score and Two (which appeared in the February 1947 Rotarian)
By Paul P. Harris
Founder and President Emeritus of Rotary International
Glancing back through my anniversary messages of the past, it seemed
to me that I had covered every inch of the ground; that I had told
everything I knew. Then the thought came to me that I had omitted
the question Rotarians most frequently ask me: "When you founded
Rotary, did you think that it would come to anything like this?"
My answer to that question is, "No." My thoughts on that
day 42 years ago this month when the first Club first met, were far
from any such thing. Recall Andrew Carnegie's answer to an adoring
lady who asked him if he did not think that his great work was inspirational:
"No, madam, I think it was more perspirational than inspirational."
So it was in Rotary. There was no inspired beginning. Young businessmen,
mostly from the country, came in response to my call. Unacquainted
with city life, we gathered together to help and befriend each other.
We had been lonesome and we had found a cure for lonesomeness. We
looked forward to meetings as a traveler in a desert looks forward
to oases. We banished "Mister" and used first names. Silvester
Schiele suggested photographs in our roster and the reading of papers
on our respective businesses. Harry Ruggles contributed Club singing.
My plan for our Club provided that only one member of each business
or profession would be eligible for membership. We would thus be able
to enjoy the fellowship and also to help each other in our respective
vocations. The Club grew by leaps and bounds, and representatives
of different nationalities, religions, and political faiths came in.
Complete tolerance prevailed.
Our peace and tranquility soon burst their bounds, however. We ceased
to be content with isolationism and began Community Service, built
upon the rock of fellowship and goodwill, and that foundation has
never been shaken. Rotary became known as a beneficial influence in
the city of Chicago.
Almost contemporaneously, l started a campaign for Rotary Clubs in
other cities. Most of the membership considered it a vagary beyond
the bounds of reason. So, I went forward alone, but with the sympathy
of all. It is a matter of history how Club Number Two was organized
in San Francisco, how Rotary went across the Canadian border to Winnipeg
and eventually across the sea to the British Isles, where it became
an influence throughout the length and breadth of Britain. Cuba came
in, and, eventually, Rotary spanned the world.
If I was the architect, Chesley R. Perry was the builder. He is to
be credited with as much of the results as any other man. A member
of the Chicago Club, he was elected Secretary of the National Association
of Rotary Clubs when it was formed in 1910. He served, as my readers
well know, as Rotary's Secretary from then until 1942, meanwhile founding
and long editing this magazine. And then there were men like the late
James W. Davidson, of Canada, who with his countryman Colonel J. Layton
Ralston, "planted" Rotary in the Antipodes. Later when Jim's
health and strength were failing, he spent three years in completing
the span of the world, bringing Rotary to many more lands. After reporting
to Rotary International's Board in Chicago, Jim returned to Canada
Rotary came up the hard way, through the work of self-sacrificing
men who gave of themselves unsparingly. Now it continues on its miracle-working
way. Its fellowship causes men to take up their beds (ill advisedly
sometimes, I think) and walk, rather than break their attendance at
However, Rotary does yeoman service in countless other ways as well.
Note how it is spreading knowledge of the United Nations, wherein
civilization itself is at stake. How could Rotary do otherwise? The
delegates are assembled to promote international understanding and
goodwill. This is the very heart's core of Rotary teaching. Rotarians
were members of 20 delegations and chairman of seven of them at the
San Francisco meeting of the United Nations. More power, more power
to you, my beloved Rotary!
It must be remembered that 1905, the year of Rotary's birth, was not
far removed from the horse-and-buggy days. And now we are in the age
of the airplane, and the split atom, and still Rotary keeps up. For
example, Phil Lovejoy, Ches Perry's able successor, can catch a plane
in Chicago, land in London, visit several Clubs, and be back at his
desk within one week!
No, Mr. Rotarian, I did not in 1905 foresee a worldwide movement of
6,000 Clubs and 300,000 men. When a man plants an unpromising sapling
in the early Springtime, can he be sure that someday here will grow
a mighty tree? Does he not have to reckon on rain and sun, and the
smile of Providence? Once he sees the first bud, ah, then he can begin
to dream of shade.
NOTE: Paul Percy Harris wrote this, his last article, in
the fall of 1946 for the February 1947 issue of The Rotarian. When
he died on January 27, 1947, the February 1947 issue had been printed
and was mailed, with many not realizing they had just received the
last writings of Paul Harris.