Trustee chair's message

Dong Kurn (D.K.) Lee

Trustee Chair 2013-14

April 2014

Celebrate Magazine Month.

Today, with Rotary's club membership spanning more than 200 countries and geographical areas, its publications are more vital than ever. The RI Board of Directors has designated April of every year as Magazine Month, and it is a time to recognize the role that our Rotary publications play in our Rotary lives – and the role that we should play in our publications.

The Rotarian, which is edited here at RI headquarters in Evanston, Ill., USA, has a circulation of about 500,000. Around the world, 31 more magazines are published in more than 20 languages. In total, these 32 magazines reach more than 1.2 million people. To make this happen, it takes more than just an editorial staff – it also takes the good work of Rotarians. I always feel that the best part of reading any Rotary publication is the opportunity to find out what other clubs are doing. Each issue, each article, is a chance to be informed and inspired.

In an era when electronic communication seems to be everywhere, the role of paper magazines is still important to our organization, but we must be open to new formats to get the word out. That's why, this April, I encourage you all to explore The Rotarian magazine's new digital experience: Email the stories to friends and family. Share them on Facebook and Twitter. This is a chance to take the great ideas and great work of Rotarians even further and to inspire future generations to do the same. 

March 2014

Inspire locally, grow globally.

Since its inception, Rotary has striven to do the greatest good it can, wherever it can. Local clubs within an international organization have meant that Rotary projects have both local and global effects. But as Rotary looks ahead, and as The Rotary Foundation builds on the groundwork that already has been laid, we acknowledge the need for new, creative ways of addressing problems.

Many clubs here in America provide dictionaries to schoolchildren, for instance, and this is a wonderful way to encourage and support literacy. But are dictionaries the best use of money, in a time and place where students are more likely to look a word up online? What other projects could support literacy in a way that will make a greater and longer-lasting difference?

Some exciting partnerships developed between clubs and other organizations during the pilot of the Foundation's new grant model. One that I am fond of is a collaboration that two Rotary districts in California and Uganda formed with two nongovernmental organizations in Uganda. These districts used the new vocational training team structure to send Rotarians and other professionals to Nkondo, where they helped establish a clean water system and a trained health clinic staff. The local government was so impressed, it also pitched in.

The vocational training team inspired a partnership with a Ugandan NGO that provides microfinance training and oversight, and another one that works with farmers to produce crops at a higher yield. Rotarians from Kenya and Uganda traveled to District 5340 in California to learn about sustainable agriculture and irrigation, as well as good business practices.

In this case, our Foundation was able to provide service that not only meets the needs of a village but empowers and inspires local groups in ways that only Rotary can.

Rotary always has engaged in strategic partnerships with other organizations and governments around the world. If it weren't for our global partners, the eradication of polio still would be just a dream. But as we implement our new grant model, strategic partnerships that take advantage of Rotary's global reach at a local level will become even more central to our success.

February 2014

The last hurdle.

In 1985, we made a promise. We promised that we would eradicate polio, no matter how long it took. We have never backed away from that promise, even though the job has been much harder, and taken much longer, than we first thought.

Because of Rotary and its partners, the world has seen a 99 percent drop in the number of polio cases: from 350,000 children paralyzed every year to 223 in 2012. This progress is significant.

We are now combating an outbreak of polio in the Horn of Africa. Cases of polio were found in Syria. We all recognize that this presents a new and significant challenge to the process of eradication. The political and humanitarian situation in Syria is difficult, and responding to this outbreak will be difficult as well.

We have been told many times that we cannot end polio, that we will never do it. But we know better. We will conquer this challenge, as we have conquered so many before. We will stop these new outbreaks. And we will continue to fight polio until we have reached every last child. To do all this requires tremendous resources.

Right now, we have a funding gap of US$1.5 billion over the next five years. To eradicate polio, that gap must be filled. We are not alone in this fight. We will not be the only ones to help find these new funds. This must be the responsibility of every country and every government. A polio-free world is within our grasp.

All of us must be ambassadors for polio eradication. Every Rotarian should lead by example by making a donation. And we need to make sure that every Rotarian, in every Rotary club, understands that we are truly this close to ending polio – and that every Rotarian understands that this is our chance to make history together.

If we can summon the will and the determination in this final hour, we will have written Rotary into the pages of history forever.

January 2014

January is Rotary Awareness Month – a time to learn more about our organization. The more we're known for our good work, the more good work we'll be able to do.

Because of The Rotary Foundation, people around the world know that they can depend on Rotary in their time of need. And as Rotarians, it is our responsibility to understand and promote our Foundation and help keep it strong.

The most important responsibility we have is also the simplest: It is leading by example. We cannot ask Rotarians to make our Foundation a priority if we have not made it a priority ourselves, by making our own donation.

This was the thinking behind President Ron's idea of the "First Class": In this Rotary year, every district governor has made a contribution, in his or her own name, to The Rotary Foundation. I believe that every Rotary leader should do the same. We cannot ask others to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.

Our goal in The Rotary Foundation has always been Doing Good in the World, and we have an organization of people with the right skills and connections to get the job done. We have earned the confidence of our communities and the world. We take our responsibilities very seriously.

We work hard to make sure that every dollar that is given to our Foundation is making a difference. How much good we can do is limited only by our imagination, our ambition, and our own willingness to keep our Foundation strong.

I know that you have the ambition and the imagination. So I ask you all to act on them: to support our Foundation yourselves, and to encourage others to do the same – so that all of us can do more good in a world that needs our help so much.

December 2013

December is Family Month, a time when we pay special attention to Rotary's large and expanding family. Rotary is not just 1.2 million Rotarians in 34,558 clubs. We're 365,125 Interactors, 133,860 Rotaractors, and 174,547 Rotary Community Corps members. Our family includes the spouses and children of Rotarians. It also encompasses the dozens of community nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations that Rotary has forged partnerships with. The family of Rotary is millions strong – and it continues to grow as we keep developing new ties.

One thing we all know in Rotary is that we can do more together than we can alone. Together, we have a tremendous reach. We need to ensure that Rotary keeps growing, in all the branches of our family. When we work with local NGOs and other organizations, we gain more knowledge and more insight. We add to our resources and our abilities. And we build more bridges of understanding, friendship, and cooperation. By partnering with others throughout the world, we not only can achieve more than we set out to do but also can grow the Rotary family.

We have learned through our long history in the fight against polio how effective such partnerships can be. Our many global partners have made polio eradication possible, and have helped us achieve a great deal of good along the way. This is an important lesson, and it is one we must build on in the years ahead.

November 2013

Celebrate Rotary Foundation Month.

November gives us the chance to build greater ownership and pride in our Foundation. PolioPlus is successful because Rotarians believe in our commitment and support it financially. We give to the polio eradication effort because we see clearly what our money is doing and what we are helping to achieve. We all take pride in knowing that the money we give is helping to fund a polio-free world.

But many Rotarians do not have the same pride and ownership of the Foundation's Endowment Fund and Annual Fund. We are still falling short of our goal of Every Rotarian, Every Year. Why? Because Rotarians do not know what good works the Endowment Fund and Annual Fund enable us to do.

The Endowment Fund and Annual Fund are what make Rotary more than just an association of Rotary clubs. They allow us to share our resources, work together, and bring our work to a higher level. The greater our Foundation's resources, the greater our ability as Rotarians to meet the needs of our communities.

And when every one of us donates to The Rotary Foundation, it truly becomes our Foundation – and we all share the pride in the good that it does.

This is why we have Every Rotarian, Every Year. And this is why our goal for the Annual Fund in 2013-14 is US$120 million, which represents a donation from every Rotarian, averaging $100 each.

If we want the freedom to be ambitious in our service, we must know that we have a strong Foundation supporting us. And if we want to know that Rotary will endure, we need a strong Endowment Fund – for whatever lies ahead.

October 2013

On 24 October, we mark World Polio Day. It is a time to reflect on the progress we've made and to strengthen our determination for the work ahead.

It's important to realize how far we've come. We have reduced the number of polio cases by over 99 percent, from more than 350,000 a year in the 1980s to 223 in 2012. But now for the road ahead: Polio is still endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Difficult terrain, civil unrest, remote settlements, and poor sanitation are just some of the obstacles to immunization. That's why we, and our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, are determined to finish our work.

With the announcement of the extended fundraising partnership between Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the 2013 RI Convention in Lisbon, Portugal, we have the chance to introduce millions of new dollars into the campaign. The value of this extended partnership is more than $500 million, and through it, your contributions toward polio eradication will work twice as hard.

It's more important than ever that we all take action. Talk to your government leaders, share your polio stories on your social networks, and encourage others in your community to join us in supporting this historic effort. When Rotarians combine their passion for service with our strong global network, we are unstoppable. With the backing of the Gates Foundation and you, the Rotarians around the world, we can change the face of public health forever.

September 2013

Every year, 6.9 million children die before reaching their fifth birthday. Almost two-thirds of them – 4.4 million – die of infectious diseases, nearly all of which could have been prevented.

What would happen if 1.2 million Rotarians continued their service efforts in water, sanitation, health, hunger, and literacy, but with children in mind?

If Rotarians provide insecticide-treated nets, fewer children will succumb to malaria. If we dig wells and address sanitation problems, more children will have clean water to drink and a lesser risk of falling ill with waterborne diseases. And if Rotary clubs carry out effective nutrition projects, we can save some of the almost 2.6 million children who die each year from malnutrition. We can do even more by providing a community with a trained birth attendant, a visiting nurse, a simple clinic, or a school food program. These are direct ways to save children’s lives.

Children are dying not because we can’t help them, but because too often, nobody does. If every one of us does our part, we can challenge these high child mortality statistics and save the lives of thousands.

In 2008-09, I asked Rotarians to open their eyes to the needs of children in communities near and far. This September, Rotary celebrates New Generations Month, and there’s no better time than now to focus on giving all children the opportunity to have the future they deserve.

August 2013

In Korea, we have a proverb: 괴로움이 있으면 즐거움도 있다 . It means, “After hardships comes happiness,” and it is an encouragement to work hard in the face of adversity.

Polio eradication is long, hard work, but when we have finished this job, we will have achieved something wonderful – and lasting.

Since PolioPlus was launched, we have immunized over two billion children and have seen a 99 percent decrease in polio cases. These past few years, we have made enormous progress. 

But this last effort – the home stretch – is the hardest. It costs approximately US$1 billion every year to maintain our fight against polio. Even once we see no new cases of polio, we are committed to supporting eradication until the world is certified polio-free – a full three years after the last case is recorded. We’re getting closer, but we are not there yet.

Until that historic moment, we must continue the fight with everything we have. We have to keep up the momentum, keep up the energy, and keep up the awareness. Every Rotarian needs to understand what polio is and why we are committed to its eradication. The answer is simple: If we were to stop our fight against polio now, we would lose everything we have worked for over so many years. Very soon, we would see a resurgence of polio to the levels some of us remember from 30 years ago, when more than 1,000 children were paralyzed every day. Polio would again be epidemic – and we would have lost the opportunity of a lifetime.

This is something we cannot and will not consider. We are in it until the end – and the end is truly This Close. Polio is a global health emergency not because the end is so distant – but because it is in sight.

July 2013

I am excited as we move into the new Rotary year. While Rotary remains constant at the core, our clubs and districts have new leaders, and we’ve set new goals for the year ahead.

For 2013-14, we have four goals for The Rotary Foundation: eradicate polio, build ownership and pride in our Foundation, launch our new grant model, and engage in innovative projects.

Our first goal is familiar to each of you: We must make our dream of a polio-free world real. In the 28 years since the inception of PolioPlus, we have immunized over two billion children and seen the wild poliovirus disappear in all but three countries. Polio eradication is long, hard work, but when we have finished this job, we will have achieved something wonderful – and lasting.

This brings us to our second goal: building ownership and pride in our Foundation. The success of PolioPlus is due, in no small part, to the generosity of Rotarians all over the world who have contributed to the PolioPlus Fund. And why do Rotarians keep giving to the PolioPlus Fund? Because they see that their generosity has a real, lasting impact on the lives of others. They take pride in the fact that their contributions mean that the end of polio is in sight.

Our third goal will help us move into a successful future, after polio is eradicated. This goal is to successfully launch our new grant model and put our Future Vision Plan into practice worldwide. The simplified grant structure has made it easier for clubs to apply for Foundation grants, and we have already seen the benefits of focusing our monetary efforts on sustainable projects.

Lastly, our fourth goal for the coming Rotary year is to engage in innovative projects and creative partnerships that help build a more just and peaceful world.

Our theme for the year is Engage Rotary, Change Lives. It’s a good theme for Rotary, and for inspiring us to work through The Rotary Foundation – because without our Foundation, Rotary’s reach is shorter and smaller. Without the Foundation, polio would still be a worldwide scourge. If it weren’t for the work of our Foundation, children all over the world could face a future without education, without clean water, and without health care.

Without our Foundation, many of the world’s children would be without hope. Your leadership in the coming year will provide that hope. May your efforts Engage Rotary, Change Lives.