Rotary International recognizes unique peace efforts at 2013 convention

President-elect Ron Burton and his wife, Jetta, during the closing plenary.
Photo Credit: Monika Lozinska/Rotary International

As was fitting for a meeting that has been all about peace, the 2013 Rotary International Convention in Lisbon drew to a close Wednesday with RI President Sakuji Tanaka recognizing a Rotary club that has spread Rotary's message of peace in "a very unique and effective way."

"This year I challenged every Rotary club to conduct activities to enhance peace in their community," Tanaka said, in introducing the presentation. "Their response has exceeded my wildest expectations, and I offer my sincere thanks to all of the Rotarians who promoted Peace Through Service every day in ways big and small."

Tanaka presented a plaque to Ralf Trautwein, president of the Rotary Club of Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, which reached out to popular German band Marco und die Elfenbande to write and record a song to teach young people about the importance of peace and how Rotary is working to achieve it.

"The Rotary Peace Song," which was played during the plenary session, has been performed before hundreds of schoolchildren in Germany and distributed by CD.

"'The Rotary Peace Song' shares a simple but profound message: Each day, through Rotary, we have the power to make a more peaceful world for future generations," Tanaka said.

District governors nominated 50 projects for the recognition. Three others received special mention from Tanaka, including a peace forum held by Districts 4270 (Colombia) and 4380 (Venezuela); a forum held by Rotary clubs in District 6780 (Tennessee, USA); and "Longing Across Two Shores," a short-movie contest, photography exhibition, and classical music concerts remembering the displacement of people in Greece and Turkey, organized by District 2440 (Turkey).

Attendees also got their first look at the "Lisbon Declaration of Peace." The declaration is an extension of three earlier declarations that were adopted during Rotary Global Peace Forums in Berlin, Germany; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; and Hiroshima, Japan. Past RI President Luis Giay served on the Rotary Peace Forums Committee and helped convene the forums.


Later in the closing plenary, President-elect Ron Burton and his family were introduced. Burton told attendees it is an exciting time to be a Rotarian, and he believes the coming year will be one of the greatest Rotary years ever experienced as Rotary nears the end of its campaign to eradicate polio and starts a new era for the Foundation.

"I think anyone who's ever run a marathon would tell you that the longer and harder the race, the greater the pride when the finish line comes into sight -- and the greater the determination, to cross it," Burton said. "And that's why we're ready to start aiming higher in everything we do -- as Rotarians, in our clubs, and through our Foundation, with the new Foundation grant structure we've been calling Future Vision."

Burton said Future Vision is a new way of thinking about Rotary service, which includes learning to think bigger and plan for the long term. It includes focusing on sustainability.

"The goal of our Rotary Foundation has always been Doing Good in the World," Burton added. "Starting on 1 July, we're going to take it a step further: We're going to do the most good, for the most people, that we possibly can."

Earlier in the day, delegates voted to accept the nomination of Gary C.K. Huang, of the Rotary Club of Taipei, Taiwan, as the 2014-15 RI president. In accepting the nomination, Huang noted that Rotary has given him the opportunity to serve beyond his country's borders.

"I would like to ask for all of you to join me in looking beyond borders and extending the network of Rotary," Huang said. "I am confident that as the network of Rotary becomes stronger, the world will be a better place for all of us."

Getting motivated to take action

Also in the fourth plenary session Wednesday morning, Rotarians heard from Céline Cousteau, founder and executive director of CauseCentric Productions; Jane Goodall, founder of The Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace; and Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children and Me to We. All three speakers emphasized getting involved and motivating others to take action.

Cousteau explained how storytelling focused on a cause creates connections and inspires people to take action.

"Everyone has a story. Our stories are what make us who we are. Storytelling is about creating connections," she said. "You all know that, because that is why you come here. You share a common story, a common goal with your neighbors."

She encouraged Rotarians to tell their stories by using Rotary Showcase.

Goodall outlined the four things that give her hope for the future of the planet: the energy and enthusiasm she sees in young people, the incredible abilities of the human brain, the resilience of nature, and the indomitable human spirit.

"You know all about that spirit, with your campaign to eradicate polio," she said.

Kielburger explained how Rotary helped give his charity efforts a start, by providing the funding and host families he needed to travel to Southeast Asia when he was 12 years old. He noted that he made a promise at the time to speak to many clubs and assemblies when he returned.

"Eighteen years later I am still trying to fulfill that promise I made to you," he said. "What my organization is doing is trying to pay forward what you did for us."

He implored Rotarians to keep investing in young people, noting that they will become the next generation of Rotarians. "The world is in a good set of hands," he said. "They care about the same things you care about. Thank you, Rotary, for believing in young people."

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