Rotary brings the world to Los Angeles
Service organization’s annual convention will highlight polio eradication, seek Guinness record for world’s largest book drive
LOS ANGELES (June 11, 2008) -- If Hollywood were to produce a new movie about the United Nations, they might want to shoot on-location in downtown Los Angeles this week, when about 20,000 visitors from more than 140 countries will arrive for Rotary International’s annual convention.
Often described as a "mini-United Nations" because of its international and cultural diversity, the always colorful Rotary convention is expected to inject at least $16.5 million into the local economy during its weeklong run at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Pre-meeting activities begin June 12, followed by the main convention program June 15-18. The annual convention gives members of the 103-year-old volunteer service group the opportunity to share success stories, exchange ideas, and renew acquaintances. Members of the 380 Rotary clubs in southern California and southern Nevada, led by Gerry Turner, of Long Beach, have done much of the planning and will serve as hosts.
The 2008 Rotary convention launches an organization-wide drive to raise $100 million over three years to match a $100 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The entire $200 million is earmarked for polio eradication, Rotary’s top priority for 20 years.
The launch will include a rare joint appearance by the top leaders of the international health agencies that -- in partnership with Rotary -- direct the Global Polio Eradication Initiative: Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization; Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF. Their host is Dr. Robert Scott, chair of The Rotary Foundation and head of Rotary’s PolioPlus program. (June 17, 9:15 a.m., West Hall, press availability to follow)
In special recognition of Rotary’s commitment to literacy, many attendees are bringing children’s books representing their homelands for the Wide World of Books project, which aims to be the largest international book drive ever. The books will go to deserving schoolchildren throughout the host region. A representative from Guinness World Records will be on hand to certify the results during the June 18 closing session. (June 18, 3:30 p.m. West Hall)
Other highlights of the 2008 Rotary convention include:
- The color and pageantry of the opening ceremony, which presents the flags of the nearly 200 countries and geographical regions where Rotary clubs are chartered. (June 15, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., West Hall)
- Dr. Tadataka Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, who will discuss why the foundation chose Rotary for the $100 million polio eradication challenge grant. (June 16, 9:15 a.m., West Hall)
- Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World and former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, who will describe how service organizations such as Rotary can help address the serious health needs of many African nations; and Dalton McGuinty, premier of the Province of Ottawa, who will discuss approaches to improve the world’s literacy rates. (June 18, 9:15 a.m., West Hall)
- A projects fair in the aptly named House of Friendship, where scores of successful humanitarian initiatives will be displayed. (daily, starting at 8:30 a.m., South Hall)
The Los Angeles convention is led by RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson, of Trenton, Ont., Canada, who took office July 1, 2007, and during his term encouraged Rotary clubs to partner with each other and other groups on projects to improve literacy, provide clean water, prevent disease and promote health. He will be succeeded July 1 by Dong Kurn Lee, of Seoul, South Korea, whose emphasis will be on programs to reduce childhood mortality rates.
Los Angeles has twice before hosted the Rotary convention, the first time in 1922 and the second in 1962. The Rotary Club of Los Angeles is the fifth Rotary club established, founded in 1909 just four years after the first club was formed in Chicago by attorney Paul Harris. Rotary now supports nearly 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas, with a total membership of over 1.2 million men and women who are leaders in their businesses, professions and communities.