R. I. President Message


RI President 2020-21 Holger Knaack - June 2021

Dear Fellow Rotarians, Rotaractors, and friends,

In January 2020, when I announced my presidentialtheme, Rotary Opens Opportunities, and spoke of the changes that Rotary needed to embrace, none of us had any idea how quickly change would arrive. But I am a longtime believer in seeing challenges as opportunities. This year, we seized new opportunities to reimagine what Rotary could be. For years, we had discussed ways to make Rotary flexible and adaptable, and we had tried a few experiments. This year, we all experimented — and succeeded! Online meetings are a regular fixture now as clubs invite guests from across the globe.

Susanne and I love to meet members of the family of Rotary around the world, and we’ve missed seeing you in person over the past year. But for me, it was a new way of experiencing Rotary. We traveled the world virtually. I definitely met thousands more of you than I would have otherwise. I never set foot in my office in Evanston as president, yet we found new ways to get the job done while cutting travel costs.

This is the Rotary we experienced in 2020-21: nimble, adaptable, and creative. The
next step is not to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. We must move forward. Let’s apply what we have learned in order to offer new experiences and opportunities for our members, such as online attendance as a regular option.

We need a younger, more diverse Rotary at every level to keep our clubs strong. What diversity means is different from region to region, but I encourage you to welcome people from all backgrounds. Another step we can all take is to increase the number of women and amplify their role everywhere.

I am glad that many now see Rotary and Rotaract clubs as equals. Let’s keep going in this direction by inviting Rotaract clubs to be a part of everything we do. Let’s not squander any opportunity to reach young leaders, but partner with Rotaract and invest in our many new approaches.

I am very proud of the work Rotary is doing to fight COVID-19 by supporting vaccination campaigns through advocating for fair distribution and combating misinformation. But we must also continue to do everything we can to end polio. And we now have opportunities to work in a new area of focus: the environment.

The world is a different place today from when I first announced that Rotary Opens Opportunities. We can all be proud of how we updated what Rotary can be this year. Let’s continue on this path, always taking care of our clubs and of our friends in those clubs. They are precious, and they keep Rotary alive and thriving.

Susanne and I are thankful for all the opportunities to serve the organization during this special year, a year of finding new meaning in Service Above Self. We see Rotary as a community of people who live their values by putting them into action. In these extraordinary times, there is no doubt that we must place increased emphasis on service. This is our opportunity to show the world what Service Above Self means for Rotarians.

There are so many opportunities waiting for us that will help us change the world. Let’s seize them together and get ready to open doors to achieving greater things. And as we open these doors to new ideas, our minds and our hearts also open. Remember that everything we do in Rotary opens another opportunity for someone, somewhere.

President 2020-21

Trustee Chair's Message - June 2021

K.R. Ravindran
Rotary Club of Colombo
Western Province, Sri Lanka

Trustee chair's message

“I have no fear of the future,” Winston Churchill once said. “Let us go forward into its mysteries, let us tear aside the veils which hide it from our eyes, and let us move onward with confidence and courage.”

Churchill used the phrase “let us go forward together” in some of his most famous speeches. He had no other choice but to look forward as he led his war-battered nation with courage.

Each generation inherits its own share of challenges; we are living through ours, never once stopping in the face of this challenge. In a year when people were unable to meet, families stayed secluded, and businesses struggled to flourish, we still managed to go forward together in many areas. Through Rotary Foundation grants, clubs and districts brought creative solutions to their pandemic-hit communities. Since March 2020, the Foundation has awarded over $34 million in grants to initiatives related to COVID-19.

The demand for our global grants was high. They were so popular that we had to make adjustments to grant funding policy that will begin 1 July in a prudent effort to balance demand with resources, so that more districts can participate.

This year, The Rotary Foundation took bold steps forward, breaking new ground: The Foundation expanded its reach with recognition of the environment as an area of focus and awarded our first Programs of Scale grant to a Rotarian-led program that aims to greatly reduce malaria for severely affected communities in Zambia.

Even though our polio immunization activities paused for a few months in 2020 because of the pandemic, they began to resume in midyear. We also were finally able to celebrate a huge step forward in our journey together to a polio-free world: the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that the African region is now free of wild poliovirus.

And the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation signed an agreement with us to fully fund the establishment of a Rotary Peace Center in the Middle East and North African region. This welcome development gives Rotary the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to an area where lasting peace has been so elusive.

Our accomplishments are a reminder that Rotary is a great force for good everywhere and that you are the reason we did not stop. At this writing, we’ve raised more than $282 million, putting us on track to reach our $410 million fundraising goal. The great work we have done this year, and the work we will do next year and in the years ahead, is all thanks to your support. On behalf of The Rotary Foundation Trustees, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping the Foundation — one of our greatest gifts to the world — thriving.


K.R. Ravindran
Trustee Chair 2020-21

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