CHICAGO convention in 1910 progress was steady. Within one year there were
28 clubs in the United States. The welding of forces into a national unit
encouraged dreams of an international unit to include many, if not all,
countries. The next year when Winnipeg and London became members of the
association there were 50 clubs.
In 1913 a
tornado swept through Nebraska and destructive floods appeared in Ohio and
Indiana. The Rotary Clubs in those states, supported by those throughout
the nation, leaped into action rescuing and feeding people and animals,
and helping in the necessary rebuilding work. Rotary had met its first
great test as a service organization.
Then came the
first World War and the Rotary Clubs of the British Isles and Canada
proved their value in war time. When eventually the United States and Cuba
entered the war, the clubs of those countries were just as active in war
time service as those in Canada and Britain. Rotary's supreme purpose is
to serve; never was there service more appropriate than on this special
occasion. Rotary proved to be one of Uncle Sam's greatest assets. Rotary
was born in our land of freedom; it could have been born in any other land
of freedom; it could not have been born in a despotism. Some emotionally
excited members wanted to suspend our luncheon meetings during the war.
Wiser counsels prevailed. Rotary luncheons proved to be great centers for
the upkeep of morale-a place to meet, to plan greater service.
time Rotary conventions were held in 1917 and 1918. When civilization is
at hazard, other things must wait. Conventions were dedicated to war
joined with hearty zeal in Liberty bond campaigns, vacant lot gardening,
putting libraries in camps and cantonments; providing social fellowship
for soldiers in towns adjacent to their training centers. Rotary clubs
interested themselves in providing clothing, etc., for Europeans suffering
from the war. Very promptly after the declaration of war by Uncle Sam, the
then over 300 American Rotary clubs had a committee in Washington to offer
their cooperation. They were particularly interested to see that our boys
going into service were recognized not merely as "cannon fodder" but as
patriotic youths who should be made to feel at home in any city or town
near which they were encamped. (That was the background of the USO of the
Second World \Var.)
As World War
I drew to its close we were told by high government authorities that, of
all organizations which had loyally and patriotically responded to the
call of the government, none had exceeded the Rotary Clubs in promptness
or efficiency or in the accomplishment of results.
war years my ambitions for expansion to other countries were thwarted but
the number of clubs in the United States, Canada, Britain and Ireland, and
Cuba kept increasing and by 1919 there were nearly 500 Clubs in the United
States, 24 in Britain and Ireland, 23 in Canada, and we had a Club in
China and one in the Philippines. Within another year or two we had clubs
in Uruguay, Argentina, Panama, India, Spain, Japan, France, Australia, New
Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, and Peru.
the dove of peace fluttered painfully, exhaustedly home Rotary resumed its
normal functions. The war was worthwhile; it taught us the value of unseen
things; that liberty can never be dear at any price. Rotary had taken its
place among enduring world forces, among the invisible things of value
which cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Inspiration is a flame that
soon dies if not fed with the fagots of service. The service way out of
difficulties is the constructive way. There was much to be done in the
days of reconstruction.
In 1921 North
American Rotarians filled two ocean liners with delegates to the first
overseas Convention which was held in classic and beautiful Edinburgh,
city of culture, religion, education. After the close of that Convention,
Rotary swept over the continent of Europe. There was a sweep South also
through Latin America. World visions were becoming realities. As minds
expanded hearts also expanded to a conception of friendship to include all
men, toleration of all national and racial differences. Most of the signal
mistakes of history have been in the failure of diplomatists and statesmen
to realize that psychology influences the affairs of nations just as it
influences the affairs of individuals.
decade the world was upset by the great recession in business relations in
many countries and especially in the U. S. Men seemed to lose faith in
themselves. The stock market crashed, factories closed down, unemployment
was present everywhere. Many organizations in the United States lost
heavily in membership. It is pleasing to note that Rotary had a remarkably
small loss. Throughout the world Rotary clubs proved their value as morale
sustaining centers. Their meetings were fellowship spots where harassed
business men could give each other new courage.
Again the war
clouds gathered. Again the storm burst upon the world. The war-time
services of Rotary Clubs from 1939 to 1945 are too numerous to permit here
more than a passing reference. Wars of aggression made it necessary in
some countries for some Rotary Clubs to suspend-at least their active and
public operations but whenever they could succeed in doing so, they
continued to meet. In countries not waging aggressive war or not the
victims of invasion, the Rotary clubs knew what to do. They went into
action. They responded promptly and efficiently to the calls of their
Governments and the needs of their fellow countrymen. They were thoughtful
of and helpful to troops of allied countries training in their countries,
and to refugees who took shelter in them.
of the five hundred Rotary clubs of Great Britain recoiled from the shock
of the devastating air raids, but after having lost a few clubs and a few
members of other clubs, they came back stronger than ever. The feeling
among British Rotarians was that Rotary was not needed less by reason of
the war but was needed more. Rotary today in Britain is stronger, more
human, kindlier than ever before. All the shelling and all the bombing
could not prevent the British Rotarians from finding times and places to
Rotarians never quit except as they were forced to do so by the invader in
the occupied part of their country. Charles Jourdan-Gassin, who was our
host at the 1937 convention in Nice, France, continued to serve as
Rotary's district governor all through the war. In various countries
Rotarians were so determined to maintain their fellowship that they risked
the punishment of the invader and held meetings secretly.
plenty of thrilling incidents to be remembered as part of Rotary in
war-time. A Polish Rotarian, formerly a director of Rotary International,
walks two miles to the American embassy through the bombs falling on
Warsaw to send what may be his last greetings to the secretariat in
Chicago. Danish Rotary Clubs emulate the courage of their King and
continue their meetings in spite of the Nazi occupation. The Rotary Club
of Manila meets on Bataan after their city has been occupied and Carlos
Romulo escapes to America to tell the story. Out in China the Chungking
Rotary Club meets every week no matter how many bombs come pouring down.
In Calcutta, India, a district Rotary Conference goes on even under
bombing and fears that the invaders may be close at hand.
Italian and Japanese Rotarians found it impossible to continue meetings
when their governments had entered or were preparing to enter upon
programs of aggression and war, but no one doubts that the spirit of
Rotary has persisted among many men of good will in those countries as it
certainly did in the subsequently occupied territories even though club
meetings were suspended.
The war has
had a stimulating effect upon the extension of the movement in the
unoccupied countries. Losses in some war-casualty countries have been
offset by gains in other countries. In the United States there was still
ample room for expansion. However, the burden of keeping up extension had
been lifted from the shoulders of Rotarians of the United States by those
of Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba and the South American
countries sharing the responsibility.
I know of
none who doubts that when international affairs become stabilized, Rotary
will be re-established throughout Continental Europe. District Conferences
are already being held in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland and
former Rotarians of other European countries are patiently biding their
time. Rotary cannot be permanently blacked out by despotic fiats.
trees which I have planted in Germany, Estonia, Finland, Norway, China,
and Japan may have been laid low through the ravages of war but memory of
them and of their purpose remains ever green. The reconstruction of Rotary
throughout Europe is now being well planned and the flood of new clubs in
far away nations has gained amazingly.
non-governmental organization has received such courtesies from
Governments as have the officers and the member clubs of Rotary
International. Conventions and conferences held in Europe and Asia have
been given special privileges, have been inaugurated by Kings and other
Heads of Government; special issues of postage stamps have been printed;
traveling Rotary International Presidents are invariably welcomed to
audiences by the Heads of Government in the countries they visit.
Some of my
friends insist I should mention certain honors that have been conferred
upon the writer. I shall do so only as offering evidence that the
Governments and institutions which conferred them were thereby seeking to
express their appreciation of the value to society of the Rotary movement.
They were accepted by me as honors conferred upon Rotary. They are: Doctor
of Laws (University of Vermont), Silver Buffalo Award (Boy Scouts of
America), Order of Southern Cross (Brazil), Order of Merit (Chile), Order
of Merit (Ecuador), Order of Cristobal Colon (Dominican Republic), Officer
of Legion of Honor (France), Order of the Sun (Peru), Doctor honoris causa
(College of Law, Lima, Peru). Similar decorations have been bestowed by
various countries upon a score of presidents and other officers of Rotary
war period Rotary clubs not only met and served their countries and
mankind, they not only responded to the challenge of war, but farseeing
Rotary leadership in all lands knew the war eventually would come to an
end. There was no question but aggression would be repelled and freedom
re-established. While helping to accomplish this Rotarians were giving
thought to constructive postwar activities. The First World War opened our
eyes to the futility of emotionalism. Far more dependable grim
determination has now taken its place. There must be a better world
organization than the League of Nations. There must be less selfishness;
more of the Rotary ideal of thoughtfulness of and helpfulness to others.
several years Rotary International has had a committee on post-war
activities, studying the problems that divide men and those that unite men
and what must be recognized in every country as the rights and the duties
of its citizens. This has been done so that Rotarians may be better
prepared to make their contribution to what must be done by mankind to
prevent future wars.
past ten years hundreds of Rotary clubs in the U. S. have conducted some
two thousand institutes of international understanding bringing to their
communities hundreds of capable speakers, from both the U. S. and various
other countries, to present and discuss before public audiences of from
200 to a 1000 people the current factors of international affairs. The
total attendance to date at these institutes is something like 1,500,000.
A fine accomplishment in adult education! And in addition these speakers
have been used to address high-school assemblies totaling about 3,500,000.
it was not surprising that Rotary International was invited by the United
States Department of State to send consultants and associate consultants
to the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San
Francisco in May, 1945, and in all eleven Rotarians served in one or the
other of these capacities. The record indicates that they made a very
definite contribution to the thinking of the official delegates who were
charged with developing the charter. Edward H. Stettinius, Jr., who was
then Secretary of State of the United States, wrote:
invitation to Rotary International to participate in the United Nations
Conference as consultant to the United States delegation was not merely a
gesture of good will and respect toward a great organization. It was a
simple recognition of the practical part Rotary's members have played arid
will continue to play in the development of understanding among nations.
The representatives of Rotary were needed at San Francisco and, as you
well know, they made a considerable contribution to the Charter itself,
and particularly to the framing of provisions for the Economic and Social
addition, Rotarians were also there as delegates from their nations and
therefore as active participants in the Conference. Mr. Thomas A. Warren
of Wolverhampton, England, this year's president of Rotary International
that seven chairmen of national delegations at the San Francisco
Conference, and a score more of members of the delegations, were Rotarians
is a visible sign that the world is hungering for our simple mission." He
goes on to say that "Rotary's vast program of institutes of international
understanding, carrying the good will message to millions of high school
students and adults and the lectures, radio programs, literature, fireside
discussion groups, etc. has a most obvious effect on public opinion."
appraisal coming from one of high rank among educators in Great Britain is
very heartening to Rotarians of sixty nations throughout the world.
considers education the only permanent solvent of international
difficulties. He contends that howsoever capable and reliable leaders may
be, their painstaking efforts to avert war are frequently frustrated by
misinformed and emotional citizenry; that the only safe way is to bring
general education to highest levels.
Charles Steinmetz, wizard of mathematics and the world's foremost
electrical engineer, was once asked by Roger Babson to state what line of
research such as radio, aeronautics, power transmission, etc., in his
estimation promised most for humanity. His answer was that the greatest
promise was not in any coming invention but in spiritual forces, the
greatest power in the development of men. He then stated that men would
eventually find that material things do not bring happiness and that when
they realize that fact the world will advance more in one generation than
it has in the past four. This statement by the great scientist may seem an
extravagant expression but Steinmetz was not given to the use of
extravagant terms. Exactitude was one of his most marked characteristics.
What might spiritual forces accomplish? They might perhaps find a way to
avert war. What invention could compare in value with the finding of a way
to everlasting peace?
immemorial the greatest of the great have proclaimed by word and deed
their adherence to the doctrine which Rotary has summed up in the words,
"Service Above Self." Who shall say that the Rotary goal is unattainable?