Dolly Parton sees an ally in Rotary
Top: Dolly Parton entertains attendees during the fourth plenary session on 23 June at the 2010 RI Convention in Montéal.
Bottom: Bob Mazzuca, Boy Scouts of America chief scout executive, addresses crowd at the fourth plenary session. Photos by Monika Lozinska-Lee/Rotary Images
Country music legend Dolly Parton and Boys Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca inspired Rotarians at the fourth plenary session on 23 June to keep serving their communities and underscored the common bond their organizations share with Rotary, in philosophy and in practice.
After greeting the audience by singing her hit song "9 to 5," Parton recited The Four-Way Test, saying she also sought a "short, simple, and powerful" statement to guide the Dollywood Foundation: Dream more, learn more, care more, be more.
The philanthropist and literacy advocate went on to explain her foundation’s Imagination Library
, which promotes reading among preschool children by providing them with a free book each month from birth until age five. The program, which has received support from more than 115 Rotary clubs, has grown from its base in Parton’s home state of Tennessee, USA, to other communities in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Parton said she was inspired by her father, who was illiterate but "one of the smartest people" she knew. "He knew it was a crippling thing not to be able to read and to write, so he was proud when people would call me the 'book lady.' And he lived long enough to see my dream come true with the Imagination Library. He was with me all the way."
Rotary Foundation Trustee Vice Chair John F. Germ, also from Tennessee, joined Parton on stage to present her with Paul Harris Fellow Recognition. "This is a wonderful friendship, us working together, and I hope to continue doing my part," Parton said. "Thank you for accepting me and believing in the program."
Mazzuca told attendees that the Rotary and Scout movements are similar in their ability to develop leaders, citing a shared history.
"Rotary founder Paul Harris and James E. West, our first chief scout executive, were dear friends," said Mazzuca. "They traveled the country together, establishing local Boy Scout councils. And our relationship continues to be strong today, with Rotary clubs in the U.S. sponsoring more than 1,400 Scout units serving 45,000 young people."
The similarities also extend to The Four-Way Test and the Boy Scout Oath and Law, Mazzuca said. "Each offers words to live by that have served us, and the communities we serve, extremely well over the decades."
He encouraged both organizations to extend a hand to children and younger generations, especially those at risk of disease.
"Together, our job is to mold and shape those young minds to keep them healthy, and help them to not only survive but to thrive during difficult times -- to teach them why Scouting and Rotary’s values are so crucial to our future as a people, and to teach them that they must pay forward what they learn from us," Mazzuca said.
Ontario’s lieutenant governor, David C. Onley, a polio survivor and disability rights advocate, also spoke to Rotarians. He urged the audience to work with disabled communities and help eliminate prejudices against people with disabilities.