Table Speech

President’s Final Greetings for RY 2020-2021

June 30, 2021

Mr. Michio Hamaguchi
President of Tokyo RC

 As we approach the end of this RY, let me say a few words. First and foremost, I wish to thank all the member Rotarians for your support. My deepest gratitude goes to Vice-President Mr. Utsumi, Secretary Mr. Asakawa, Assistant Secretaries, Directors, Chairmen and Secretariat staff who rendered dedicated service to go through this challenging year hindered by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We had to cancel all the meetings and events scheduled during the State of Emergency, including Regular Meetings, Birthday parties and hobby group activities. I have set the Club Theme for RY 2020-2021 to be “Feeling Connected” with the hope that our members could deepen friendship through various activities. Since its foundation more than 110 years ago, Rotary International has grown into a global network of 1.2 million members as we succeeded in getting connected to serve society with our professional skills and experiences. I hope our Club Theme “Feeling Connected” has not become an empty slogan due to COVID-19 pandemic.

 Amidst these challenging times, we were blessed with a silver lining moment. On 21 October last year, we celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of Tokyo RC and enjoyed outstanding performance by National Living Treasure Kabuki actor Kichiemon Nakamura together with Tokiwazu singing led by our member Mr. Tsuneoka. We owe much to the meticulous preparations made by members of the Centennial Anniversary Preparatory Committee over the course of 6 years. Although we had to scale down our milestone event, we could still hold a splendid banquet with the attendance of 300 Rotarians, family members and a few guests.

 Another important initiative was the donation made to Okinawa Prefectural Miyako Hospital using the Tokyo RC COVID-19 Fund, earmarked to support those adversely affected by the pandemic. After extensive discussions on how to meet the most pressing needs, we decided to support medical facilities in remote islands overstretched by the pandemic and donated 3 ventilators to the Hospital. We planned to visit Miyako Island and hold a presentation ceremony to be reported by local news media. RI aims to enhance the public image and awareness of Rotary by disseminating information about its mission and initiatives. Our District Governor Mr. Nousu has also focused on “improving our public image” as clarified in his target for this Rotary Year. We thought the presentation ceremony would be an opportune moment to capture public attention. Regrettably, however, we had to postpone it, because the State of Emergency was declared in Okinawa Prefecture.

 During this Rotary Year, we ventured on hybrid Regular Meetings that allowed both in-person and on-line attendees to stay connected and engaged through the introduction of video conferencing and live streaming. I had known the existence of a few e-clubs in Japan, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, where members engaged in virtual settings. Honestly speaking, I was rather skeptical about such clubs as I thought they were unfit for the initial purpose of Rotary to forge friendships. I must admit the pandemic had an extensive knock-on effect and accelerated changes in societal values and human behaviors, driving us into a time of historic transformation on a global scale. It may not be pure coincidence that the person who had felt cautious about on-line meetings actually had to make arrangements for video conferencing as President.

 Today, I am happy to announce we will conclude this Rotary Year with a net increase of 5 in our membership. As I emphasized in my remarks at the Centennial Anniversary, Tokyo RC has the longest history in Japan and we can continue to play a pivotal role as we bring together individuals from different walks of life to maintain a robust membership. Diversity has become a buzzword and I am proud to see our members represent successful experts in respective fields, ranging from former Governmental Officers, lawyers, business leaders, to cultural figures.

 I believe diversity is the key to empower organizations to adapt and get through changes. A homogeneous group makes us feel more comfortable and safer, yet it can be more vulnerable to an ever-changing environment. Diversity can help to build flexibility and resilience. We come across the word “cluster” every day. If we use this term to group Rotarians who share similar attributes, I wish to see a wide variety of clusters to exist in our Club, keeping a good balance and harmony. I also hope our Club serves as a fertile breeding ground for many clusters to generate and enhance diversity. Let me conclude my speech by wishing for an even greater success of our Club based on diversified membership, as we set out on a journey to celebrate our bicentennial anniversary as a vibrant and robust Club.

Secretary’s Greetings

June 30, 2021

Mr. Seiichiro Asakawa
Secretary of Tokyo RC

 Let me give my final report as Secretary and sum up our activities during RY 2020-2021. As we all know, the spread of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19) has brought the majority of our activities to a halt. However, we could also turn this challenge into our advantage to upgrade our existing initiatives and launch on new activities.

 Prior to starting this Rotary Year last July, we had to deal with a number of  unprecedented issues, including how to resume our Regular Meetings in a safe and secure manners. Thanks to thorough arrangements made by the Imperial Hotel and dedicated support given by SAA members and Secretariat staff, we managed to have all the Regular Meetings as scheduled during the first half of this RY. On top of everything, it was our great pleasure to be able to hold the Centennial Anniversary Meeting and Party last October with more than 300 attendees who were treated to a hospitable and splendid dinner. We celebrated this memorable evening with congratulatory video messages sent from RI President, our sister clubs and many prominent speakers both overseas and in Japan, followed by an outstanding kabuki performance together with traditional tokiwazu music. We posted the video clip of our milestone event on our website and were delighted to receive positive feedback from Rotarians in and out of Japan.

 It is quite disappointing that the COVID-19 situation worsened and we had to cancel most of the Regular Meetings scheduled for the latter half of this RY as well as the RI Anniversary Meeting, Christmas Party, Birthday parties and hobby circle activities. However, we were fortunate enough to have some outings, including a Vocational Service Study Tour, by taking thorough infection control measures.

 Throughout this RY, the Board Members faced an unprecedented situation to make last-minute decisions on whether to cancel or hold meetings, events and activities as initially planned, due to a number of Government guidelines calling for self-quarantine. Under the leadership of President Hamaguchi, we tried to get as much feedback as possible from our members, through questionnaires and Club Forums, before making decisions on how best to manage our Club activities under challenging conditions. We launched a live streaming service of our Regular Meetings to allow members to join remotely from home or office. Thanks to the IT·HP Committee, a dedicated password-protected website was set up for members to share information and maintain various Rotary initiatives as active as ever.

 Looking at some figures, we welcomed 20 new members during this RY, despite all adversities, to conclude with a net increase of 5 in our membership. As for our financial status, we will carry forward a surplus worth 20 million yen generated from unspent expenses due to cancellation of Regular Meetings. We launched Tokyo RC COVID-19 Fund, allocating half of the surplus of 20 million yen from the previous RY 2019-2020, and donated a few ventilators to Okinawa Prefectural Miyako Hospital.

 Our “Tohoku Sukusuku Project” was initiated 10 years ago to support mothers and children at disaster-stricken areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Under the supervision of Challenge 100 Committee, the project has evolved into an autonomous initiative run by a local NPO to guarantee a self-reliant and sustainable management. To wrap up our decade-long project, we will organize a commemorative ceremony in the coming RY.

 As we look back on our District activities, all the meetings, trainings and seminars were either cancelled, downsized or held on-line. The District Convention was held in April as scheduled with minimum attendees combined with a live streaming. Governor of Tokyo, Ms. Yuriko Koike, joined remotely to give her speech. District Governors and RI Officers organized the “Gathering to Celebrate 100-year History of Rotary in Japan” to be held last November. After being postponed for 6 months, it was held on-line in May where thousands of Rotarians viewed the ceremony that showcased the remarkable development of Rotary Clubs across the country.

 I must say COVID-19 has affected our entire activities throughout this RY. We struggled to find the best and safest way to continue our initiatives, facing a number of unprecedented challenges. I was encouraged by the phrase “Rotary Opens Opportunities,” the theme set by RI President Mr. Knaack, when I had to overcome many constraints and obstacles. I also found the theme set by President Hamaguchi “Feeling Connected” profound and timely, especially when so many of us realized anew how precious our activities are to strengthen “friendship.” The pandemic made me get a deeper understanding of Rotary ideas that have connected people throughout the country over the course of 100 years.

 My deepest gratitude goes to all of you for supporting me as Secretary in this memorable Centennial Anniversary year. Our activities are yet to get back to pre-pandemic levels so that all members can enjoy attending the meetings and participate in various fellowship activities. I sincerely wish for a successful new RY 2021-2022 where our Rotary life gets back to normal, not overshadowed by COVID-19.