Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka's April 2013 Message
Dear fellow Rotarians,
Rotary is an international organization, and when I travel for Rotary, I usually speak in English. But it has been a long time since my last English exam, and when I am working in Evanston, I always have a Japanese interpreter. It is important to understand every word of the meetings, and it is important as well that the staff understand what I am saying.
It was a new experience for me to speak Japanese to a group, and then hear my words spoken in English. Even now, I find it interesting. I hear new ways of expressing myself in English, and I also have a small glimpse of what it must be like not to speak Japanese.
But perhaps the most interesting moment came early on in my year as president-elect, when I was in a meeting with Rotary staff members. To be sure that we could communicate well, I had with me a Japanese interpreter. I spoke in Japanese, and she interpreted what I said into English. We had a pleasant and productive meeting.
After it was over, one member of the staff
came up to me and asked, “There is one word I heard you use
many times in Japanese. I would like to know what it means. What
is the word ichiban?” I told her that ichiban in Japanese
does not convey any philosophy or complicated thought. It simply
means to be the best.
For me, Rotary service means being ichiban. It means doing your best, and being the best you can be. It means working as hard as you can – not for yourself, but for others. It means achieving as much as you can, to make other people’s lives better.
In the dictionary, ichiban means “best.” But in Rotary, “best” means something different. It means bringing Service Above Self into all of your thinking. It means looking at your own effort, not in terms of what it costs you, but in terms of what it can give. In this way, we are inspired to do so much more. It is our job to see to it that our Rotary service is ichiban – so that we do the most we can to build Peace Through Service.
When I was RI president, I said Rotary is a love story in which people come together in fellowship, and which results in doing good in the world. During my years in Rotary, I have witnessed over and over again how communities and individuals benefit because of Rotary activities. These activities, to a great extent, result from exchanges about community needs identified during club meetings.
The month of April is a perfect example of what Rotarians and Rotary clubs can do to help make a better world. This month we celebrate National Volunteer Week, the International Day of Mine Awareness, World Health Day, and Earth Day, and each of these recognitions ties in with one of our six areas of focus. This tells me that every Rotary club member has a part to play as an effective volunteer in these important observances.
Furthermore, we owe it to our community and the world to tell our story, to make the world aware of our efforts. One way to achieve this is by supporting your Rotary regional magazine, particularly in April, which is also Magazine Month.
So how does all this relate to our Rotary Foundation? Well, very few initiatives don’t require funding. Your Foundation is often able to help, whether it’s with a district grant or a much larger global grant. Your contributions to the Foundation provide a potential source of funding that can help a club’s members do good in the world.
My goal this year is to announce at the international
convention in Lisbon, Portugal, that it is estimated that every
Rotarian gave something in the 2012-13 year.
Wilfrid J. Wilkinson
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Rotary eClub NY1 * Updated 2013