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Rotary: A Gift to the World, and A Gift to the Member

President of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Tom Griffin

One of the benefits of continuing to meet weekly by Zoom is that the Rotary Club of Leicester Novus can attract inspirational speakers from further afield.

President Sarita introduced Tom Griffin, President of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland, whose home is near Ipswich. He started his 35-minute talk by saying: “Ask yourself ‘Why am I a Rotarian?'” He answered his own question by saying: “For me, it was 1. To do something worthwhile, to give something back and 2. to expand my circle of acquaintances.”

For Tom Rotary was, when he joined 36 years ago and still is: Service and Fellowship. He said that attending international Rotary conferences gave him the chance to meet friends friends he hasn’t yet met.

He said at such events he realised the power of Rotary and that it was not, as some say, irrelevant. In terms of disease and poverty, he said, Rotary is definitely NOT irrelevant. Only Rotary, he said, has the ambition, the reach, the capacity to commit to ending polio. “Rotary works,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that Rotary is a truly global family, he said. It’s a fellowship of people with a commitment to maintaining high ethical standards. The public response to the pandemic has demonstrated an appetite for giving service. Social media has exploded in popularity, demonstrating that people want to belong to a community.

But, said the leader of the 50,000 Rotarians in 1,700 clubs across Great Britain and Ireland, “The traditional model is broken. Too often we are trying to fit or squeeze potential members into the traditional model which worked in 1905 (the year that Paul Harris and three friends formed Rotary)”.

It is hands-on service that attracts people to join Rotary. Raising money should not be core, our reason for existing.

“Rotary has adapted well to new ways, but what will happen after COVID?” he asked.

“We owe it to the world, to future-proof Rotary,” he said.

Rotary is a gift to the world ― and a gift to its members,” he said. We should pass it on.

Tom spent half an hour answering questions from the 19 Rotarians, some from other clubs in the area. Most of the questions related to how Rotarians can tackle the decline in membership.

President Sarita Shah ended the meeting with the traditional toast: “To Rotary Fellowship and Peace The World Over.”

In honour of our guest speaker’s birthplace, one member raised a glass of Scotch whisky.

Who knows what was in the homely mugs held by the other Rotarians? Tea? Well, maybe some of them! Another advantage of Zoom meetings attended from home is that there is no problem of drink-driving.


If your would like to read a more considered view of Tom’s experience of Rotary fellowship, please click here

Last edited: 21:30 on Thursday, 20.08.2020