Amid the buzz of conversation at club meetings worldwide, there are burgeoning hopes for a new year in which we will strive to “Engage Rotary”. But what does it mean to engage Rotary, and how should we go about doing it? In as early as 1911, when Rotary was not a fraction of the size it is today, Paul Harris already felt that, “The most urgent need at the present stage in the development of Rotary is not “more clubs” nor “larger clubs”, it is the evolution of a truer and stronger philosophy.” Paul Harris went on to emphasize that, “It is not only necessary to the permanency of the success of Rotary that its philosophy be idealized and standardized. It must also be practicalized and trued.

To engage Rotary, we need to think about how we can first internalize an ‘idealized and standardized’ Rotary philosophy, and second how we can make this philosophy ‘practicalized and trued.’ This means making our own daily lives the embodiment of Rotary values and the actualization of Rotary ideals.

While we have a dynamic service focus tailored to meet the needs of a constantly changing global environment, the pith, marrow, and heart of Rotary is both static and stalwart; our ideals have not changed since they were first set down by Paul Harris himself. Engaging the heart of Rotary is living in parallel with the fixed moral compass that orients us toward a life dedicated to “Service above Self”. The four cardinal directions of this compass are set by the four objects of Rotary, and by engaging Rotary, we seek to use these compass points as the beacons by which we direct not only our life’s course, but also our quotidian lives.

Each day we are immersed by countless opportunities for service. There is an old adage which tells us that, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”, and in our personal lives and through our clubs we all have at least one acquaintance that could use a helping hand. In our daily professional lives, we are granted the opportunity to be paragons of virtue and ethics in the workplace. We not only strive to serve others by our just and fair practices, but also by serving as moral exemplars. However, the lives we touch are not limited to those with whom we share ideals, interests, or nationality.

The English poet and cleric, John Donne, once said, “No man is an island”, which although an extension of his own personal theology, is a powerful statement transcending all faiths to express how inseparably intertwined we all are with those around us. While the service we do for our families, neighbors, and community may be most apparent, our connection with the international community is just an extension of the same thread that runs through all of humanity. Whether international or domestic, professional or personal, it is our service and commitment to the advancement of understanding and peace that makes us Rotarians.

Eugene Fong
District Governor