Paul Harris' last Rotary writings - 1946

Rotary's Two 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 and died.

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 Rotary meetings.

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.

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