Fellow Rotarians, honored Guests, my darling daughter Leanora and my fine son-in-law and fellow Rotarian, Derrick Wendling-
My first goal as your president to finish speaking today before you stop listening……..but let’s not rush this……
The Rotary annual theme for 2016-17 is “Rotary Serving Humanity”. When I first heard this theme, my find went to the Twilight Zone episode “How to Serve Man” about an alien visit who came to Earth and presented our leaders with a book entitled “How to Serve Man” in their native hieroglyphics which turned out to be a cook book on how to serve man as a food!
Now, I know that our “Serving Humanity” theme has a far more positive meaning………. But the Twilight Zone episode was an allegory about how the meaning of words is up to the listener/reader to interpret.
Today, I hope to make my meanings very clear.
There is a well-known baseball movie, “Angels in the Outfield”, done originally in the early 50s and remade a couple of years back. I am blessed with many angels in my outfield and I honor them now- they know who they are, wherever they are.
One of the guiding principles of my life comes from a line I read as a young man from the works of Rumi, who was a 13th century Persian poet, who wrote: “to successfully hunt for bounty, hunt with the net of gratitude.” So you will hear a lot of gratitude in this little speech of mine……
My Rotary journey began almost 10 years ago when Bob Sherrill, who was a fellow member of the STL Chapter of IAMCP that I was president of at that time, told me he thought I would make a good Rotarian… we chatted some & Bob agreed to sponsor me and well, about 3500 days later, here I am…..so, thanks, Bob, for launching my Rotarian odyssey…..I am a better person because of you.
I also want to thank Mary Jane for her loyal stewardship of our beloved club over the last 12 months. Thank you, Mary Jane……and bravo on a job well done.
I also commend Mary Jane on working hard to assure the continuity of our club’s leadership by keeping me, as president-elect, clued in on what she was thinking, what her concerns were and allowing me to share my ideas with her.
I pledge to likewise pay that year-over-year club leadership continuity forward by leaning on Beth Russell, your next president, in similar fashion.
At last April’s Show Me Rotary Conference in Jeff City, I had the gray-haired wisdom to ask our own Rick Tinucci for his wisdom on how to best wrap my head around the takin on the role of Club 11 President. Rick told me that the best club presidents he knows act as both caretakers and leaders and the very best of them the wisdom to know when to care-take and when to lead and still always be true to their personal leadership styles.
Now, I pray for that wisdom and also seek your collective counsel, and especially that of my fine Board of Directors, on when I should lead and when I should simply take care.
And I also want to thank my board of directors for their continued and/or upcoming service and I look forward to their active support.
The strength of Rotary is not in individual effort but in our combined efforts. And the power of our combined effort has no limitations. Our diverse ecosystem of Club Committees is where the heavy lifting of our service work really happens day in and day out.
I am gratified at the Committee Chairs we have put in place, and am thankful to all of you who currently serve on a committee. The word “committee” shares the same root as the word “commitment” and I encourage and will assist all of you to learn more about our committees and sign on to work on at least one of them. I assure you that the rewards of committee involvement far exceed the time spent. We will introduce our committee chairs to you all next week and will continually communicate each committee’s purpose, key activities, needs and goals.
Having watched our recent presidents from Bob Kocher to Mary Jane, I have come to recognize that a Club 11 President wears many hats. Our club 11 president is the traditional titular leader of the Club, the Chairperson of our Board of Directors, our Fundraiser-in-chief, our lead patriot, sadly and recently all too often, our mourner-in-chief. Our president is also our Bell Ringer, cheerleader, timekeeper, our MC/Announcer, our anchor person, our moderator, an event planner, a humorist, and always, our #1 Fan and advocate for our beloved Club. I pledge to be all those things……and maybe a few more too…..
Here at Club 11, we come together to talk, laugh and share ideas. But above all, we come together for one overriding goal: service.
My goals for this new Club 11 year are to have fun and to seek opportunities to serve- both those service engagements we traditionally perform and new ones too. We will continue our laser focus on our 6 areas of focus:
- Peace and conflict prevention/resolution • Disease prevention and treatment • Water and sanitation access • Maternal and child health • Basic education and literacy• Economic and community development
I also wish us to strengthen the sense of our club as its own worthy community. It is OK for us to celebrate ourselves.
I want to enrich our fellowship time, encourage more friendliness, focus on membership retention and carry on increasing our membership count too. I commend Rose Cooper and all the hard-working Membership Committee members, of which I was one, for fashioning our Prospective Members Breakfast series, which has proven itself to be a very powerful forum to find new members.
And to our new members, all of you: Welcome and please know that I will work to allow each of you the space and to share opportunities with you to light your flames and truly get you involved in service activities with us.
That said, it is not enough to simply bring in new members. Our goal is not more Rotarians but rather more Rotarians who can achieve more good Rotary work and who will become the Rotary leaders of tomorrow.
And while we will work to connect with our new members, I also want to celebrate what I affectionately call “The legends of our time”- the most senior among us both in time spent on this planet and years spent in service to our Club and our lofty service goals. Look for moments during our Thursday noon programs when we will spotlight the Legends among us. The collective resume of the Rotary Legends in this room is unmatched. I wish them all continued good health and am eager to honor them publically over the next year.
Paul Harris, Rotary’s founder, on the occasion of Rotary’s 39th birthday in 1944, said: “What is Rotary? What is it all about? Rotarians of many countries arise to make answer, but no two answers are alike. Is there no common accord? Yes, there is one: it is like the rumble of a great organ, the roar of a distant sea breaking on the beach. Beneath Rotary’s many and varied activities there is the unchanging undertone of goodwill, goodwill, goodwill. On this anniversary, my hope is for the continued advancement of goodwill between peoples and nations. I have no higher hope nor do I know of one”.
Every one of us has something unique to give: our own special combination of talents, knowledge, effort, abilities, dedication, fortune and devotion. Growth is painful. So too, change is painful. But staying stuck is even more painful.
This year, I will seek to improve our connections to other Rotary clubs, our district and to Rotary International.
And this year, we aim for Club 11 to earn the RI President’s Citation. The President’s Citation is a series of goals which reflect the changing face of Rotary. To qualify for the President’s Citation, clubs must complete two Mandatory Activities and additional activities in several categories. These activity categories are Membership Attraction and Engagement, Foundation Giving, Online Tool Adaption, Humanitarian Service, New Generations involvement and Public Image improvement. I have met with our new DG Jim Durbin and our Asst DG, our own Marcia Barber, to discuss our club’s best mix of citation activities and have started to share this goal with our committee chairs and Directors and am now starting to do the same with each of you. Look for rhythmic updates on how we are doing as we focus our march towards earning this Citation.
Why even try to earn this Citation? Because I want the global Rotary community to recognize what those of is in this room today have always known to be true: that our venerable Club 11 is indeed a gem of the Rotary fleet.
Being a Rotarian is about the people we help. The only thing that matters is how much better our world is because we are Rotarians.
My dad once told me: “Son, in this world don’t pray for tasks that are equal to your powers. Rather, pray for powers that are equal to your tasks.”
Today, Daddy, I am saying that prayer. My time is now and it will not come again.
Fellow Rotarians, guests and family, I humbly accept the post of President of this, the Rotary Club of St. Louis, our beloved Club 11.