DEFINITION OF ROTARY
How do you describe the organization called "Rotary"? There are so many characteristics of a Rotary club as well as the activities of a million Rotarians. There are the features of service, internationality, fellowship, classifications of each vocation, development of goodwill and world understanding, the emphasis of high ethical standards, concern for other people an many more descriptive qualities.
In 1976 the Rotary International Board of Directors was interested creating a concise definition of the fundamental aspects of Rotary. The turned to the three men who were then serving on Rotary's Public Relation Committee and requested that a one-sentence definition of Rotary be pre pared. After numerous drafts, the committee presented this definition, which has been used ever since in various Rotary publications:
"Rotary is an organization of business and professional person united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.” Those 31 words are worth remembering when someone asks, "What is a Rotary club?"
OBJECT OF ROTARY
In some areas of the world (not all) weekly Rotary club meetings begin with all members standing and reciting the Object of Rotary This statement, which comes from the Constitution of Rotary, is frequently seen on a wall plaque in Rotarians' offices or place of business.
The Object of Rotary is "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise." The statement then lists four areas by which this "ideal of service" is fostered: "through the development of acquaintance as the opportunity for service; the promotion of high ethical standards in business and professions; through service in one's personal, business and community life; and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace."
The Object of Rotary has not always been expressed in this manner. The original Constitution of 1906 had three objects: promotion of business interests, promotion of good fellowship and the advancement of the best interests of the community By 1910 Rotary had five Objects as increased emphasis was given to expanding Rotary. By 1915 there were six Objects. In 1918 the Objects were rewritten again and reduced to four. Four years later they had again grown to six and were revised again in 1927.
Finally, at the 1935 Mexico City Convention the six Objects were restated and reduced to four. The last major change came in 1951, when the "Objects" were streamlined and changed to a single "Object" which is manifested in four separate ways. The "ideal of service" is the key phrase in the Object of Rotary. This ideal is an attitude of being a thoughtful and helpful person in all of one's endeavors. That's what the Object truly means.
THE 4-WAY TEST
One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary "4-Way Test." It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of the Chicago based Club Aluminum Company, which was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company was credited to this simple philosophy.
Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International during 1954-55. The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than 100 languages and published in thousands of ways. The message should be known and followed by all Rotarians.
"Of the things we think, say or do:
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"
WOMEN IN ROTARY
Until 1989, the Constitution and Bylaws of Rotary International stated that Rotary club membership was for males only. In 1978 the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, invited three women to become members. The RI board withdrew the charter of that club for violation of the RI Constitution. The club brought suit against RI claiming a violation of a state civil rights law which prevents discrimination of any form in business establishments or public accommodations. The appeals court and the California Supreme Court supported the Duarte position that Rotary could not remove the club's charter merely for inducting women into the club. The United States Supreme Court upheld the California court indicating that Rotary clubs do have a "business purpose" and are in some ways public-type organizations. This action in 1987 allowed women to become Rotarians in any jurisdiction having similar "public accommodation" statutes.
The RI constitutional change was made at the 1989 Council on Legislation, with a vote to eliminate the "male only" provision for all of Rotary.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR FELLOWSHIP
Most Rotarians are successful professional and business executives because they hear opportunities knock and take advantage of them. Once a week the opportunity for Rotary fellowship occurs at each club meeting, but not all members hear it knocking.
The weekly club meeting is a special privilege of Rotary membership. It provides the occasion to visit with fellow members, to meet visitors you have not known before, and to share your personal friendship with other members.
Rotary clubs which have a reputation of being "friendly clubs" usually follow a few simple steps:
First, members are encouraged to sit in a different seat or at a different table each week.
Second, Rotarians are urged to sit with a member they may not know as well as their long-time personal friends.
Third, members invite new members or visitors to join their table just by saying: "Come join us, we have an empty chair at this table."
Fourth, members share the conversation around the table rather than merely eating in silence or talking privately to the person next to them.
Fifth, Rotarians make a special point of trying to get acquainted with all members of the club by seeking out those they may not know.
When Rotarians follow these five easy steps, an entirely new opportunity for fellowship knocks each week. Soon Rotarians realize that warm and personal friendship is the cornerstone of every great Rotary club.
"EVERY ROTARIAN AN EXAMPLE TO YOUTH"
In much of the official literature of Rotary International relating to service to young people, a special slogan will be found -"Every Rotarian an Example to Youth." These words were adopted in 1949 by the Rotary International Board of Directors as an expression of commitment to children and youth in each community in which Rotary clubs exist. Serving young people has long been an important part of the Rotary program. Youth service projects take many forms around the world. Rotarians sponsor Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, athletic teams, handicapped children's centers, school safety patrols, summer camps, recreation areas, safe driving clinics, county fairs, child care centers and children's hospitals. Many clubs provide vocational counseling, establish youth employment program and promote use of The 4 -Way Test. Increasingly, drug and alcohol abuse prevention projects are being supported by Rotarians.
In every instance, Rotarians have an opportunity to be role model for the young men and women of their community. One learns to serve by observing others. As our youth grow to become adult leaders, it is hoped each will achieve that same desire and spirit to serve future generations of children and youth. The slogan accepted over 40 years ago is just as vital today. It is a very thoughtful challenge, "Every Rotarian an Example to Youth."
WORLD COMMUNITY SERVICE
World Community Service is the Rotary program by which a club or district in one country provides humanitarian assistance to a club in another country. Typically the aid goes to a developing community where the Rotary project will help raise the standard of living and the quality of life. The ultimate object of World Community Service is to build goodwill and understanding among peoples of the world.
One important way to find a club in some other part of the world which needs help on a worthy project is to use the WCS Projects Exchange, a list of dozens of worthy activities in developing areas. The exchange list is maintained in the RI Secretariat in Evanston and is readily available upon request. It outlines projects, provides estimated costs and gives names of the appropriate contacts.
Clubs which need assistance, or are seeking another club to help with a humanitarian project, such as building a clinic, school, hospital, community water well, library or other beneficial activity, may register their needs. Clubs seeking a desirable World Community Service project may easily review the list of needs registered in the Projects Exchange. Thus, the exchange provides a practical way to link needs with resources.
Every Rotary club is urged to undertake a new World Community Service project each year. The WCS Projects Exchange list is an excellent tool to find a real need, a project description and cooperating club in a developing area. The job then is to "go to work" to complete the project, and at the same time build bridges of friendship and world understanding.
THE ROTARY FOUNDATION'S BEGINNING
Some magnificent projects grow from very small seeds. The Rotary Foundation had that sort of modest beginning.
In 1917 RI President Arch Klumph told the delegates to the Atlanta Convention that "it seems eminently proper that we should accept endowments for the purpose of doing good in the world." The response was polite and favorable, but the fund was slow to materialize. A year later the "Rotary Endowment Fund," as it was first labeled, received its first contribution of $26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, which was the balance of the Kansas City Convention account following the 1918 annual meeting. Additional small amounts were annually contributed, but after six years it is reported that the endowment fund had only reached $700. A decade later, The Rotary Foundation was formally established at the 1928 Minneapolis Convention. In the next four years the Foundation fund grew to $50,000. In 1937 a $2 million goal was announced for The Rotary Foundation, but these plans were cut short and abandoned with the outbreak of World War II.
In 1947, upon the death of Paul Harris, a new era opened for the Rotary Foundation as memorial gifts poured in to honor the founder of Rotary. From that time, The Rotary Foundation has been achieving its noble objective of furthering "understanding and friendly relations between peoples of different nations." By 1954 the Foundation received for the first time a half million dollars in contributions in a single year, and in 1965 a million dollars was received.
It is staggering to imagine that from those humble beginnings, The Rotary Foundation is now receiving more than $85 million each year for educational and humanitarian work around the world.
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