By Dr. Mona Khanna, a former Rotary Group Study Exchange fellow
If you were at the 2014 RI Convention in Sydney, Australia, this week, you may have seen the sticker “Future Rotarian” on some badges. Chances are the badges belonged to members of Rotaract and/or delegates to the 2014 International Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) development program.
Rotaract is Rotary’s program for those 18-30. International RYLA is held during the annual convention, and this year connected 75 young leaders, 19-30, with teachers, mentors, and facilitators. These individuals truly are the future of Rotary.
I was honored to present the keynote address the morning of the last day of the International RYLA. I could feel the excitement as I walked into the room. My chief aim was to avoid “death by PowerPoint” as I shared my life lessons with these young men and women, so I set out to illustrate my points through cartoons. I also shared a four minute video of my volunteer work in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the earthquake.
Their inquisitiveness during the question session that followed was phenomenal. I fielded inquiries on how to work around traditional cultural definitions of a woman’s role in society, how to achieve work-life balance, and how to network. I spent the rest of the day with the group, sharing thoughts and basking in the energy of their youth and vigor.
We sang, danced, applauded, and laughed. One group pulled me into their discussion about a service project for maternal and child health. We ate lunch and talked about what inspires them and what they are passionate about.
Happily it didn’t end there. Throughout the week, I took part in the 3K Walk to End Polio Now, plenary session, and many meal breaks with these amazing “future Rotarians.” We had extended our conversation every day, and I hope to hear from them after we return to our respective homes in our respective countries.
This year’s RYLA participants came from Japan, Australia, Egypt, Philippines, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Korea, Mozambique, Brazil, Italy, India, South Africa, Slovakia, France, Hong Kong, Russia, England and the United States.
I think often of a quote attributed to actor Kevin Spacey, something to the effect of –“Once you reach the top floor, send the elevator back down.” I try not to just send it back, but to ride back down and pull others up with me. I think every Rotarian should do the same. The survival of Rotary depends on it.
Dr Mona Khanna is a practicing physician, media personality and former Rotary Group Study Exchange Fellow. She has reported on health for Fox Chicago, CBS Dallas and CBS Palm Springs since 2002.