R. I. President Message


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 communities.

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.

President 2020-21

Trustee Chair's Message - March 2021

K.R. Ravindran
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 worsened inequalities.  

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 workers.

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.


K.R. Ravindran
Trustee Chair 2020-21

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