Birmingham embraces historic convention
RI President-elect John Kenny and RI President Dong Kurn Lee wave to the crowd during the closing plenary session of the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska Lee
After four days of celebrating Rotary's spirit of international fellowship and service, Rotarians from all over the world bid adieu to the 100th RI Convention in Birmingham, England, on 24 June.
RI President-elect John Kenny, the first Scotsman to head the international humanitarian service organization in its 104-year history, encouraged the more than 16,000 Rotarians from over 150 countries at the convention to join in the last push to eradicate polio.
"Until the day the earth is declared polio-free, this work must be our first priority and our main focus," Kenny said during the closing plenary session. "It is up to us to finish the job."
Kenny, a member of the Rotary Club of Grangemouth, has emphasized the important role that individual Rotarians and Rotary clubs play in the future of the organization, a message captured in the 2009-10 RI theme, The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands.
"The future of Rotary is being decided every day, in every one of our clubs -- by every one of you," Kenny said. "Every Rotarian adds fresh ideas and energies to their clubs and their districts. Each one of you can make important contributions and pass on to your successors stronger clubs, healthier communities, and a better world."
Throughout the week, Rotarians, friends, and other members of the family of Rotary heard prominent speakers discussing how close the world is to eradicating polio, and encouraging Rotarians to make that last push to get the job done.
During the keynote address at the Rotary World Peace Symposium, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said Rotary has earned the world's respect. "When they started out saying they wanted to eradicate polio, a lot of people said you ought to have your head read," he said. "Now there are only four countries where polio is endemic. This is fantastic. It is going to happen, and it is fantastic." (Read more and see the video.)
During the Rotary Alumni Celebration, Jean-François Rischard, who recently retired as World Bank vice president for Europe, suggested that Rotarians can help influence top policymakers to bring necessary change to the world. (Read more.)
At a special appearance at the opening plenary session, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Rotary the heart and soul of the worldwide polio eradication effort and pledged the UN's continued cooperation and support. Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation gave Ban the Polio Eradication Champion Award, which he dedicated to three polio workers who were killed by a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan in 2008. (Read more and see the video.)
Actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow, who delivered a keynote address during the third plenary session, told Rotarians that they are almost there and to push just a little further. "Polio is a terrible, terrible disease. We are right to be pushing for the end of it," she said. (Read more and see the video.)
During the fourth plenary session, primatologist and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall stressed the goals that her organization shares with Rotary and called for increased collaboration. "We need to join together, to work as a team," she said. (Read more.)
Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, told Rotary World Peace Fellows that he feels optimistic knowing that a new generation of peacemakers coming out of Rotary's programs will have unparalleled knowledge, technology, and training to do much-needed work. And Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF's chief of water, sanitation, and hygiene, spoke about the urgent need for collaborative efforts to ensure access to clean water and improved sanitation around the world.
Throughout the convention, Rotarians enjoyed fellowship and learned more about club service projects and Global Networking Groups at the House of Friendship. Attendees were treated to cooking demonstrations by finalists in a young chef competition, won by 16-year-old Hailey Vickers, of the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, England.
As attendees entered the convention center, they had a chance to take part in a fundraiser to raise money for polio eradication, donating ₤5 (about US$8) to pull a sticker off a large display, gradually revealing the Make Dreams Real logo, and sign their names on a panel. (See the video.)
During host-ticketed events, opera diva Katherine Jenkins entertained, attendees toured Warwick Castle for a Medieval Spectacular, and downtown Birmingham staged performances by the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Treorchy Male Choir, as well as the East Meets West variety show. The End Polio Now logo was projected onto the side of the Birmingham Central Library 23 June during Birmingham Greets Rotary night.
See more convention highlights
Don't miss the 2010 RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada, from 20 to 23 June. Registration is now open.