By Maud Huey Kenyon, Rotary Club of Boulder Valley, Colorado, USA
As I contemplated the survey I received from Rotary for attendees of the 2017 Rotary Convention in Atlanta, I had a chance to reflect on the four conventions I have been to. I think the program put together for the Atlanta Convention was both forward thinking and full of fresh perspectives. Here are my reasons why you should consider attending a convention.
Sharing common experiences with other members. At the top of the list is the opportunity to connect with others. I met up with Rotarians who had walked with me through the dusty streets in northern Nigeria in 2005. I met others who in 2008 crammed with me into tuk tuks (a form of taxi) around Delhi, India, where we participated in a National Immunization Day. I talked to Rotarians I just met who gave me ideas to re-charge my club’s local community service projects and who sponsor international projects I want to join.
Listening to great speakers. I enjoyed hearing Bill Gates talk about working with Rotary toward the shared goal of eradicating polio. He emphasized the importance of partnerships in reaching that goal. Also, legendary civil rights leader Andrew Young shared what it took 30 years ago to make Atlanta more integrated, and how effective the financial pressure from a boycott of businesses turned out to be in getting the attention of the city’s leaders.
Being reminded of our global impact. At the RI convention, we are constantly reminded we are more than local or national citizens, we are world citizens. In Atlanta, I sensed less of a “kumbaya” feeling and more of a “let’s get down to business.” Speakers addressed the challenges and obstacles we face in meeting our goals. There was recognition of the polio workers who have been attacked or killed, and the enormity of the task ahead of us. But although it is taking longer than we anticipated, this message was clear: We won’t give up until polio is gone and the earth is declared polio free. And it will happen because of the partnerships Rotary has formed and the continued support of members.
Attending breakout sessions. You had to get in line early, but once inside, breakout sessions were worth the wait. In one session I attended — Legacy and Lessons Learned: Rotary’s PolioPlus Program — I heard Ukrainian Rotarians, who number only 800 in a country of 40 million people, express their concern about the 12 percent non-vaccination rate and the possibility of a resurgence. In contrast, Rotary members in Nigeria enjoy the public support of authorities like the Emir and the Governor of the state of Kano. The appearance of many local Rotarians during National Immunization Days inspires local villagers in vaccinating their children. Polio is now endemic in only two countries, proving vaccines work.
Enjoying host events. The thousands of convention attendees who visited The Carter Center and The King Center got a reminder of the importance of Rotary’s work in human rights. Outside the King Center, the tombs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King appear to float in a river of water alongside the building. The scene sharply contrasts the depiction inside of the violence and hatred often faced by the civil rights leaders.
Like Rotary, Atlanta has attracted leaders who offer sanity and stability in the face of political and religious forces that sometimes threaten to pull us apart. Another thing was clear in Atlanta. Rotarians around the world are making a difference. The next Rotary Convention is in Toronto. Don’t miss your chance to discover what Rotary is really about.
Register by 15 December for the early registration discount