The ABC's of Rotary - Part VII & VIII

by Cliff Dochterman, Rotary International President 1992-1993


* Concern For The Aging
* International Conventions
* Regional Conferences
* Intercountry Committees
* Council On Legislation
* Recreational and Vocational Fellowships


One current area of special emphasis for Rotary clubs focuses on providing "new opportunities for the aging." In 1990, the RI Board of Directors urged Rotarians to identify new projects serving the elderly that emphasize intergenerational activities and the integration of seniors into society and the workplace. The following year, the board called for an approach that stressed service "with" the elderly as well as "for" them.

With the substantial upswing in the worldwide population of older persons, their needs for special attention have greatly multiplied. As citizens grow older, it becomes increasingly important for them to retain their personal independence and to remain in control of their own lives to the extent this is possible.

Many Rotary clubs are seeking ways to serve the older persons of their community who face problems of deteriorating health, loneliness, poor nutrition, transportation difficulties, inability to do customary chores, loss of family associations, reduced recreational opportunities, inadequate housing and limited information about available social agencies for emergency assistance. Some clubs have initiated a valuable community service to assist older persons in retirement planning and adjustment by organizing and sharing the wealth of information available within the club's membership. Other clubs have developed foster grandparent programs and other intergenerational activities that allow seniors to use their experience and knowledge to help young people. Rotarians often can provide services which seniors can no longer do for themselves.

The greatest need of aging individuals is frequently a mere expression of real caring and concern by thoughtful friends. All Rotarians should seriously consider how they and their clubs may actively participate in programs for the aging. It is one area of community service in which there is a growing possibility that each of us may some day be on the receiving end.

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Each May or June, Rotary International holds a worldwide convention "to stimulate, inspire and inform all Rotarians at an international level." The convention, which may not be held in the same country for more than two consecutive years, is the annual meeting to conduct the business of the association. The planning process usually begins about four or five years in advance.

Future RI conventions are scheduled for Nice, France, in 1995, Calgary, Canada, in 1996, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1997 and Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A., in 1998. The RI board determines a general location and invites cities to make proposals. The conventions are truly international events which 15,000 to 20,000 Rotarians and guests attend. All members should plan to participate in a Rotary International convention to discover the real internationality of Rotary. It is an experience you'll never forget.

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From time to time Rotarians may read the promotional literature announcing a regional conference to be held some place in the world. Such a conference is quite similar to the annual Rotary International convention, but generally smaller in attendance and serving Rotarians and guests in a region which is at a considerable distance from the site of the international convention.

The purpose of a regional conference is to develop and promote acquaintance, friendship and understanding among the attendees, as well as to provide a forum to discuss and exchange ideas about Rotary and international affairs related to the geographic areas involved.

Regional conferences usually attract two or three thousand individuals and because they are considered special events in the Rotary calendar, are not held on any regular schedule. The conferences are arranged periodically, according to the interest of the Rotary leaders in specific regions. Many of the operational tasks of the conferences are handled by the RI Secretariat.

Although there is no special effort to promote attendance by Rotarians outside of the region involved, members from all parts of the world are always welcome to attend. Attending a conference in another region is an enjoyable, rewarding and fascinating experience. They provide another facet to the international fellowship of Rotary.

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In 1931 Rotarians in France and Germany organized the "petit comite," a small group with the goal of fostering better relations between the people of these two neighboring nations. Since that time, Rotarians throughout Europe have led the way in creating Intercountry Committees to encourage contacts between Rotarians and Rotary clubs across national boundaries.

Intercountry Committees have now been established in many parts of the world to promote friendship as well as to cooperate in sponsoring World Community Service projects, student exchanges and other activities to improve understanding among nations. Frequently, the Intercountry Committees sponsor visits of Rotarians and their families across national borders and arrange intercity meetings and conferences. In some instances, Intercountry Committees are created between countries separated by great distances in an effort to encourage goodwill and friendship with matched or partner areas of the world. The Intercountry Committees coordinate their efforts with the district governors of their countries and always serve in an advisory capacity to districts and clubs.

Intercountry Committees provide an additional means for Rotary clubs and Rotarians to fulfill the responsibilities of the Fourth Avenue of Service-international understanding, goodwill and peace in the world.

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The structure of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) forms an interesting chapter in our history. In 1914, after Rotary expanded across the Atlantic to Great Britain and Ireland, a British Association of Rotary Clubs was established as part of the International Association of Rotary Clubs. During World War I there was little contact between the international clubs, and the British association held the small number of Rotary clubs together in Great Britain, Ireland and a few other European communities.

Following the war, a new Rotary International Constitution was adopted in 1922 which established the principle that whenever a country had 25 Rotary clubs it could become a "territorial unit" and thus have a representative on the RI board and receive other specific powers. The clubs in Great Britain and Ireland immediately petitioned for and received the status of a "territorial unit." No other group in the world made such a request or received that status.

In 1927 Rotary International terminated the territorial unit concept and organized Rotary clubs by "areas" of the world. However, all of "the rights, privileges and powers of existing territorial units" were forever protected and perpetuated. Thus, since RIBI was the only territorial unit, it has continued to function as an independent unit of Rotary International, subject to certain approvals by the RI Constitution.

The RIBI form of administration is uniquely appropriate to Great Britain and Ireland because of geography, language, tradition and custom. Because of this historic relationship, RIBI maintains a slightly different administrative structure from all the other Rotary clubs and districts in the world, even though it is a full member of Rotary International.

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In the early days of Rotary, any change in the RI Bylaws or Constitution was proposed and voted upon at the annual convention. As attendance at conventions increased and open discussion became more difficult, a Council on Legislation was created in 1934 as an advisory group to debate and analyze proposals before they were voted upon by the convention.

Finally at the 1970 Atlanta Convention, it was decided that the Council on Legislation would actually become the legislative or parliamentary body of Rotary. The council is composed of one delegate from each Rotary district as well as several ex-officio members. It was agreed that the council would meet every three years at a time other than at the Rotary convention.

The council, which next meets in 1995, has the responsibility of considering and acting upon all "enactments," which are proposed changes in the Bylaws and Constitution, and "resolutions," which are recommended changes in Rotary policies and procedures. Proposals may be submitted by any Rotary club, district or the RI board. The council's actions are subject to review by all the Rotary clubs of the world before they become final. If 10 percent of the voting strength of the clubs oppose a council action, such legislation is nullified and it is submitted for final consideration to the next convention.

The Council on Legislation provides the membership of Rotary a democratic process for legislative change in the operations of Rotary International.

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From stamp collecting to wine appreciation, the hobbies of Rotarians are as diverse as the membership itself. Yet, among the more than one million Rotarians worldwide, an amateur-radio enthusiast or a chess player is bound to find others who share the same passions. But Recreational Fellowship members share more than just their common interest in sport diving or Esperanto; they share an interest in fellowship and service and in promoting world understanding. As such, it's no wonder that the International Skiing Fellowship of Rotarians donates the profits from ski events to The Rotary Foundation or that the Flying Rotarians help ferry medical personnel and supplies.

One has only to look at the types of Vocational Fellowships to recognize how they differ from their recreational counterparts. With Rotarians united by their shared professional interest in such fields as Hospital Administration and Finance/Banking, it's obvious that Vocational Service is as important a concern as international fellowship to the members of these groups. Members exchange technical information and seek opportunities to employ their expertise in service not just to their own communities and countries, but to their professions as well. For example, the Ophthalmology International Vocational Fellowship organized a professional seminar on the subject of eye surgery in developing countries.

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* Rotary Friendship Exchange
* Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (Ryla)
* Rotary Village Corps
* Interact
* Rotaract
* Rotary Float In Rose Parade
* Still More Rotary Firsts


An interesting Rotary program of fellowship is the Rotary Friendship Exchange. This activity, originally recommended by the New Horizons Committee in 1981, is intended to encourage Rotarians and spouses to visit with Rotarian families in other parts of the world. It may be conducted on a club-to-club or district-to-district basis.

The idea is for several Rotarian couples to travel to another country on the Rotary Friendship Exchange. Later the hospitality is reversed when the visit is exchanged. After a successful pilot experiment, the Rotary Friendship Exchange has become a permanent program of Rotary.

The Rotary Friendship Exchange is frequently compared to the Group Study Exchange program of The Rotary Foundation, except that it involves Rotarian couples who personally pay for all expenses of their intercountry experience. Doors of friendship are opened in a way which could not be duplicated except in Rotary.

Rotarians seeking an unusual vacation and fellowship experience should learn more about the Rotary Friendship Exchange. Some unusual Rotary adventures are awaiting you!

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Each summer thousands of young people are selected to attend Rotary-sponsored leadership camps or seminars in the United States, Australia, Canada, India, France, Argentina, Korea and numerous other countries. In an informal out-of-doors atmosphere, 50 to 75 outstanding young men and/or women spend a week in a challenging program of discussions, inspirational addresses, leadership training and social activities designed to enhance personal development, leadership skills and good citizenship. The official name of this activity is the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program (RYLA), although the event is occasionally referred to as Camp Royal, Camp Enterprise, Youth Leaders Seminars, Youth Conferences or other terms.

The RYLA program began in Australia in 1959, when young people throughout the state of Queensland were selected to meet with Princess Alexandra, the young cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. The Rotarians of Brisbane, who hosted the participants, were impressed with the quality of the young leaders. It was decided to bring youth leaders together each year for a week of social, cultural and educational activities. The RYLA program gradually grew throughout all the Rotary districts of Australia and New Zealand. In 1971, the RI Board of Directors adopted RYLA as an official program of Rotary International.

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One of the newer programs in Rotary's panoply of worldwide service activities and projects is the Rotary Village Corps. This new form of grass roots self-help service was initiated by RI President M.A.T. Caparas in 1986 as a means of improving the quality of life in villages, neighborhoods and communities. Frequently there is an abundance of available labor, but no process to mobilize men and women to conduct useful projects of community improvement.

A Rotary Village Corps-or Rotary Community Corps as they are called in industrialized countries-is a Rotary club-sponsored group of non-Rotarians who desire to help their own community by conducting a specific improvement project. The Rotary members provide the guidance, encouragement, organizational structure and some of the material assistance for the Rotary Village Corps, which in turn contributes the manpower to help their own community. Thus, the Rotary Village Corps provides a totally new process for Rotarians to serve in communities of great need.

Rotary Community Corps have been organized mainly in depressed ghetto areas of major cities where groups of individuals need the organizational and managerial skills of Rotarians to undertake valuable self-help community projects.

The Rotary Village Corps program offers a totally new dimension to the concept of service to improve the quality of life.

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Interact, the Rotary youth program, was launched by the RI Board of Directors in 1962. The first Interact club was established by the Rotary Club of Melbourne, Florida. Interact clubs provide opportunities for boys and girls of secondary school age to work together in a world fellowship of service and international understanding. The term, Interact, is derived from "inter" for international, and "act" for action. Every Interact club must be sponsored and supervised by a Rotary club and must plan annual projects of service to its school, community and in the world.

Today there are over 7,200 Interact clubs with more than 155,000 members in 88 countries. "Interactors" develop skills in leadership and attain practical experience in conducting service projects, thereby learning the satisfaction that comes from serving others. A major goal of Interact is to provide opportunities for young people to create greater understanding and goodwill with youth throughout the world.

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After the success of Interact clubs for high school-age youth in the early 1960s, the RI board created Rotaract in 1968. The new organization was designed to promote responsible citizenship and leadership potential in clubs of young men and women, aged 18 to 30. The first Rotaract club was chartered by the Charlotte North Rotary Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1994 there were more than 149,000 members in more than 6,500 Rotaract clubs in 107 countries.

Rotaract clubs emphasize the importance of individual responsibility as the basis of personal success and community involvement. Each club sponsors an annual project to promote high ethical standards in one's business and professional life. Rotaract also provides opportunities leading to greater international understanding and goodwill. Rotaractors enjoy many social activities as well as programs to improve their community. A Rotaract club can exist only when continuously sponsored, guided and counseled by a Rotary club. The programs of Rotaract are built around the motto "Fellowship Through Service."

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The Rotary International float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade is undoubtedly the largest public relations project of the Rotary clubs of the United States and Canada. Since 1924 a Rotary float has been entered 18 times including every year since 1981. The famous Pasadena, California, parade is seen by an estimated 125 million people via worldwide television.

Funds for the construction of the Rotary parade entry are voluntarily given by Rotarians and clubs in the U.S. and Canada. The cost of designing, constructing and flower covering a Rose Parade float begins at about $120,000.

A multi-district Rotary committee in Southern California coordinates planning of the Rotary float and provides hundreds of volunteer hours of service. The Rotary float must portray the annual parade theme, usually depicting one of the worldwide service programs of Rotary International.

Each New Year's Day, Rotarians take pride in seeing their attractive float and realize they have shared in its construction by contributing a dollar or two to this beautiful public relations project.

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Rotary first presented "Significant Achievement Awards" in 1969 to clubs with outstanding international or community services projects.
Rotary's first Interact club was organized in Melbourne, Florida, in 1962 to become the pioneer for about 7,200 Interact clubs in 88 countries.
Rotary's first convention held in the Southern Hemisphere was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1948.
Rotary was assigned the copyright on the "4-Way Test" in 1954 when its author, Herbert Taylor, became president of Rotary International.
Rotary's first Community Service project took place in 1907 when Chicago Rotarians led a campaign to install a public "comfort station" in the city hall.
1964-65 was the first year when The Rotary Foundation received total contributions of a million dollars in a single year. Today more than $45 million is given annually. Contributions since 1917 total more than $750 million.
Rotary's first appeal for aid to disaster victims was in 1913 when $25,000 was given for flood relief in Ohio and Indiana.
Rotary's motto, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best," was first expressed at Rotary's very first Convention in Chicago in 1910.

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