There’s been a lot of talk about the new Rotary Logo. While I don’t want to get into the details of the design, its colors, or its use here, I’ve used the concept of ‘Rotary’ as an abstraction previously, and feel that this tangible logo is a useful starting point from which to trace through some of our previous topics and regress back to what Rotary is, which is precisely what I would like to underscore here.

When we spoke of ‘Engaging Rotary’, we mentioned that our dynamic service focus, while tailored to meet the needs of a constantly changing global environment, is contrasted by static and stalwart ideals which have not changed since they were first set down by Paul Harris himself. We said that engaging Rotary is living in parallel with the fixed moral compass that orients us toward a life dedicated to “Service above Self”, with the four cardinal directions being set by the four objects of Rotary. We concluded that engaging Rotary is utilizing these compass points as beacons to direct both our life’s course and our quotidian lives. But while these cardinal points give us direction, they are not what Rotary is.

When we spoke of the “Golden Rule”, we further alluded to the substance of Rotary, however eluded its essence. That month, we were reminded by Paul Harris that the application of the Golden Rule is what sets up apart as Rotarians, and took it upon ourselves to ask if it was the application of the Golden Rule that is the defining characteristic that we consider first and foremost in our Rotary efforts, or if we are more likely to gauge our progress by attendance records and the success of our publicity events. We conceded that while such measures have substantive value and are more readily quantifiable than the flourishing of an ethos, they are poor proxies for the sublimity of the Rotary mission. While true statements, in defining the nucleus of Rotary, we still fell short.

However, just last month when I discussed the pride-induced growth spurts I experience when addressing the new generations, I brought up some of the commonalities that I see between us, of the old guard, and those yet rising up in the ranks. There, we hit the nail on the head.

I said that we all shared the Rotarian collective commitment to conscience: A conscience of goodwill. We then reflected on how Rotary has shaped us. We considered how we have learned, embraced, and incorporated Rotary ideals into our own personal ethos through service and club activities, and concluded that Rotary isn’t just about making the world a better place, but rather making us better people. This conscience of goodwill inspires us to do service, and doing service further fortifies our conscience of goodwill. Paul Harris said, “Good works are not all there is in Rotary; there is invisible power; it is the power of goodwill. Some of the most powerful forces in the world are invisible…Even the air we breathe is invisible and yet it sustains life…”. Therefore, the nucleus of Rotary is the invisible power of goodwill.

So, our friends in public relations have no simple task ahead of them. Their efforts at defining and explaining Rotary to those who haven’t had the extraordinary privilege of the experience are like the vain attempts of describing the beauty of a sunset to a blind man; it is a task in visualizing the invisible. However, our task as Rotarians is not any easier. We must learn how to harness, foster, and pass on the invisible power of Rotary every day.