Rotarians are encouraged to have an elevator speech – ready to answer the ‘what is Rotary?’ question when someone points to your pin in the lift. It’s useful to have a succinct reply ready, but the question of ‘what is Rotary?’ really deserves a longer answer.
Essentially, we are a membership organisation which does service – but there’s a lot more, and I think that the true definition lies in our five core values: Fellowship; Integrity; Diversity; Leadership; Service.
We enjoy the fellowship of our fellow club members every time we meet – online or face-to-face – but Rotary offers so much more.
When you join Rotary, you don’t just join a club of a few dozen members, you become part of a worldwide community who share the same values.
That means that almost anywhere you go in the world, you will find fellow Rotarians happy to welcome you to their club; friends you just hadn’t previously met.
Our commitment to integrity means that we are people you can trust.
When you join Rotary, you don’t just join a club of a few dozen members, you become part of a worldwide community who share the same values.”
I was saddened to hear someone at the recent membership summit question why we still have the Four Way Test.
These days it’s more relevant than ever. When fake news is being peddled and public discourse is becoming more and more strident and partisan, our commitment not only to ‘the truth’, but also to fairness and goodwill takes the issue of whether we can trust what is said or done to another level.
The fact that Rotary exists in most countries guarantees that our global membership is diverse.
But a word of caution here; are we in Great Britain & Ireland truly diverse in our membership? Do we truly reflect our communities in terms of the age, gender, ethnicity or occupational background of our membership? I leave it to you to look at your club and answer that question.
We offer leadership to our communities every time we identify a need, and meet it with a service project.
The fact that Rotary exists in most countries guarantees that our global membership is diverse.”
We exercise leadership in running our clubs, and learn or develop skills of value to us in our non-Rotary lives.
And Rotary itself offered leadership to the whole world when it said “we can eradicate polio”, and persuaded an initially uncertain World Health Organization that this was possible. Quickly, the WHO, national governments and others followed that lead, and now polio is endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
And service. Every club in its own way contributes something to Rotary’s tremendous record of service.
It’s heart-warming that in the last year or so, when many service projects have had to be put on hold, Rotary has continued to serve – shopping and collecting prescriptions for the vulnerable, buying laptops for children studying at home, providing PPE to hospitals and care homes, and helping out with admin or stewarding at coronavirus vaccination centres.
So, what then is Rotary? To me, it is a community, bound together by our adherence to these values – and the world is a far better place for its existence.