Table Speech

Following My Rotary Dream - From an Ambassadorial Scholar to a Rotarian

November 6, 2019

Ph.D. Naoyuki Takagi
Charter Prersident of Kanagawa Shonan RC
Representative Director of Rotary Alumni Association of Japan

 Being here today gives me a warm feeling like seeing my great-grandfather. This is because the Parent Club of Kanagawa Shonan RC which I belong to is Yokosuka RC, whose parent Club is Yokohama RC and again whose parent club is Tokyo RC.

 I was born in 1962 in Tokyo. After graduating from Kanagawa Prefectural Shonan Senior High School, I enrolled at the Faculty of English and American Languages at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. I was quite confident with my English abilities, but two of my classmates who had returned from overseas were much better and there was no way I could compete with them. I determined myself then to study in an English-speaking country someday.

 In 1987, I was chosen as a Rotary scholar after many twists and turns, and studied at New Hampshire University Graduate School. Durham Great Bay RC was my Host Club and Mr. Skinner became my Counselor, to whom I am so indebted. Without him, I would not have engaged with Rotary so much as today. Durham is located near Portsmouth where the Peace Treaty was concluded after the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

 After coming back to Japan, I went to the USA once again for my doctoral research at California State University Irvine School in the Faculty of Cognitive Psychology. In 1991, I married my old high school classmate. As I was poverty-stricken then, I could not afford a gorgeous wedding. I asked Mr. Skinner and we could have a very modest wedding at the church in Durham. Before I came back to Japan in 1994, I went to see Mr. Skinner to thank him.

 In 1995, I started my teaching career at Tokyo University of Mercantile Marine, currently Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. I joined activities of the Alumni Association of RI District 2780 to which Kamakura RC, my sponsor club, belongs to. I served as Representative Director from 1995 for 2 years in a row which gave me an opportunity to interpret for two RI President-Elects and to participate in a Symposium of our District Conference.

 In 2004, Kanagawa Shonan RC was established as a project to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of Rotary. Former RI Director Mr. Kazuhiko Ozawa of Yokosuka RC served as Special Representative and myself as the first President. Out of 23 members, 3 were former Youth Exchange students, the rest were GSE and former Rotary scholars with average age of 42.

 At the Charter Night, the then RI Director Mr. Sakuji Tanaka made a speech saying, “There are three ways of service: give money, shed sweat or use wisdom.” Our club is still fighting with sweat and wisdom. We never thought at that time that Mr. Tanaka would become RI President a little later.

 As our first service activity, we donated books to libraries in Thailand by the proceeds of selling Batik handkerchiefs made by children victimized by the tsunami as a part of their psychological therapy. Next, we held a charity piano concert by a former Rotary scholar who had studied music and we were able to dig wells at 3 schools in the Philippines. Our scope of support expanded over time and we hosted charity concerts at our 5th and 10th anniversary, assisted micro-credit projects in Myanmar, donated bicycles for women commuting to vocational trainings in Cambodia and donated medical equipment to hospitals in Myanmar etc.

 In our local community, we have been exchanging with children who are not able to live with their family in Misono Children’s Home through hiking and dancing. Since 1991, we have also been assisting the Rotary Alumni Association of Japan to which Mr. Eijiro Tanaka, Rotary Foundation Committee Chairman, has been devoting all his heart. It is the federation of all Alumni Associations in Japan, and since 1991 the National Assembly has been held every year. In 2016, a Symposium was held on the occasion of the Centennial Anniversary of Rotary Foundation and we were able to make donations to UNHCR. Dr. Sadako Ogata was given the Rotary Alumni Global Service Award. Unfortunately, she was not present and Mr. Eijiro Tanaka received it on her behalf. My heart goes out to the recent loss of Dr. Ogata who was a superb senior Tokyo RC had sent to the world. Last month, the 9th National Assembly was held in Sapporo where all contemporaries of GSE got together.

 Now allow me to look back on my relation with Mr. Skinner. I first met him in 1987 as my Counselor and he stood by at my wedding in 1991. He became Governor of RID 7780 for 1998-99. In 2007, Mr. and Mrs. Skinner moved to Florida to enjoy a happy retirement. I went to see them taking my children. In 2011 on the way to Chicago as a member of Rotary Alumni Committee, I went to see them again. Sadly enough, it was the last time I saw him as he passed away the following year while playing racket-ball. In 2018, as I learned that Mrs. Skinner and her children would get together in Florida, I went to see them taking my daughter. This May, I was fortunate to take my family to celebrate Mrs. Skinner’s 88th birthday. 32 years have passed since I first met Mr. and Mrs. Skinner.

 Today I wear the tie, a memento of Mr. Skinner. Just like he guided my life, I would like to give influence to someone else handing over his spirit of service. RI theme of RY 1998-99 when Mr. Skinner, my American father, was a Governor was “Follow Your Rotary Dream! Following his footsteps, I will stay committed and pursue my Rotary dream.