John Kenny opens 2010 RI Convention
RI President John Kenny opend the 2010 RI Conventio on 20 June at the opening plenary session in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Photo by Alyce Henson/Rotary Images
RI President John Kenny called to order the 101st Rotary International Convention on 20 June at the Centre Bell in Montréal, Québec, Canada, where more than 18,000 attendees from 154 countries and geographical areas assembled for the four-day celebration.
Canada is the country that made Rotary international, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Manitoba -- the first club established outside the United States.
Kenny praised the projects he had witnessed during his travels throughout the year, reminding all attendees that club service is the nucleus of Rotary.
"I have always believed that the real work of Rotary, the work I have seen in this past year, was not done by me or by any member of the Board of Directors of Rotary International," he said. "It was done by you -- in every one of your districts, in every one of your clubs, and in every one of your communities."
Kenny visited clubs from Brazil to Latvia, which he said hadn’t received a visit from an RI president since Paul Harris in 1932.
Kenny said his trip to Haiti made an indelible impression on him.
"It is one thing to hear and read about the devastation that the January earthquake caused in Haiti," he said. "It was another thing entirely to go there -- to see the collapsed buildings, walk among the rubble, try to comprehend how many people had been lost, and realize the scope of what would be needed to even begin to rebuild."
Kenny stressed that long-term recovery efforts, such as the ones Rotarians supported in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the devastating tsunami in 2004, is the kind of help that Rotary is best equipped to provide in Haiti. "Rotarians were in Banda Aceh before the news crews came, and stayed long after the other aid groups left. We are there and helping yet."
He reminded Rotarians that not every project needs to be a large-scale effort.
"It is easy to forget just how much of a difference simple acts of service can make. A small loan to start a business, a day spent making repairs to a home, the gift of a pair of eyeglasses -- all of these things have the potential to completely change another person’s life," he said.
The experience of being a Rotary club member depends a lot on what Rotarians put into it, Kenny said. “What Rotary is, what it will be, what it can become -- all of this depends on the choices we make, every day, every hour, and every minute. How we serve, whom we help, how to balance our own abilities with the needs of our communities -- these are the decisions that will shape the Rotary to come. These are the decisions that are up to you. The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands
Rotary's recent expansion into Palestine -- an effort supported by Israeli, Jordanian, and U.S. Rotarians -- was highlighted during the flag ceremony. Music and dance stirred the rest of the opening plenary session, with a gospel choir singing "What a Wonderful World" and lively dances performed by Inuit, Québécois, and Turkish troupes. Celtic Thunder, a group of male vocalists, also performed a variety of folk and popular songs, closing the session on a high note.