An open letter to all Rotarians from PDG Dr. Joseph Rajendran

My Dear Fellow Rotarians,

I am writing on my experiences in Rotary and I invite contrasting views.
My first article was on the Challenges in Rotary. This one is on what I believe is some of the important considerations in Rotary.

The single most important component in Rotary is the Rotary member. An association of members comprise a club. The club is the second most important element in Rotary. 
 
Rotary International is made up of roughly 32,000 clubs all around the world in over 168 countries. Rotary International has a Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois and it is there to serve all Rotarians in these  32,000 odd clubs. Membership in clubs range from of a low of less than 10 to one of several hundred. The more effective a club is, the better it is for Rotary International and for Rotary in general as  an Organisation. 
 
Clubs are independent but subscibe to Rotary ideals, which are spelt out in its Objects of Rotary and guided by the Four Way Test. When Rotary was first started by our founder Paul Percy Haris in 1905 his membership comprised of his clients from his law office. Over the years its membership was community based and leading professionals and businessman were invited to join. The rationale was when there were needs in the community, the club with its varied talents among its members could provide a solution.  

For many of us Rotary is rooted in Fellowship and Service Above self. The exciting thing about Rotary is that among its members are a very wide variety of individuals of varying professions and businesses. We are expected to use our talents and resources to collectively do more than if we can achieve individually. As Rotarians we are to promote high ethical standards in our business and profession and to use our vocation as a means to promote the ideals of service in our personal, business and community life. 
 
Rotary also wants us to be a citizen of the world and to believe that we can through our worldwide fellowship of business and professional people combine to do humanitarian projects, alleviate poverty, promote literacy, provide safe drinking water, and work towards world understanding and Peace.  

This then are the core of what we as rotarians are expected to do. It is also prudent to be aware that friendships in rotary is cultivated over a long period it will only stand the test of time if it is based on mutual respect and understanding. 
 
All of us are individuals, each with our own personalities and we work to our strengths. After all in rotary it is the sum of all our strengths that successfully bring about achieving our goals. 
 
I  would like to share my experience of being a Rotarian for a long time. Today, Rotary is the main focus in my social life. Most of my friends are in Rotary. My social calendar is littered with Rotary projects, meetings and fellowships. In other words it is good to concentrate your energies on one organization  even if you may belong to many. 

The dynamics of Clubs has changed and Rotary has started to look to the future. Realising that Rotary is a long standing service Organisation it has moved to investing more and more on the youth. They afterall are the future of Rotary and the earlier they join they more effective they will be as they grow in Rotarys ideals. As an example of change, Rotary too is concerned about allowing Districts to become more independent in their use of TRF funds through its Future Vision Plan. 
 
In short Rotary is always evolving and as Rotarians we have various avenues to participate in this. A club which is good only in fellowship is a social club. We are expected to run our clubs like a business, where service is part and parcel of what we as rotarians are expected to do. All members have a role to play and it is only when the full potential is harnessed that we can achieve what we are expected to.

 
It is often said that many clubs would be bankrupt if it was a business. We have over the years seen finances handled both at club and District level which has been left wanting. Would a well run business have allowed such a thing to happen. 

One of the exciting things about Rotary is leadership. But leadership as in any organization comes with responsibilities. Very often when such responsibility is thrust on an individual then the true worth of that individual is revealed. Each of us has our strengths and our weaknesses but it is only when we can harness these strengths that we can succeed. Where we are weak we must be prepared to use the stength of others. 
 
Having had the privilege of being a leader I can vouch that there is nothing more educational and satisfying and humbling as being a leader among your peers. I would reccomend that every rotarian should have the opportunity to be a leader and I would go so far as to say that this should be one of the benefits highligted of being a Rotarian. 
 
I see opportunities in every appointment. Grab the opportunity, do the best you can, think outside the box and make an impression every time.
 
When I appointed PP Shirley Tham as my Vocational Services Director for the District the response was ‘What a boring portfolio!’ I sat with her and made her see possibilities which she perhaps had never thought of and the result was  a successful “Integrity Night” which was entirely her own initiative which touched on one of the core values of what it is to be a Rotarian.
 
As a Rotarian we are encouraged to dream as only then things can happen. All ideas when bandied about and fine tuned result in positive action. The Club which has no plans is not an effective club as prescribed in rotary. There is merit in everything which you desire to do in the name of Rotary. 
 
Many years ago when some young Rotaractors wanted to climb Mount Kinabalu with the disabled  it was rubbished by some of our senior Rotary leaders as a nonstarter. But today there has many similair challenges taken up both by Rotaractors and Rotarians to a successful conclusion.

I close this ‘essay’ with a recent exchange of differing views expressed by some very senior Rotarians. These  elders were vehement that Rotary is a ‘honour’ society and no Rotarian had a right to invite anyone into Rotary save the Club. While I disagree with my learned friends on both issues I decided to let it pass as I subscribe to the idea that everyone has a right to their own views. But what is disconcerting is that with these views the future of the growth of Rotary will be severely curtailed if only honourable people of proper standing in society ae eligible to be invited. 
 
The history of Rotary did not restrict you if you are of humble profession. Did we not say that as rotarians we should honour all professions? Was it not Paul Harris and other founding fathers understanding that members came from their community, men of different professions who had that one common desire to help their fellow men? My only response to this that we need change and it should begin with us. 
 
Finally as I was reading PRIP Cliff Dochterrman’s speech on leadership my feeling was that as a conductor  there must be a lot of respect for the musicians as without them there was nothing to lead. 

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