Table Speech

Official Visit by the Governor

July 24, 2013

Mr. Kenji Yoshida
Governor, RI District 2580 (Tokyo Tanashi RC)

 I understand there are many senior members in this Tokyo RC, so let me tell you about a certain RC which impressed me with its wisdom and ingenuity. The Club showed respect to the elders and betters by giving the title of “honorary members” to Rotarians whose actual age and membership years total exceeded 110 years. Although they are not granted any privileges, the younger members show respect to them in a more concrete way.

 To me, Rotary is an international service organization that cultivates our humanity, fosters people and implements charitable activities. Rotary is a treasure house of people with wisdom and profound experiences. It provides a venue to meet and deepen friendship, based on faith, confidence and common goals.

 When I first became a Rotarian, I had a difficulty comprehending the concept of “vocational service.” I could not tell the difference between “dedication to one’s work” and “vocational service.” By talking with many senior Rotarians with successful business experiences, I could gradually grasp the meaning of “vocational service.” Once you understand the merits of Rotary, I am sure many wish to join Rotary. To my disappointment, however, many people don’t really understand the nature of activities Rotary undertakes. This might be because Rotary activities are rooted in a rather low-profile vocational service, compared with other social service groups such as the Lions Club.

 A Chicago attorney, Paul Harris, dealt with the dark side of people’s life that made him feel distressed and lonely. He wished to create a club “in fellowship and friendship” and launched the Rotary initiative with his three friends. To encourage cross-industrial exchanges based on openness and honesty, the organization took the principle of “one Rotarian from each vocational classification.”

 The number of Rotarians peaked in 1996 and is on a gradual decline. There are 1.2 million members worldwide that failed to meet the targeted 1.3 million. RI found out majority of people didn’t understand what Rotary actually did through the survey conducted by consultants and it has come to realize the need to get more visibility. Respondents of both sexes aged 30-45 years old had impressions that Rotary was “dominated by the elderly and men.” They thought it is “less flexible and has an elitist nature.” Some even mentioned Rotary was “secretive and exclusive.” This might be because we have geared our efforts towards enjoying only among our fellow Rotarians. Being a businessman, we make our living through our “sales.” We also try to fulfill customer “satisfaction” through our transactions. I believe such sense of “gratitude” underpins the ideals of Rotary. I reassured the “diversity of Rotary” when I attended the Rotary International Assembly in San Diego, California, this January as one of the 532 District Governors from around the world. I was privileged to have a wonderful experience of unity among very diverse races and languages sharing our common goals.

 Rotary adopts “long-term strategies” today, based on the “five core values” reaffirmed a few years ago: first comes “service” which is the major element of our missions, then ”fellowship,” “integrity” which is our ethical code, “diversity” and “leadership.” There is also growing recognition on the “independence of each club.” I believe each Rotarian is the main actor of Rotary activities, and the Governor and Assistant Governor act as a “superintendent” to ensure smooth administrative management of the Clubs.

 Mr. Ron D. Burton, our new RI President for RY 2013-2014, has long engaged in polio eradication. The world has almost become polio-free and we aim to achieve complete eradication by 2015. We need to ask for your generous and continuous support.

 President Burton also encourages us to “make clubs with full of dreams.” We must facilitate communications with the younger generation, through further activating the Youth Exchange Committee and providing extensive follow-ups to Interact and Rotaract, as part of the wider “Rotary Family.”

 Membership of our District 2580 dropped below 3,000, thus I have set the goal for this RY to be “membership development and club service.” I want you to invite your friends by showing them your enthusiasm towards Rotary activities. Motivation of each one of you and the Club as a whole is the driving force for Rotary that will further recharge and refresh you.

 Before closing, let me make four suggestions as a District governor. Firstly, let’s “make an attractive Club” to retain our members. We must make our regular meetings more enjoyable to enrich our human relations. Let’s take actions to prevent withdrawal from membership, while encouraging new members to join.

 Secondly, we must “act locally, while we think globally.” There was the “Rotary Friendship Day” during the Assembly I attended. Rotarians wore their national costumes and presented dancing. Japanese ladies put on their kimonos and showed the Bon festival dance, “Tokyo Ondo.” We must give appealing presentations on Japan on the occasion of those international events.

 Thirdly, we must “foster the younger generation, who will shoulder future Rotary activities, through the Rotary Foundation or the Youth Programs.”

 Lastly, let us not forget to “respect the ethical code of our vocational service.” As business leaders, we are obliged to uphold it for all time.

 Let me ask for your generous understanding and cooperation for this RY that has just started.