How will you respond to the flamingo challenge?

Alison Frye at the District 6600 conference in May

By Alison Frye, president of the Rotary Club of Perrysburg, Ohio, USA
Back in July, the cover of The Rotarian featured a picture of RI President Barry Rassin and his wife, Esther, with a flock of flamingos. The cover received a lot of love on social media, and people began to attend Rotary events wearing flamingo swag and tagging Barry in the pictures. A few weeks ago, a couple of Rotarians were in a party store and filled their arms with tacky flamingo items and tagged Barry in the picture.

Barry then replied with this social media post issuing the flamingo challenge:

What Barry was trying to capture in the challenge is best reflected by that one flamingo in the cover image who is heading the complete opposite direction from the rest of the members in his flock. Sometimes we need to go in a completely different direction to make life even better. That’s what Rassin’s flamingo challenge is about.

Rotarians all around the world commented on his post with their own personal goals. Things like exercising more and eating healthy. Some wanted to travel to a new country and others wanted to explore more about their own country.

It’s also no surprise though – because Rotarians are People of Action – that some of the Flamingo Challenges were Rotary related. Things like finding new projects to participate in, attending an international convention, or stepping up to serve in club or district leadership. All of these things are great examples of the Flamingo Challenge.

I want to offer a more serious perspective of this challenge. Sometimes the change in our lives we really need to make is not in what we are doing but in what we are thinking. The biggest Flamingo Challenge we could take on is really getting rid of the emotions that are useless, unproductive and painful. Things like pride and selfishness and insecurity or jealousy.

A Rotarian with flamingo swag.

Imagine how incredible our organization, our Rotary clubs, would be if there was no more comparison of the leaders before and after us? If there was no jealousy for other’s success in Rotary, but instead unwavering support?

What if we no longer worked for our own glory and achievements but instead asked anyone who is interested to join us and help? What if we didn’t worry about our position and rank and instead did whatever was needed to make Rotary better? These would be very powerful outcomes for Rotary.

So like that little flamingo, when we work hard to be a little different – whether it is in the things we think, say, or do – then we can say we have accomplished Rassin’s Flamingo Challenge.

Adapted with permission from a speech Frye delivered at the District 6600 conference in early May. Frye is the district’s public image chair.

3 thoughts on “How will you respond to the flamingo challenge?

  1. If you ask my club Rotary Club of The Villages-Evening, Florida Members about my Greater Peace Initiative, they will say I am the lone wolf or “The Lone Flamingo” who is promoting this lone agenda. However, they have approved my dream. This was three years ago. When I read Barry’s article, I said he is talking about me. I was able to get a booth for Hamburg in the Friendship Hall and was supposed to have presented RIPA(Rotary International Peace Academy) agenda, but for family reason I had to cancel the Hamburg trip. I had even bought a 5 foot stuffed flamingo and took picture with it. I still believe time will come to make my case known.


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