Wilfrid J. Wilkinson
I wish that every Rotarian could have the opportunities to see Rotary in action that Joan and I have enjoyed over the past months. From India to France, Hong Kong to Brazil, the Philippines to Turkey, we witnessed Rotarians demonstrating, with great compassion and ingenuity, just how much Rotary Shares.
We saw incredible disaster relief efforts in Pakistan and had the chance to inaugurate one of seven schools being built there with contributions by Rotarians. In India, we surveyed the impressive results of Rotarian tsunami recovery projects. In Brazil, we visited a school supported by the Foundation of São Paulo Rotarians that offers academic and vocational education as well as a program for the hearing impaired. And we felt very proud when we saw what Houston Rotarians have done in establishing a four-star hotel for patients and families visiting the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Another of the year’s highlights was our North American membership conferences. These seven meetings drew many Rotarians eager to reverse the region’s downward trend in membership. They shared ideas and left energized to strengthen their clubs’ membership.
Peace conferences provided another source of great inspiration for Rotarians, who met in Bulgaria, India, Kenya, and Turkey to discuss the obstacles to peace in each of these regions and consider how Rotary clubs can offer practical solutions. In Canada and France, Rotarians organized conferences around the theme Peace Is Possible, drawing participants from neighboring countries to offer a valuable international perspective.
This month, we’ll come together in Los Angeles for another important Rotary meeting – our 2008 RI Convention. I hope that many of you will take advantage of this opportunity to experience a little of the international fellowship that I’ve been so privileged to enjoy as RI president.
Throughout my travels this year, I met many people who congratulated me on Rotary’s work to eradicate polio and to improve the quality of life in some of the world’s poorest regions. I was especially struck by the words of Olafur Grimsson, the president of Iceland, who said to me: “Rotary has the right answer. Your organization includes men and women on an equal basis, and you have members from many countries who represent every race, color, and creed. So what the world must do is have more Rotarians.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you all for your great work. Joan and I will never forget the 2007-08 Rotary year.
Wilfrid J. (Wilf) Wilkinson
President, Rotary International