Growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn., my brothers and I learned young to work hard. It was a lesson taught to us by our father, who had come to the United States, alone, as a teenager. He wanted our lives to be better and easier than his had been; he wanted to give us the education and opportunities that he had missed. We always knew, when he came home at 8 o'clock in the morning after working a night shift at the paper mill, that he was doing it for us.
Looking back, through the prism of many years, I see in my father's hard work not only an expression of his love for us, but the universal desire of each generation to care for and lift up the next. And looking back at this year of service in Rotary, I see that desire reflected in each of us who have chosen to be part of this great organization. It is natural for parents to want to make things better for their children. Through Rotary, we can do so much more: We can make things better, not only for our own children, but for all children. We have the opportunity to care for and lift up those who need us the most – whether they are in our own community or on the other side of the world.
As Judy and I have traveled the world for Rotary over the last two years, we've been reminded, again and again, of what motivates us in Rotary: the simple desire to be of assistance, to give a helping hand to those who need it. Whether it means building a blood bank in Uganda, delivering an X-ray machine to a village in Guatemala, or taking care of refugees in Lebanon, Rotarians are doing what is needed most for the people who are most in need. They're working hard for the communities they care about, helping the people of those communities lead better lives.
To me, that is the essence of Rotary: that desire to be of assistance, that willingness to work for the good of others. In Rotary, when someone needs help and you can give that help, you don't walk away. You don't turn your back. You say, I'm here for you. I'll do whatever I can. And I know that whatever I do, I'm not doing it alone – I'm doing it with Rotary Serving Humanity.