I had the honour of being the aide to RI President Sakuji Tanaka at the RI Zone Institute which took place in Livingstone, Zambia, the city of my birth. In preparing for his visit, I found out that he was 74 years old. But then I was warned by Rotary Foundation Trustee Sam Owori that the president was a very fast walker!
When the plane landed at Harry Nkhumbula International Airport, half an hour early, since we had arrived “in good time ” so we thought, the president had already outpaced everyone in the group of passengers and we had to run along the ramp to receive him, just in time! A little girl handed him a bouquet of flowers as if nothing had happened and we escorted him through the VIP entrance. He then addressed the press for nearly half an hour. The next day all the newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations were full of Rotary!
The other aspect I noticed was the ease with which he could communicate with everyone and especially me, even though he does not speak much English. He joined in with the Zulu and cultural dancers in a dance, relaxing everyone around him. I served as an aid to past RI President Dong Kurn Lee during his visit to Livingstone in July 2009, and to past RI President Kalyan Banerjee during the Montreal Convention in 2010. All were unique learning experiences.
President Tanaka attended several events including the Governors-elect Training Seminar, the ROTA Board meeting, the Zone Institute, and then two days of ROTA conference. He officiated at a sunset boat cruise, The Rotary Foundation Dinner, a cultural night, and a gala dinner. He paid a visit to the mayor of Livingstone, and to two Rotary projects, the Lubasi Home for homeless children and St. Joseph’s Hospice. And yes, he visited the mighty Victoria Falls and walked with the lions and cheetahs. All in all a very fruitful and impactful trip!
I can assure you, President Tanaka-san made us all feel proud to be Rotarians!