Table Speech

What has been consistent in a century of Rotary

January 19,2005

Chairman of the Commerce and Industry Consolidated Research Institute,
Mr.Shiro Miyamoto 

Rotary International’s World Understanding Month

Rotary was born in Chicago in 1905 when 4 men met, and today it has grown to number 1.2 million members. This is a wonderful success story of which we
should be proud.

When I joined Rotary, I was shown some videos about Rotary and told of some anecdotes, but since it was all new to me I did not quite understand. However, I always felt that I should like to get to the core of why Paul Harris started Rotary.

I had a chance to visit Chicago, and I asked a friend of mine, who is a member of the Chicago Rotary Club to take me to Evanston, where Rotary’s World Headquarters is located.

I found Rm. 711 of the Unity Bldg., where Rotary was born, installed in its original condition together with the artifacts that were used.

Many photographs of Paul Harris’ travels were displayed. I purchased a copy of his autobiography, “My Road to Rotary” and reading it, there were many passage which aroused thoughts in me.

Paul Harris was born in Racine, Wisconsin, but his father’s business went bankrupt when he was 3, and he was raised by grandparents on his father’s side. The place was Wallingford in the state of Vermont on New England.

In the preface to his autobiography, Paul states that there are two things he holds dearly – the valleys of New England and the Rotary movement.

I had hoped to visit Wallingford, but it was 350 kilometers from Boston and quite remote. So when my son went to Boston to study I asked him to drive me there. It was a long drive, but being early in November, the autumn leaves were beautiful. His grandparents’ home still remains, and the small red brick building nearby is the school he attended. It has been purchased and is now the meeting place of the Wallingford R.C.

Paul attended college in Vermont, Princeton and Iowa, where he obtained a degree and qualified as a lawyer. In the meantime, both his grandfather and grandmother passed away.

Believing that he must see the world, he traveled widely for the next 5 years as a reporter and schoolteacher in California, as a crewman looking after steer in a cargo vessel crossing the Atlantic, and from England crossed to the continent. Grown in stature, he returned to Chicago, opened his office but found no clients.

He felt that what he needed were friends. In those days, business in Chicago was a cutthroat affair without vocational ethics. Paul felt the necessity for social improvement and was positive that it would happen.

But he loved the city and its energy, and felt that a club of friends
representing different vocations was needed. When I joined Rotary, I felt that Community Service must be the most popular of all, and could not understand the difference between Community and Vocational Service.

The years after Rotary was formed a crisis struck the organization a group placing emphasis on Vocational Service confronted a group which valued Community Service and this rift threatened to destroy the organization.

Resolution 23-34 was passed at the St. Louis Convention in 1923, and this is given in your Manual of Procedure as the 1923 Statement on Community Service. I will not go into detail but it tells us that basically Rotary is a philosophy of life in which a golden mean is struck between the urge to profit, the sense of responsibility and the desire to serve.

When a Rotarian acts in society, his every act is that of service, whether it be for the community, through one’s vocation, internationally or for his club.
The above is Chapter 6 of the Manual, but preceding it in Chapter 5 is Vocational Service. The 1989 Declaration on Vocational Service drawn up at the Singapore Convention amended this, and there are 8 points every Rotarian must keep in mind.

Recently, much attention is given to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but Rotary has been giving its attention to this for the past century.

The long Japanese depression has ended and we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But every day on the radio and television we are confronted with depressing news. Something seems to have changed in our society.

I received my education before the war. It was based on Confucianism and I was also taught Buddhism and our Japanese Shintoism, and the ethics and morals that the Japanese race has cultivated.

After the war, the Allies changed our education in order that Japan would not go to war again, and tried to infuse liberalism and democracy in the four corners of our country. I wonder if our teachers really understood what they were teaching.

The result seems to have covered everything with a thin varnish. The core of our morality seems to have been discarded as the root of all evil. People receiving such education are now moving Japan. I believe the dividing line between the pre-war generation and the post war one was crossed some twenty years ago.

The changes in age or generation cannot be changed, but the Japanese were not always like we are today. The reason why we call for reform of government and corporate ethics is due to the fact that liberalism and democracy have taken root in our country and we are now able to express our concern about basic issues.

I believe that our society of today somehow resembles that of Paul Harris.
That is why I feel that we must resuscitate Rotary in Japan, and I would like to pass on the baton of fellowship and service to the next generation and then the next. I would be grateful if could give your kind consideration to the matter.