One of the things I appreciate most about
serving as president of Rotary International is the
people I get to meet. Much of my time is spent
traveling and visiting Rotary clubs around the
world. A Rotarian welcome is something quite
special. But let me tell you, there’s nothing so
warm as the welcomes that have been rolled out
for me by Rotaractors. These are young people
who are committed to Rotary ideals, who are
pouring their hearts into service, and who, in the
process, don’t forget to have fun.
One of the highlights of my recent travels was a
trip to Ghana, where I visited a district that boasts
some 60 Rotaract clubs. They aren’t satisfied with
that number, though — in fact, they’re excited
about a plan to double it. They’ll do it, too.
Rotaractors are vaccinating children against
polio. They’re donating blood where the supply is
dangerously low. They’re providing handwashing
facilities to schools where children previously had
no way to get clean. In short, they’re all about
transformational service: carrying out projects that
make a real difference in their communities.
In Nakivale, Uganda, one special Rotaract club
is making a difference in its community — which
happens to be a refugee settlement. These
young leaders are turning what others might
see as disadvantages into opportunities for
service, building community and opening up new
possibilities to those who are most in need
Rotaractors are blazing the path for Rotary to
be more relevant in this new century of service.
And World Rotaract Week, which we’re celebrating
11-17 March, is the perfect opportunity to get to
know your local Rotaractors and talk to them
about how your clubs can work together. If your
Rotary club doesn’t already sponsor a Rotaract club,
know that you don’t need to be near a college or
university to do it: Community-based Rotaract clubs
are a great option. And remember that Rotaractors
are part of the Rotary family.
When Rotaractors are ready to leave their Rotaract
club, we don’t want them to leave that Rotary
family behind. I’m asking all Rotarians to help them
make the transition into a Rotary club or to start a
new one: I’m happy to charter as many new clubs
as we need to give everyone a place where they
feel at home while making the world a little better.
Service should be fun, it should be inspirational,
and it should be open to all.
If there’s one thing Rotary has always excelled at,
it’s diversity. In the past, that often meant diversity
of profession, nationality, and outlook. We’ve
made great strides when it comes to diversity
of age and gender, and as we welcome more
Rotaractors into our organization, we’ll become
Rotary is powerful. Together with Rotaract, it is
unstoppable. Working side by side, we have the
potential to Be the Inspiration in every part of
society, to every person we meet.