By RI Director Celia Elena Cruz De Giay, Rotary Club of Arrecifes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
When RI President Ron Burton asked me to convene one of his five Presidential New Generations Conferences, I was thrilled with the idea. I know firsthand the potential our youth represent, especially after accompanying my husband, Luis Vicente, as President of Rotary International in 1996-97, as we took part in 21 Presidential Conferences for New Generations around the world that year. Luis’ vision for youth set the stage for Rotary International’s support of New Generations and the creation of Rotary clubs composed of young people.
So, I accepted the responsibility, appointed a dedicated group of Rotarians from District 4940 to organize the event, and we worked intensely for a year to plan the conference for 15 March in Rosario, Argentina. When the day arrived, our dream became reality as more than 1,600 new generations representatives from 29 different countries attended.
President Ron met with many young people as he presided over the conference, exchanging ideas and sharing his experiences and asking about theirs. Many Rotary members also shared, and we were all inspired by what we heard.
One young speaker in particular stood out. Lucia Gomez Garcia, only 9 years old, shared this with us:
“Many people may think that kids our age are too young to change the world. Then I ask: At what age should we start? School has not taught that to me. Should we be more than 30 years old? Maybe people aged 18 to 30 could do it? Perhaps adolescents between 12 and 17 could do it ?
Let´s have a look at the example of Malala Yuosafzay. She was only 13 when she claimed freedom of education for women in Pakistan. Last year, speaking at the United Nations she said: ‘A child, a teacher, a pencil and a book can change the world.’
My idea to CHANGE THE WORLD is that Rotary increasingly continues to support New Generations. We are kids, do small things, but working with other kids our age, we can generate similar ideas in other people and achieve results that will allow us to realize that IT IS POSSIBLE to change the world for the better.
If you remember, when you were kids and you were asked what you wanted to be when older, you said: firefighter, police officer, doctor, teacher. You naturally chose service-oriented professions. So, young people and Rotary leaders, you have the keys in your hands, so that when you ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, they can answer: “I want to be a Rotarian.”
Speeches like this touched our hearts and made us more aware of why we need to give prominence to youth in Rotary. Our Presidential New Generations Conference will be remembered as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the bonds between Rotary and young people and to share with them a common aspiration to work for a better world.