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Reach across a border: Rotary experiences help you build international goodwill

Rotary International, a name we're all familiar with, wasn't always on the Rotary letterhead.

In 1910, five years after the first Rotary club was founded in Chicago, the existing clubs, which were all in the United States, banded together to organize the National Association of Rotary Clubs of America.

In August 1912, Rotary crossed the Atlantic with the chartering of the Rotary Club of London. Rotary had already become international in April of that year when the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was chartered, but the club on a different continent earned Rotary the distinction of being an intercontinental organization.

Prospective members of the London club had questioned why they should join and pay dues to an association that was then made up of only U.S. clubs. Chesley R. Perry, the general secretary, encouraged them to "forget that the word 'national' is in the name." He noted that if Winnipeg, London, and others were to join Rotary, the association would "simply have to change its name to the Inter-national Association."

Perry's words proved to be right. Following the chartering of the London and Winnipeg clubs, the name changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs. Delegates to the 1922 Rotary Convention shortened the name to Rotary International and approved the creation of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland. They also introduced to the Rotary constitution the Object of Rotary, which remains one of our guiding principles.

  1. Rotary’s 1921 convention in Scotland, the first held outside the United States

  2. Early governing documents

  3. Comic published in the August 1936 issue of this magazine

For the past 100 years, the name has remained steady, along with our commitment to friendship and international goodwill. Here are a few ideas for putting that commitment into action:

Join a Rotary Fellowship to explore your passions and hobbies. These groups of people with a common interest help members make friends outside of their clubs, expand their international network, and develop a more global perspective. Find one that interests you.

Take part in a Rotary Friendship Exchange to learn about other cultures and make new friends across the globe. Explore the exchange finder map to identify prospective districts and discuss a possible exchange.

Attend a project fair, which connects clubs seeking international service projects with clubs wanting to collaborate with global partners. Most run for two to three days and may include visits to service project sites or opportunities to experience the local culture. Read more about project fairs and how they can enhance your Rotary experience.

Use an intercountry committee to foster intercultural understanding. An ICC is a network of Rotary clubs or districts in two or more countries working together to promote peace, build friendships, and strengthen relations. Find out more.