Mr John Wan

Continuity
United We Stand
(April 2000 Issue)

At the March Joint Presidents’ Meeting, Governor Dipo Sani and I presented a proposal to hold a District Installation at the end of this Rotary year, specifically on Thursday 29 June 2000. It will be in the format of an Intercity meeting during which Governor Dipo will pass on his baton to me, as will all club presidents to their successors.

A District Installation is not a new idea, even in this District. A number of Past Governors had organized such meetings to mark the change of leadership in the District, and participation by clubs and members had been voluntary. What is new this time are the whys and wherefores, and perhaps the format.

First, a little background. Every year around June and July, Rotary clubs in the District would organize special handover meetings. Many of these meetings were actually very pleasant occasions and fun. The problem is, nobody outside the clubs involved knew about these events, hence such events were not conducive to promoting Rotary’s image in the District. Moreover, very often, the outgoing and incoming governors had problems deciding which ones to go when they were held concurrently. Against this background, Governor Dipo and I tried the idea of a District Installation Meeting on many clubs during the Governor’s Official Visits to clubs early this Rotary year. The feedback was very positive. Indeed, all the clubs we talked to, without exception, agreed that it would be a move in the right direction.

Entered RI President-elect Frank Devlyn. When he presented the theme for 2000-2001 at Anaheim, when he urged Rotarians to create awareness and take action, he also called for greater involvement with our community in general and for us to be more proactive with our public relations initiatives in particular. In short, he has urged us to develop Rotary’s image more effectively. Frank Devlyn’s call has added new impetus to our plan to change the traditional way of organizing change-over meetings at club level. His call has spurred us into action. Our response is a District Installation that will be a highly visible and high-profile public event where all club presidents will be installed into office in a solemn, dignified, and memorable ceremony befitting an organization of leading business and professional people, of which we all are.

So far, so good. Indeed the arguments for this big and mega event were so overwhelming and convincing to ourselves that we never thought that it required selling. Indeed we had never imagined any Rotarians would say no, particularly after the sounding out exercise we conducted earlier with the leadership in many clubs. Perhaps we should have known better that one doesn’t always win when one is right; or perhaps we, and I in particular, could have had more lessons in public relations.

The result was not exactly a landslide in our favour as we had expected. A few presidents were not sanguine that their membership would agree to the proposal, citing costs and possible erosion of the club’s autonomy as reasons, while a president challenged it as undemocratic in that it had no regard for the clubs and members who did not want to attend. The debate was lively and some said afterwards that the proposal was controversial.

I would rather not rehash the arguments for or against the proposal, and would certainly not pass judgement on who are right or wrong. The bottom line is that we are holding this big event to mark a policy change on the way we have been handling public relations. Under the new covenant, we are to engage in effective public relations and on a proactive basis. We are all new to the game; and with hindsight, I could have presented the message better. If you think I have done a bad job, I apologize, but it would be wrong and unwise to discard the message if you don’t like the messenger.

It would be unrealistic to expect every Rotarian to turn up for the District Installation, but it would be a sad day for Rotary in general and for RI District 3450 in particular if not all the 48 clubs in the District were represented at the meeting. Attendance at the District Installation is a sign of solidarity within the District, for united we stand. Good attendance would be a show of force to the community which we have all professed to serve. It would enable Rotarians to stand up proudly and be recognized as people who care, people who believe in and hold high moral and ethical standards in their private and public lives, and people who are prepared to work selflessly for international peace and understanding in a seemingly faceless and materialistic world.

In the lead up to the big day, we would organize suitable publicity and arrange press briefings, including the preparation of a Press Kit, the issue of special newspaper supplements and holding a Press Conference on the day. Already, we have worked out the part of the ceremony involving 48 club presidents handing over the presidency to their successors. This will be the highlight of the evening, the whys and wherefores of the District Installation, and a hallmark of continuity in leadership.