RI President 2020-21 Holger Knaack
- July 2020
Dear Fellow Rotarians, Rotaractors, and friends,
This does not seem like a time for great optimism, but it has to
be. Long before Rotary was founded, the world dealt with great crises
that tested humankind’s ability to progress and endure. In
the age of Rotary, the world has faced many more catastrophes; however,
we have survived, and every step of the way, Rotary has helped the
Every great challenge is an opportunity for renewal and growth.
I revealed the theme of Rotary Opens Opportunities at the International
Assembly in San Diego just as the COVID-19 crisis was beginning,
but these are words that I have believed for many years.
Rotary is not just a club that you join; it is an invitation to
endless opportunities. We believe in creating opportunities for
others and for ourselves. We believe that our acts of service, large
and small, generate opportunities for people who need our help,
and that Rotary opens opportunities for us to live a richer, more
meaningful life, with friends around the world, based on our core
Governments and institutions are gaining a greater appreciation
for the types of public health partnerships that are critical to
our work. People stuck at home, eager for greater connections and
hungry to help their communities, are now embracing the values we
have promoted since our beginning.
All of this is positive news, but just because there are greater
opportunities than ever for Rotary to thrive does not guarantee
that we will succeed. The world is changing rapidly — and
was doing so even before this crisis. People were starting to move
away from regular lunch meetings and toward online gatherings. Friendships
were being cultivated and revived in social media relationships
even before most of our meetings moved to Zoom and Skype. Younger
generations have a strong desire to serve — but have questioned
whether they could play a meaningful role in organizations like
Rotary or whether they might make a bigger impact forming different
types of connections. Now is the time to put everything on the table,
test new approaches, and prepare Rotary for the future.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced all of us to adapt. This is good,
and our new Action Plan specifically calls on us to improve our
ability to adapt. But adaptation is not enough. We need to change,
and change dramatically, if we are to face the challenges of this
new age and provide the Rotary that the world so desperately needs.
This is our great challenge, not just in the next year but into
the future. It is up to us to remake Rotary for these new times
— to wholeheartedly embrace the ideas, energy, and commitment
of young people eager to find an outlet for idealism. We must become
an organization fully enmeshed in the digital age, not one that
simply looks for online ways to keep doing what we have always done.
The world needs Rotary now more than ever. It is up to us to make
sure that Rotary Opens Opportunities for generations to come.
Trustee Chair's Message - July
Rotary Club of Colombo
Western Province, Sri Lanka
Trustee chair's message
I believe that RI President Holger Knaack’s
theme, Rotary Opens Opportunities, fits the times
so well. You might ask how that can be, given all
of the turmoil happening around us today. The following
story, paraphrased from British author Alan Watts’
telling of a Taoist parable, helps explain why.
Once there was a farmer whose horse ran away. That
evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate.
They said, "We are so sorry to hear your horse
has run away. This is most unfortunate." The
farmer said, "Maybe."
The next day, the horse came back, bringing seven
wild horses. In the evening, everybody said, "Isn’t
that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have
eight horses!" The farmer again said, "Maybe."
The following day, his son tried to break one of the
horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke
his leg. The neighbors said, "Oh dear, that’s
too bad." The farmer responded, "Maybe."
The next day, officers came around to conscript people
into the army, and they rejected his son because he
had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors said, "Isn’t
that great!" Again, the farmer said, "Maybe."
What we learn from this is that nature is immensely
complex. It’s impossible to tell whether anything
that happens is good or bad, because you never know
what the consequences will be. All we can know is
that with every action and reaction, there is an opportunity
— a chance to live our values, express our desires,
and take action to make the world a bit closer to
the way we want it to be.
The Rotary Foundation is our conduit to make those
meaningful changes. Through the Foundation, we do
our part to help rid the world of polio. In addition,
we can help support important COVID-19 projects and
prepare the world for the massive vaccination effort
that will be needed soon. And we can help keep some
continuity in service to people in need when so many
regular services are being disrupted.
Will this be Rotary’s great moment to become
an even stronger organization in the 21st century?
Maybe. Is this your great opportunity to live your
values? Maybe! It’s up to you and me.
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair
K.R. "Ravi" Ravindran is a third-generation
Rotarian, joining Rotary at age 21. As RI president
in 2015-16, he introduced the Rotary Global Rewards
program and led a delegation of about 9,000 Rotarians
to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis in
St. Peter’s Square.
Ravindran was the first president of
the Sri Lanka Anti-Narcotics Association, which today
is the leading agency fighting drug addiction in Sri
Lanka. He headed a national committee consisting of
Rotary, his country’s health ministry, and UNICEF
for the eradication of polio, and worked closely with
UNICEF to negotiate a cease-fire in the ongoing civil
war with the northern militants to facilitate National
Immunization Days. Sri Lanka became the first country
in South Asia to become polio-free. He also headed
a Rotary project to build 25 modern schools across
the country to replace those destroyed by the 2004
tsunami at a cost of over $12 million.
Ravindran is the CEO and founder of
a publicly listed company engaged in the print and
packaging industry with worldwide clientele. His company,
Printcare PLC, is a winner of national and international
awards of excellence. He is the recipient of The Rotary
Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service,
Distinguished Service Award, and Service Award for
a Polio-Free World. His country conferred on him the
title of “Jewel of Sri Lanka” and released
a postage stamp in his honor.
Trustee Chair 2020-21
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