REMARKS BY DISTRICT GOVERNOR ELLEN YOUNG
FOR HER INSTALLATION AS GOVERNOR
First of all, I would like to thank each and every one of you who has chosen to spend a lovely summer’s day with me to celebrate Rotary’s annual tradition of transition. I am grateful to my brother Tom and nephew Timothy from Milwaukee, my daughter Catherine and her husband Chris Campbell and my 3 lovely grandchildren who drove here from Columbia, Maryland, and my daughter Sarah, who have, along with my husband Chris, shared my journey of preparation and inspiration these past 2 ½ years.
While I’m at it, I would also like to extend my gratitude to those who spent countless hours gathering the information for this year’s directory, John Wold, Marianna Zeidler, and especially the generous donor from Dundee, who will ensure that each and every member of our district has a directory this year. No excuses allowed for someone not knowing who to call for information! Also, thanks to the editors who patiently read draft after draft to make sure we didn’t miss anything or anyone. Thanks also to Shirley Friedlander, an honorary member of the Lincolnshire Rotary Club, who offered to help with the installation, who along with Kristina Laib, handled all aspects of the event, and printed the programs, name tags and place cards.
But I have a special thanks to the Rotarians and friends who sponsored me in my Rotary service:
- Past Rotarian Lucy Morros, former president of Barat College, who, along with 2 others, sponsored my membership in the Lake Forest Rotary Club
- Arthur Bruen, from Lake Bluff, my friend, my boss and banker emeritus, who told me to join Rotary “because it would be good for me and my banking career”
- Rotarian Tony Kambich – Please stand Tony – who sponsored my transition into the Winnetka-Rotary Club – and who nurtured my interest in Rotary’s International activities
- And Joe Nordstrom – Please stand, Joe - a friend of the Lincolnshire Rotary Club – please stand, Joe, who, when he had a bit more time, coached me into a consensus building management style – still a work in progress I must admit!
It’s been an unbelievable journey since December 10, 2012. That’s when a new District Governor was nominated to fill an unexpected vacancy for the 2014-2015 year. I never realized how long it really takes to get from the Marriott in Schaumburg Hoffman Estates to Lake Forest – or how long it should have taken. I was sure I would miss the call with the results if I didn’t step on the gas – and then had to wait anxiously at home for the call to eventually come. Little did I know at the time what was in store! When I heard the good news, I was ecstatic!
Several people have asked how I came to Rotary service – so I’ll share a little bit of history with you. I joined Rotary in November, 1991, almost 23 years ago. Until I joined Rotary, I really didn’t think I would ever have a chance to impact the lives of people in the world beyond my home, my community, let alone my own country. But I quickly learned that Rotary was the best place to get out of my own comfort zone, to change my perspective from “me” to “we” and to LEARN how to be of service.
So how did this happen?
- Was it the wrong turn my Dad took in 1964 near Acapulco, Mexico which took our open-sided jeep to a nearby slum where that night’s dinner was meeting its maker? Did seeing a poor family in a challenged setting impress me then?
- Was it the exposure to the occupants of the Favelas of Rio in 1971 who lived up the hill from the Copacabana beach highrise I was staying in, whose hungry residents came down to the beach to beg? At the age of 20, was I finally understanding that I needed to pay attention to the economic disparity outside of my comfort zone?
- Was it the 2012 day in the slum in Moradabad, India where the gratitude of the parents whose children I had just vaccinated against polio could be read in their faces, not words? I’ll never forget how I felt that day.
- Or was it seeing the results of dedicated years of service in 2013 at Ak’Tenamit, Guatemala, where a school for 400 children now provides an education and a future where a jungle used to be? Was I now able to understand why Rotarians need to be present at the projects they support to see the promise and hope they enable.
As a result of these experiences, I was given an opportunity to see, hear, smell and feel the needs which exist outside of my comfort zone – needs which Rotarians meet every day – and I realized that I wanted to help to alleviate the suffering, the unfairness, the helplessness and despair if at all possible. I realized that Rotary could give me the opportunities to serve – and that taking on a leadership role could help me share these sentiments and goals with others.
As I opened yesterday morning’s newspaper, I was reminded of another essential reason many of us become Rotarians. 100 years after the tragedy called “The Great War”, we are still struggling to find ways to get people of different faiths, economic backgrounds, political ideologies and ethnic backgrounds to live together in peace. It’s no surprise that those without yearn to have more of what others have, whether by birth or by dint of hard work. The inequities of our world divide us in spirit as well as in location, educational opportunities and attitudes. Rotarians try to transcend those divisions in many ways:
- Through peace scholarships which address conflict resolution directly resulting in trained negotiators working with many of the world’s NGO’s
- Through youth exchange opportunities for many youth in our communities building international understanding and awareness
- Through the alleviation of poverty – not by handouts or charity, but by teaching men and women to “fish” in the figurative sense – it’s not just about tilapia farms in Guatemala but about learning new ways to make a sustainable living on what you’ve got and where you are – Howard Buffet’s book, 40 chances, relates 40 ways how!
- Through the many district and international grants our district has extended - $1.3 million in this past year alone
- By realizing the importance of literacy – not just reading but awareness and understanding – to the children of our own communities and throughout the world – Malala, the student from Pakistan, summed it up succinctly in her address to the United Nations last year –“Let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” I would add courage to this list for the many around the world who are denied access to the tools of learning
- By providing clean water and education about the importance of sound hygiene to prevent disease
- By combating disease through vaccinations and preventable health initiatives while alleviating the suffering of those who succumb to illness or disabling infirmities
- By empowering the next generation to take the initiative in being of service to others; to have the confidence to stand firm in the face of discrimination, and to have the courage to lead so that others can follow their example.
How are we going to make this happen?
First of all, by improving our lines of communication within our clubs, between our club members and throughout our district. Let’s try harder to listen first, think, and then suggest solutions which take everyone’s point of view into account.
Second – by coordinating the efforts of each and every club in our district, enabling them to work together where it makes sense to do so, to meet the needs of communities local and regional – we already do this in regional food pantries and high school interact clubs – let’s expand those initiatives.
And finally, by collaborating with other non-profits and community leaders to work more effectively and efficiently together to identify and meet today’s community needs – and not just continue with the same old project the same old way next year, because it’s always been done that way!
So, what’s going to be different during this coming year of Rotary Service? Many of you have heard about some of our plans from the Presidents-Elect who attended PETS training this past year. We’re trying something new, and we hope everyone in the district will join us in Lighting up Rotary at events held throughout our district in the coming year. The district has been divided into 5 sectors – each with a team of volunteers who will bring leadership closer to the club level on matters of membership, public image, youth service, foundation, and polio eradication. Events will be planned in each sector in the early fall, to raise $$$ for The Rotary Foundation. Participating Clubs will decide how funds raised through the walk/runs for Rotary’s humanitarian service initiatives will be allocated between Annual Fund and polio contributions. We hope each and every club will participate. Look through your new District Directory to see who is leading your sector’s team. We’re hoping that by paying more attention to getting a consistent message out to our clubs and communities, and providing opportunities for non-Rotarians to join in a community event new potential members will be introduced to Rotary in the months following the sector events.
Throughout the rest of the year, sector leaders, along with the Assistant Governors will continue to share Rotary’s story with smaller groups of clubs and non-Rotarian community members in the individual sectors. We are hoping to offer speakers who will share more about Rotary’s story on matters as diverse as the importance of immunization to world health, literacy as a road to the eradication of world poverty, and clean water as a way to prevent many diseases in the developing world.
We’re launching a focused information piece (a “Pecha Kucha” for those in the know in the education community) in mid-July to inform churches, clubs, schools and other non-profits about Rotary’s humanitarian initiatives. The emphasis will be on “Kids Helping Kids” highlighting youth service as a means to bringing our children and grandchildren to a mindset of service to others, rather than self-indulgence and cyber-isolation. In particular, we hope to raise the level of awareness among our neighbors that it is possible and necessary for us as members of a society of plenty to share methods which can raise the possibility of lifting those less fortunate to sustainable economic security. And, we hope to set an example of service to our children, and grandchildren through our participation in hands-on service projects and fundraising activities, which may lead to similar behavior in the next generation.
Our team is in place, our leaders have been trained and we are ready to take the baton from those who preceded us – for it is in that transition that one of Rotary’s best strengths emerges – that of relying on those who came before us for advice, coaching, readiness and motivation –we really aren’t starting anything new in this Rotary year – but continuing the tradition started in 1905 – that of identifying the needs of others in our communities and trying new ways to make things better.
Inspiration comes from many sources, and I’ve heard from Rotary leaders from around the world in the past 30 months. I would be remiss if I failed to remind you what Rotarians are doing with our financial support to stop polio.
As Rotary International Vice President Ann Matthews said at January’s International Assembly,
- Last year, 1.3 billion doses of the polio vaccine were given to 429 million children in 70 countries, at a cost of $170 million dollars – and 820,000 doors were knocked on – WHO KNOCKED ON THOSE DOORS? AND WHO SAVED THOSE CHILDREN FROM BEING DISABLED ALL THEIR LIVES?
- 45 percent of the world’s population lives in poverty
- 13 million people starve to death every year
- 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night
- 1 billion people have no access to health care
- Today or on any given day, half the people in developing countries are sick because they drank contaminated water – 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe, clean water
- 26 percent of the world’s population cannot read, write, sign their name legally or do simple math
THESE ARE TODAY’S REALITIES IN THE WORLD – WHICH ROTARIANS ARE ADDRESSING EVERY DAY – FOR WHERE ROTARY GOES….
- THE HUNGRY ARE FED
- THE HOMELESS SECURE SHELTER
- THE SICK ARE GIVEN MEDICAL CARE
- THE NAKED ARE CLOTHED
- THE CHILDREN ARE IMMUNIZED
- THE ILLITERATE ARE GIVEN OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN HOW TO READ, WRITE AND DO MATH
- AND THOUSANDS ARE GIVEN CLEAN WATER TO DRINK, TO USE IN COOKING FOOD, TO BATHE, AND TO USE IN WASHING THEIR CLOTHES.”
Let’s continue in the coming year to “Light up Rotary” for everyone who needs help as we serve Rotary and our world community in the coming year.
Thank you all for coming.