Welcome to the world of Rotary International. While you
may initially think of Rotary as a local group of interesting people who
meet weekly and hear a speaker, Rotary International is much more. It
began as and continues to be an exceptional service and social networking
institution in your community.
As a member of your Rotary Club you are a part of Rotary
International and as such you are welcomed at any meeting of a Rotary Club
around the world. Even though its headquarters is in Evanston, Ill. only
one-third of the world's Rotarians live in the US.
will quickly learn
the scope, terminology and operating methods of Rotary International (RI)
and its related non-profit funding organization called the Rotary
Rotary International has a number of specific programs
that connect Rotarians far beyond the city limits of your town.
RI operates under one President, one Board of Directors
and one set of policies and procedures around the world. You are a member
of a truly a world-wide organization.
A Brief Rotary History
The world's first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA,
was formed on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to
recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the
small towns of his youth. The name "Rotary" derived from the early practice of
rotating meetings among members' offices.
Rotary's popularity spread throughout the United States in the decade that
followed; clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York. By 1921, Rotary
clubs had been formed on six continents, and the organization adopted the name
Rotary International a year later.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving the professional and
social interests of club members. Rotarians began pooling their resources and
contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's
dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its principal motto: Service Above
Self. Rotary also later embraced a code of ethics, called The 4-Way Test, that
has been translated into hundreds of languages.
During and after World War II, Rotarians became increasingly involved in
promoting international understanding. In 1945, 49 Rotary members served in 29
delegations to the United Nations Charter Conference. Rotary still actively
participates in UN conferences by sending observers to major meetings and
promoting the United Nations in Rotary publications. Rotary International's
relationship with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) dates back to a 1943 London Rotary conference that
promoted international cultural and educational exchanges. Attended by ministers
of education and observers from around the world, and chaired by a past
president of RI, the conference was an impetus to the establishment of UNESCO in
An endowment fund, set up by Rotarians in 1917 "for doing good in the world,"
became a not-for-profit corporation known as The Rotary Foundation
in 1928. Upon the death of Paul Harris in 1947, an outpouring of Rotarian
donations made in his honor, totaling US$2 million, launched the Foundation's
first program --- graduate fellowships, now called
Ambassadorial Scholarships. Today, contributions to The Rotary Foundation
total more than US$80 million annually and support a wide range of humanitarian grants
educational programs that enable Rotarians to bring hope and promote
international understanding throughout the world.
In 1985, Rotary made a historic commitment to immunize all of the world's
children against polio. Working in partnership with nongovernmental
organizations and national governments thorough its PolioPlus
program, Rotary is the largest private-sector contributor to the global polio
eradication campaign. Rotarians have mobilized hundreds of thousands of
PolioPlus volunteers and have immunized more than one billion children
worldwide. By 2005 Rotary had contributed half a billion dollars to the cause.
As it approached the dawn of the 21st century, Rotary worked to meet the
changing needs of society, expanding its service effort to address such pressing
issues as environmental degradation, illiteracy, world hunger, and children at
risk. The organization
admitted women for the first time (worldwide) in 1989 and claims more than
90,000 women in its ranks today. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and
the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Rotary clubs were formed or re-established
throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Today, over 1.2 million Rotarians belong to
some 31,000 Rotary clubs in 166 countries.