcing the autonomy of local clubs in deciding on projects. It asserted that RI "should never prescribe nor proscribe any objective activity for any club."
A shift began in the 1960s, when RI President Carl P. Miller developed what eventually became Rotary's World Community Service program. Its success created a positive climate for the Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grants program, adopted by the RI Board in 1978.
The first 3-H grant in 1979 funded a five-year effort to immunize six million children against polio in the Philippines, setting the stage for Rotary's work in eradicating the disease.
The 1980 Council on Legislation supported the Philippine polio immunization effort, adopting a resolution that commended "the financial and other support of Rotarians worldwide whose contributions have helped to launch this program and to fund it." The Council also requested that the RI Board continue to develop and implement 3-H projects using funds for polio immunization.
The PolioPlus program was launched in 1985, with an initial goal of immunizing every child in the world against the disease. The Board realized that such a commitment would require a collective expression of the will of Rotarians and proposed a resolution to the 1986 Council. The Council endorsed the "commitment of RI relating to immunizing the world's children against polio."
Subsequent councils further supported this aim. Most recently, the 2007 Council endorsed and affirmed the eradication of polio as a goal of the highest order for Rotary and resolved that no other corporate project should be adopted until the worldwide eradication of the wild poliovirus is certified.
See previous Historic Moments on the Council: