By RI General Secretary John Hewko
What a momentous week it has been for Rotary and polio eradication in the Big Apple.
As you know, on 27 September Rotary participated in a historic session on polio eradication convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the 67th UN General Assembly. You can watch the entire session here, and view additional photos here.
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Wilfrid J. Wilkinson announced to world leaders and our polio eradication partners that Rotary is pledging another US$75 million to fight polio, adding to our total contribution of nearly $1.2 billion since the launch of our PolioPlus program in 1985. That follows the $228 million we announced earlier this year in response to the $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Chair Wilf also presented Secretary-General Ban with our online petition in support of polio eradication, signed by more than 6,000 concerned citizens from around the world via our new web site, endpolionow.org
The Secretary-General and other leaders repeatedly acknowledged Rotary’s leadership role in polio eradication.
“I am especially grateful to the Rotarians and Rotary International,” Ban said. “They launched PolioPlus in 1985, when people suffered from polio in more than 125 countries. Since then, Rotary International joined forces with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to lead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. That brought us to this decisive moment.”
Then two days later, Rotary shared the polio eradication message with the entire world during the Global Citizen Festival concert in Central Park, headlined by Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, and Neil Young, who is himself a polio survivor. The concert drew a live audience of more than 60,000 cause-committed people and was the largest syndicated charity concert in online and broadcast television history, according to the Global Poverty Project, which organized the event. View photos here.
Rotary took the lead in producing the concert’s seven-minute segment on polio eradication, which included remarks by actress Archie Panjabi, one of our celebrity “This Close” campaign participants; Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, daughter of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari; and Canadian Rotarian and polio survivor Ramesh Ferris. I had the honor of closing the Rotary segment and could not resist urging Neil Young to amend the title of his traditional closer to “Rockin’ in a Polio-Free World.”
Maybe Neil indeed will “change his tune” after we’ve finally beaten polio!