General

Chair-days

My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

My Easter message last week drew responses from many of you. Thank you very much. You are of more value than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:31) A past president sent me the same quote from the James version, but I am particularly impressed by what Past Governor Raymond Wong did. He ran around town looking for a Knox version, but to no avail. Finally, he had his daughter searching around Nottingham Hill and the website, who then located a bookshop that would place her order for a 1998 paperback version. Meanwhile, Raymond found a 1954 version, probably the same one he used in Wah Yan as a pupil of the late Rev. Fr. Daly. If my letters can encourage more readers and Rotarians to read the Scriptures, I am more than willing to write more frequently and carefully.

Before I forget, I must share with you some long awaited good news. On 19 April, at 1013 hours, President Cinderella (RC of Guia) gave birth in Macau to a bouncing baby boy, weighing in at 3.79 kg. Mother and child are well. The astute Rotarian would know that that is the birth date of Paul Harris, in 1868. From now on, President Cinderella will no doubt remember this date and celebrate the anniversary in a Rotarian fashion. To mark the auspicious occasion, I am going to honour her son with a Paul Harris Fellow through a Matching Grant Project to be concluded between Guia and Kingspark, subject to the consent of course of President Cinderella.

Yesterday, 21 April, was World Youth Volunteers Day. I learnt it when I attended the Launching Ceremony for the new Universal Declaration on Volunteering organized by the International Year of Volunteers Steering Committee. The room at the Joint Professional Centre in Central was filled to the brim and people had to stand. I am sorry a few of you could not get in, and I can tell you that it was a very meaningful afternoon.

Today, 22 April, is World Earth Day. It has been since 1970 when former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a national “teach-in” to raise awareness about environmental issues. Some 20 million people across America participated on that day, and the rest is history. Our District has always been supportive of projects that seek to protect the environment. Our annual District Tree Planting Day has now become an institution and is always well attended, rain or shine. This year, we held it on 1 April, and once again, it was a great success. Guest of Honour for the occasion, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Lessie Wei referred to the 100 Sakura trees from Taiwan donated by clubs in District 3450 that her department was now nurturing in plant nurseries before they were to be planted in the Tai Mo Shan Country Park and other appropriate places. She also said that her department would plant 700,000 trees this year, while the business community would plant another 140,000 in various country parks.

Meanwhile, Rome will celebrate Earth Day with “car-free” days, when people will ride bikes and walk to work instead of driving. Maybe you would consider to create awareness of Earth Day in your clubs by encouraging members to ditch the cars for the week, but you are more than welcome to join me in the District delegation to Chongqing.

I am of course talking about the “Protect our Mother River” project. We have committed to helping our Mainland brothers and sisters to plant trees along the riverbanks of River Yangtze and the Yellow River. We have been discussing the project since the last District Visit to Beijing in May 2000. I also mentioned this in my State of the District address at the District Conference and at a number of Joint Presidents’ Meetings. Briefly, this is more than a China project as such. It is a project to help the environment to help us. It is a project to create awareness among members and the New Generations of the need to protect the environment and to enable them to feel and behave as global citizens. It is a project that would, in the long run, obviate the need for expensive and degenerate disaster relief. It is a project that would enhance Rotary’s image and public relations. And so on. I hope you and your members would play a part. There is still time to register with either Project Coordinator Stanley Mok (Hong Kong Sunrise) or District Secretary Kenneth Chow (Tsuen Wan). The District Delegation is leaving on 29 April for Chongqing and returning on 1 May.

The need to create awareness of flood protection can never be over-emphasized. One only needs to look at what happened to the Mississippi River last week. Homeowners along the upper Mississippi River have been watching the slowly rising water and keeping the pumps working overtime. The water had risen to nearly 26 feet last week across the river at East Dubuque, Illinois, surpassing the crest during the 1993 floods. The record is 26.81 feet. Set in 1965. In 1993, the state of Illinois bought out about 3,000 homes after flooding devastated part of the Mississippi Valley.

April is also Rotary’s Magazine Month. The Rotarian magazine has chosen April to launch the inaugural issue of a new design that provides a more stylized, contemporary look for the readers. I notice that quite a few of you have included in your Presidential Citation Certification Form that each club member has given a copy of The Rotarian magazine to a professional colleague who is currently not a member of a Rotary club. This is very good. I hope you continue the effort, regardless of whether that would help your successor achieve the 2001-02 Presidential Citation. For those clubs that have not been doing this, please consider doing so, starting now.

In the April issue of The Rotarian, President Frank urged Rotarians to create awareness and take action to enhance Rotary’s public image. He cited three objectives for doing so: it gains support for Rotary club projects; it attracts prospective members; and it inspires Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike to achieve higher levels of service. I would like to believe that the programmes of our last District Conference were designed to achieve just that. The non-Rotarian programme leaders, panelists and speakers at our Conference were unanimous that we had a great programme and a great conference. Those who attended the Governor’s Banquet in particular developed new perspective and a positive image of our organization and our members. We must continue to redouble our efforts though to enhance Rotary’s public image at club and at district levels.

Talking of Rotary’s public image, I attended the anniversary celebrations of three clubs over the weekend. They were all very good, most enjoyable, but different. I think annual balls or anniversary celebrations are great occasions to enhance Rotary’s public image at club and district level. With some planning, members can bring in friends and visitors, or better still, heavyweights. At the risk of being invidious, I would mention the annual charity ball of the Rotary Club of Wanchai. True to its theme, it was an evening of Hollywood Extravaganza. The Club had invited the legendary Nancy Kwan as a special guest, filmmaker Charles Wang and personalities frequently featured in the Hongkong Tatler. It was a very successful project not only because everyone had great fun and a great time and the Club raised a lot of money, but also because President Ada and her team had managed to use the occasion to say in public and to non-Rotarians what the Club did and would do for the community with the money raised. Congratulations to Ada and her team.

In my chair-days, I would reflect on my year as governor and the nice time I had with my Action Presidents and team members. John Phin’s Shakespeare Cyclopaedia and Glossary (1902) defined chair-days as “a time of repose; the evening of life.” Let me quickly add that I am not looking forward to my retirement as District Governor. I have said this rather often these days and I am now more than ever convinced that Rotarians never retire. For that matter, a volunteer never retires. He simply moves on to do something else. Governors come and go, but the world always needs service and hence Rotarians. A governor differs from the rest in the year he is governor only in the sense that he is required to serve differently in that year.

Richard Trench authored English Past and Present in 1855. He had thought that Shakespeare had invented the word chair-days, being such a beautiful name for those days of old age. He later admitted that he was wrong. Tomorrow, 23 April is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616). Some scholars believed that it was also Shakespeare’s birthday. Well, does it matter so much which date anybody was born? I only found out quite late my birth date, but I decide to use the one I invented when I was very young. I wish we all live to enjoy our chair-days.

Talk to you soon.

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