In 1905, four Chicago businessmen forged a service organization that has changed the world.
But first, they agreed to put aside any contentiousness between themselves to focus on their goals of community service.
 
The (Non) Political Genius of Rotary’s Founding Fathers
The year is 1905. Theodore Roosevelt has begun his second term as POTUS. The Russo-Japanese War began the rumblings that would eventually topple the Russian monarchy. One of the most well known of the journalists who would come to be called The Muckrakers – Upton Sinclair - has published “The Jungle.” The European progression toward World War I had begun.
 
Out of this politically divisive milieu, four Chicago businessmen forged a service organization that has changed the world. The seeds of Rotary were born in 1900 after Paul Harris had witnessed the congenial manner with which a fellow businessman conducted himself among other business owners. Over the years, the commitment of our Founders to service, peaceful interaction, and integrity became codified into The Guiding Principles: The Object of Rotary, The Four Way Test and The Four Avenues of Service. But first, they agreed to put aside any contentiousness between themselves to focus on their goals of community service.
 
This brings me to one of the aspects of Rotary that I love best: we leave everything divisive outside the door of a Rotary meeting and bring the best parts of ourselves into it.  
We’ve taken on polio, poverty, hunger, potable water and illiteracy, and we’re gaining ground. We’ve accomplished so much, both locally and internationally, because we leave our politics at the door and work the problems.
 
This year we’re faced with the strangest election any of us have known. Exacerbating that is the 24-hour news cycle, the endless barrage of social media outrage and even our casual conversations. It’s easy to feel constantly on edge and fearful for the future. However, as I’ve listened to all the political banter around me, I remind myself that Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were ideological adversaries, yet were the best of friends. If these two could put aside their differences in the name of fellowship, the rest of us should be able to as well.
 
Let us remember that Rotary is a place where we may leave our fears for the future behind. It is a respite from all that separates us from the rest of humanity. In our meeting, we stand united to strengthen our community and improve conditions for people all over the world. Membership in Rotary is the belief in a future that holds promise for all of us. We have the satisfaction of knowing that our work saves lives. The Four Way Test is our guide. That is the genius of Paul Harris and the original Rotarians.
Your servant-leader,
Jo