Table Speech

Rotary and Myself

August 6, 2014

Ms. Yoko Tsukasa
Tokyo Ebisu Rotary Club

 It was 19 years ago when I joined the Tokyo Ebisu RC of District 2750. In those days, no female member was accepted by any Clubs. With the idea of establishing a club with both male and female members from the outset, the Tokyo Ebisu RC was founded and the Tokyo Nishi RC served as our parent club. Membership has grown from the 47 Charter Members to 57 male and 48 female Rotarians to date. We try to keep a fine balance by making female members slightly less than male members. Consequently, there is a waiting list for female candidates. Female Rotarians in our Club are energetic, charming and attractive. They fly to places around the world and share the latest information collected from their travels. I think our Club is quite unique in Japan that has a gender balance. Many visitors come and observe our regular meetings held every Tuesday at the Westin Hotel in Ebisu.

 Ms. Isako Funaki became the first female Governor of District2750 for the last Rotary Year (RY). We recall the speech made by Prime Minister Abe at the UN General Assembly on the “active participation of women.” Looking at the world, there are more than 20 female Prime Ministers and Presidents, including Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Chile and South Korea. The US Ambassador to Japan Ms. Kennedy is the first female ambassador from the USA and the Federal Reserve Board has its first female Chairperson. Many Japanese female Olympic athletes have impressed us with outstanding performances and we cannot deny that the presence of women is going through dramatic changes across the world. I believe District 2750 chose the first female Governor in perfect timing. Governor Funaki set the theme to be “New Wind,” which I think calls for Rotary to change so that we can adapt to altering conditions in the world.

 I was asked to serve as the Chair for the District Membership Development Committee during the last RY, a task I confess made me worry. I was shocked to learn from the data compiled by the Committee that those who leave the clubs outnumber those who join. The data showed that membership kept dropping over several years and many Rotarians left between April and July. The Committee came up with the so-called “fire patrol campaign” and called on each Club to minimize withdrawing members by finding out members who are likely to leave the Club, talking to them and inviting them to dinners.

 According to the final report dated August 6th, membership figures in Japan have picked up slightly since RY 2012-2013 and total membership in Japan turned from negative to positive growth for RY 2013-2014 with an increase of 495 Rotarians. Membership of District 2580 increased by 13 and for District 2750 by 103. RI encourages us to increase the number of Rotarians from 1.2 million to 1.3 million in the world and from 85,000 to 100,000 in Japan. We should keep in mind that a large membership makes us more powerful.

 Governor Funaki made a request to each Assistant Governor attending the first Strategy Meeting to sponsor one new club. There were strong oppositions to the request at first, but the enthusiasm of the Governor came to be well-received over the course of time and succeeded in the founding of 5 new Clubs: the Tokyo Global RC, Tokyo Atago RC, Tokyo Daikanyama RC, the Rotary E-Club of Tokyo Peace Wing and the Rotary E-Club of Pago Bay Guam. The Tokyo Kasumigaseki RC is about to be established this September, with Ms. Funaki as its Special Representative and the Tokyo Nihonbashi RC as its parent club. I realized the enthusiasm of each Rotarian leads to the growth of Rotary.

 nLet me talk a little about myself and Rotary. I made my screen debut in 1954 when the film industry was in its heyday. I was blessed with my career and became a star actress very quickly. I made a triumphant journey back to my hometown and was given a hearty welcome. I still recall attending the welcome reception hosted by the RC and watching my uncles who were Rotarians, working so enthusiastically and energetically. They looked very attractive to me. I got interested in Rotary then and wondered what made such a big organization continue over so many years. I jumped at the invitation to join Rotary.

 I became an actress by chance and have been blessed with so many amazing works. I have long wished to repay this good fortune and render service to society. As a Rotarian, I am blessed with meeting many attractive people of all ages. I have led a busy life, engaging myself in movies, television, stage plays, supporting my husband in politics and bringing up my child. After so many years, I enjoy having more free-time today. Now is the perfect time to devote myself in service activities with the “spirit of Service Above Self.”

 I hold the title of Public Image Coordinator (Rotary Goodwill Ambassador) for this RY. I am looking forward to this new challenge and ask for your cooperation.