District Governor 2000-2001


Courage to Change

(March 2000 Issue)

In between parties and celebrations, and in between introspection, reflection and discussion on what is in store for the year 2000 and beyond, I hope you have reserved some space for Rotary and I hope you have reflected on the future of this reputedly largest service organization with which you are associated. In the light of my experience at RI’s 2000 International Assembly, let me share with you Frank Devlyn’s mission for us in the 21st Century.

RI President-elect Frank Devlyn told the governors-elect assembled at Anaheim Hilton that they were about to embark together with him on the most exciting journey of their Rotary lives, a journey that would surprise them, delight them, challenge them, and exhaust them, but most important of all, change them. Yes, he warned his team members that the experience would change them, for the better. He said that “in every district of the Rotary world, hundreds of people are waiting for someone to give them hope,” and went on to suggest that the governors-elect would be the persons who can bring these people hope.

Tall orders indeed, but I would like to believe that most of us have joined Rotary so that we can collectively change the world through promoting international understanding, goodwill and peace. “If a program or policy is not working, change it,” Frank Devlyn urged his audience; and assured them that “there is nothing to be lost from trying new ideas or new methods of doing things.” He specifically asked them not to be afraid of change. He then unveiled the theme for our Rotary year for 2000-2001, the very first theme of this century –


Frank Devlyn said that this simple, yet powerful theme will be our mission and will guide our efforts in all that we do. “And there is so much to do.”

Let us now pause for a little while before Frank Devlyn catches up with us. Let us reflect on the implications this theme would have on President Carlo Ravizza’s call for acting with consistency, credibility and continuity, in particular, continuity. You would recall that at the 1999 Taipei Rotary Institute, the President was questioned on whether he was worried that his successors would introduce themes that might affect continuity. His reply then was more or less that it won’t happen, adding that the vitally important thing to do was to bring in quality members in quantity to maintain the necessary continuity. The question is, whether Frank Devlyn’s mission for Rotarians in the 21st Century – to create awareness and take action – would adversely affect continuity in our Rotary world. My answer is no, an emphatical no. Let me explain.

The annual themes introduced by successive RI Presidents over the years reflect the emphases of the respective Rotary leaders. More specifically, these themes reflect how they interpret Rotary. They are the means to achieve the Object of Rotary, as opposed to the object itself. It follows that these themes by themselves do not and would not diminish or detract the will of the Rotarians worldwide to better service the people who need them. When he introduced the current year’s theme, President Carlo Ravizza did say, however, that he would not introduce new programs. Not only that, he urged clubs and districts to carry on the good work and projects of their predecessors and encouraged them to embark on multi-year projects.

There are actually sufficient similarities in our two Rotary leaders as far as the will to maintain continuity is concerned. To start with, Carlo Ravizza has described Frank Devlyn’s theme for 2000-2001 as “a wonderful example of continuity at the top leadership, because it builds logically on this year’s theme,” snd because “creating awareness starts with being consistent and credible.” On specifics, both Rotary leaders have said that there would be no new programs. They are both saying that the menu of service opportunities has already included ample Rotary programs and there is no need to introduce new ones. Both have placed strong emphases on membership development and membership retention, and in particular, bringing in quality members, or members who would make good Rotarians.

Very importantly, both have urged Rotarians not to be afraid of changes: Carlo Ravizza have been talking about adding two C’s to the three C’s in his theme, the Courage to Change; while Frank Devlyn has called upon his team to change a program or a policy that is not working. The courage to change as opposed to changing for changing sake is indeed the hallmark of leadership in this day and age. Rotary has been effective in solving yesterday’s problems. We now need solutions to solve the problems of today and the future. Sticking to past practices because they had worked in the past does not help. We need the courage to change, so as to insure our continuing relevance. We need to create awareness and take action with consistency, credibility and continuity. No more and no less.