By Martin “Marty” Postic, Jr., past governor of District 5750 (Oklahoma, USA) and a member of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City Midtown, Oklahoma, USA
I am proud to say that I consider RI President Ron Burton a friend. One of my first Rotary Club make up meetings in 1985 was at a small club that had bad food, a bad program, REALLY bad singing and (surprise!) very few members. However, as I sat down, a man reached his hand across the table and said, “Hi! I’m Ron Burton from the Norman Rotary Club” and introduced me to a Rotarian guest he had brought.
Over the years, Ron and I became good friends. So much so that, one day in 1989 we had breakfast together in Norman while discussing some pending legislation in our state (Ron and I are both attorneys). As you might expect our conversation that morning eventually turned to Rotary. I was preparing to “move up the ladder” in my club to be president in a few years. Ron had already been District Governor and held other positions in Rotary and with The Rotary Foundation.
I had a desire to someday be our district governor and sought advice from him. After listening to his advice, I then asked, “Ron where do you want to go in Rotary?” He said, with a very overt confidence, “Marty, I’m going to be president of Rotary International someday.” His demeanor and his “swagger” told me this was not just a pipe dream. It would be a reality. As of 1 July, Ron Burton is the president of Rotary International – only the second one from my State of Oklahoma.
The words of our incoming president during his theme speech, Engage Rotary, Change Lives, at the International Assembly truly hit the proverbial nail on the head in summarizing what should be our motivation to make Rotary successful. Too many times, clubs and Rotarians focus only on bringing the bodies into Rotary. Sadly, we don’t also bring their hearts. It is easy to fill a room with members of a Rotary Club. However, unless and until we turn those members into Rotarians, they have no motivation to stay.
The most defining moment in the development of the Oklahoma City Midtown Rotary Club was when, after getting a grant to purchase some tools for a local high school’s drama department, several club members went to deliver the tools. Most of our members were shocked by the reaction of the teachers and the students who were overly appreciative of our club’s gift – so much so that some were crying. I sensed that experience affected the Midtown members to a point where they wanted to do more. As the Midtown Club was chartered, it consisted of all younger people (their average age was around 32) with no former Rotary experience. However, almost all of the members of that club now “get it.” They understand the value of service. They understand the need to help. They ARE Rotarians!
The club where I first met Ron Burton eventually “went out of business” a few years later. Their members were not engaged in Rotary, they were “engaged” in a coffee klatch. Those clubs that are identified in the community as a “lunch club,” a “breakfast club,” or – even worse – an “old man’s club” will fail. They won’t grow.
However, the community where I first met President Ron did start a new club a few years later. It is dynamic, active and engaged. I sincerely doubt that new club could have grown out of the shell of the former club. It needed to start anew.
Where is your club? Are you already marked with the “tattoo” of the “old man’s club”? Or are you more like the Oklahoma City Midtown club? It’s not too late to remove the tattoo, and engage Rotary.
— Adapted with permission from Marty Postic’s blog, Rotary Membership Revival – The New Club Project.