A sure sign of having too much time on one’s hands is reading old Rotarian magazines. Mea Culpa!
But, in the process of browsing the scribblings of long dead Rotarians I have been struck by a certain familiarity with the topics they canvassed. In fact, many of the issues that consumed early Rotary consume us today and it may be that we can learn from them, or not.
However, I thought it may be an interesting column in our Bulletin to highlight some of these issues if for no other reason than to establish that we belong to a thinking organization that is not afraid of introspection and that is not afraid to develop and, if necessary, to change.
The best place to start is with the very first Rotarian magazine which was published in January 1911.
The editorial was written by (who else?) a certain Mr Harris and was titled ‘Rational Rotarianism’.
The substance of this inaugural article was about ‘tolerance’ (although in a way that only Americans could (and still can) the word became ‘toleration’.
What Harris said was (and I précis this), “ If, some day, I was to find myself looking into the eye of every living Rotarian, and I was told that I could have just one word to say, I would shout ‘Toleration’.
He went on to say…’If this Rotary of ours is destined to be more than a mere passing thing, it will be because you and I have learned the importance of bearing with each other’s infirmities, the value of toleration’.
Now, never let it be said that Paul Harris was taciturn. In fact he waxed generously lyrical for many, many, many words. So let me skip to conclusion.
Let me quote (almost) verbatim. “A grave responsibility lies on your shoulders and mine…Rotary is a huge, powerful machine (even back then!!). Unguided, it could thrash down the aisles of time a menace to all mankind. Well directed, it will become a humanizing instrumentality of which we need not be ashamed.”
I guess that if we remain tolerant of each other and of the communities in which we live and work and if we have a clear focus with generous and prescient leadership, all will be well with the world of Rotary.
In a small way I hope we will contribute in a way that Mr Harris would be proud of.