A Rotary convention is a powerful thing, and a first convention is an experience you never forget. My first was in Chicago, in 1980. That was the year I was president of the Rotary Club of Yashio. I thought we should learn more about Rotary, so I asked nine other members of my club to join me, and we traveled to Chicago together. We did not know what to expect from a Rotary convention. What we found was more than any of us had imagined.
That convention showed me Rotary, and changed me forever. It gave our club something to strive for. I came to that convention as a member of a Rotary club. I left it as a Rotarian. The feeling that entered my heart in Chicago is still there today.
I am glad I will have the opportunity, as an RI president from Japan, to be part of the convention in Portugal. Portugal and Japan have a history together that began in the year 1542. This was the year that a Portuguese boat landed on a southern Japanese island. The Portuguese sailors did not plan to come to Japan. Strong winds blew their boat off course. But it was a happy accident, and the beginning of a peaceful and prosperous relationship.
In 1993, Japan and Portugal celebrated 450 years of good relations. Portugal was the first European country visited by the Japanese, in the middle of the 16th century. And the long Portuguese presence in Japan has had a lasting effect on my country.
The Portuguese found Japan by accident. But it is no accident that Lisbon has been chosen for this convention. Lisbon is A Harbor for Peace. And peace is the theme of this convention, as it has been the theme between Japan and Portugal for nearly 500 years.
As Rotarians, we work toward peace in many ways. We do it through humanitarian service. We do it through our belief in Service Above Self. And we work toward peace simply by being who we are. Every year, when we come together for a Rotary convention, we see, for a few days, the world as it could be. We see people of all colors and cultures come together. We work to build a better world.
I hope you will join me, and your fellow Rotarians, as we celebrate this year of Peace Through Service together.