RI President 2020-21 Holger Knaack
- March 2021
Dear Fellow Rotarians, Rotaractors, and friends,
As someone who knows firsthand the great leadership
potential of Rotaractors, I always look forward to World Rotaract
Week, which we are celebrating from 8 to 14 March. Rotaractors are
the focus of all three of my presidential conferences this year,
and I was proud when, two years ago, the Council on Legislation
voted to elevate Rotaract by including Rotaract clubs as members
of Rotary International. Before that, the Council had already made
dual membership possible, and shortly after, the Board of Directors
decided to do away with Rotaract’s age limits.
But we are only just embarking on our journey together. Partnering
effectively doesn’t happen by itself. It requires both sides
to be open and to understand the value of cross-generational alliances.
Louie De Real, a dual member of Rotaract and Rotary, explains.
Joint virtual meetings have helped Rotaractors introduce Rotarians
to new ideas and tools, pioneering unique ways for clubs to collaborate.
In the case of pandemic and disaster response, Rotaract clubs used
social media to coordinate efforts, drive information, and fundraise,
while Rotary clubs used their networks and resources to amplify
support, provide logistics, and bring the goods and services to
Rotaractors’ innovative virtual engagement and professional
development activities inspired Rotarians to support and follow
suit. The pandemic made Rotaract clubs realize that we can immediately
connect and partner with Rotary clubs through virtual platforms.
With constant collaboration, we realize that Rotary and Rotaract
indeed complement each other — that we are part of a single
organization with shared goals.
Both sides add value. Rotarians can be mentors and service partners
to Rotaractors, while Rotaractors can demonstrate to Rotarians that
difficult jobs can be simplified and limitations can be surpassed
through digital approaches. This synergy motivates Rotaractors to
become future Rotarians: I joined Rotary because Rotarians gave
me memorable membership experiences through inspirational moments
of collaboration. I needed to be a Rotarian to inspire Rotaractors
the same way, now and in the future.
That same synergy leads Rotarians to realize that while Rotaractors
may have a different culture, we all share a common vision of uniting
people to take action. Rotaract’s unique ways of doing things
serve as inspiration for innovation, helping Rotary increase its
ability to adapt to future challenges. Rotarians and Rotaractors
will build the future together, so let’s start today.
I see no difference between a Rotary club and a Rotaract club, except
perhaps for the average age!
Many Rotarians still view Rotaract as our youth organization, but
I see it differently. For me, they are part of us, and they are
like us. To be successful together, we need to have mutual respect
— to see each other as equals. Let’s see Rotaractors
for who they really are: students and young leaders, but also successful
managers and entrepreneurs who are capable of planning, organizing,
and managing a Rotary institute — including breakout sessions
in five languages — as they did in Berlin in 2014.
As we take this journey together, let’s remember the strengths
of Rotary and Rotaract. And, as Louie says, let’s get started
right away in building the future together. In doing so, we open
endless opportunities for our organization.
Trustee Chair's Message - March
Rotary Club of Colombo
Western Province, Sri Lanka
Trustee chair's message
One year ago this month, the World Health Organization
declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As I write these words,
the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc: taking lives,
choking economies, and changing our societies in myriad
ways. It has disproportionately hurt the poor and
Even as some countries have done better than others
in controlling this deadly disease, the rapid development
of vaccines is bringing us closer to the end of our
strange new reality of social isolation.
This dark chapter in our history is also an opportunity
for Rotary, because it reminds us of the impact we
can have through The Rotary Foundation if we commit
to helping others and live up to our highest ideals.
It reminds us of the truly international spirit that
we must embody to recover from this moment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed compassion
and sacrifice, friendship and resilient good humor.
I am reminded of that famous insight popularized by
John F. Kennedy: “When written in Chinese, the
word crisis is composed of two characters: One represents
danger, and one represents opportunity.”
Working together, we have done so much to adapt to
the COVID-19 pandemic, to care for our communities,
and to seize the opportunity to be a part of perhaps
the most complex task ever undertaken in history —
vaccinating 7 billion people.
This does not mean we will deviate in any way from
our avowed commitment to eradicating polio, which
remains our highest priority and will continue to
be our only corporate program.
On the contrary, while continuing polio vaccinations
and surveillance, we can apply all our experience
in fighting polio to counter COVID-19. We all have
a part to play in combating the growing force of vaccine
resistance and misinformation. Our advocacy in our
communities will be critical — we need to spread
the message about the power of vaccines to save lives. We
need to work closely with governments and support
them in the vaccination drive. We need to add to the
more than 3,000 projects already registered on Rotary
Showcase to raise awareness, deliver critical personal
protective equipment, and support frontline health
As Aristotle said, human beings are social animals,
and while COVID-19 has cruelly deprived us of our
natural or habitual environment, it does not prevent
us from finding connections and helping others in
new ways. As you will see in the coming months, Rotary
members are already finding the means to channel their
humanitarian spirit through the Foundation, which
is constantly adapting to address the world’s
challenges. Every Rotarian has a role in this effort,
and you will find that however you choose to help
others and make lasting change, you are not alone.
Trustee Chair 2020-21
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