General

Inertia, leadership and youths

I have been contemplating to talk to you on a number of things, perhaps too many, ranging from the very petty happenings around my life to the esoteric, from what I feel about our club, other clubs, our members and our district to how I see the war unfolding. I have been through this before when I was governor, normally when work caught up with me and when I could not decide between priorities. When it struck, I became less communicative, resulting in a longer break between letters. It was okay in the past because I had never committed myself to a schedule for my letters. Now that I have, it is somewhat different. Believe me, the pressure is there. I become even more respectful for those daily columnists, for their discipline, resilience and commitment. I was quietly happy therefore when Chief Editor was away, and I was looking forward to the long weekend to catch up on a number of things.

Well, the long weekend did not seem to be long enough. I did however manage to post on the Club Website all the issues of Kingspark News since Raymond Sin became President. Considering that I had little to no experience of doing this until recently, I feel justified to be happy with my achievement. Then there were other priorities, for example, I have not trailwalked for more than a few weeks, I have decided to support Lo King Man’s production, Il Trovatore, I have signed up for a day out in Lamma Island with a group of friends, I could not miss the Flag Raising Ceremony, and so on. The result was that I could not focus on this letter until now.

I opened the folder and clicked the latest letter. I found two paragraphs of an unfinished letter I began writing on 27 September, but which I aborted as soon as I found out that the Chief Editor had gone on holiday that same day. I offer no defence for the inertia, not even the obvious one that I could not have been the critical cause for the late release of the next issue of Kingspark News.

Herein lies a rather important principle, one that I had expounded in an issue of my Governor’s Monthly Letter. I was discussing the role of volunteers, Rotarians being all volunteers. As volunteers, we volunteer our time and talents to serve others. Volunteers worldwide set high standards for their work and would put in extra efforts and time to ensure that the work and hence the service they render others freely would be of a standard even higher than the work for which they are paid. In other words, the fact that we render our service freely would not and ought not entitle us to do so perfunctorily or at reduced standards, not if we wear a badge that symbolizes reliability and dependability, not if we call ourselves Rotarians, and not if we believe in Service Above Self.

Even without the recent tragic events, the world is changing all the time. I would like to believe that we have become Rotarians not only for the fellowship that we all can expect from each other, but more fundamentally, for the service that we would collectively and individually render our fellow human beings, and more importantly, that we would become better individuals in the process. Rotarians have changed the world before for the better, through helping to draft the United Nations Charter, through countless humanitarian and educational programmes, through our commitment to eradicate Polio and so on. Rotarians are going to change the world for the better again, but only if the individuals are committed to the professed Ideal of Service and are ready, willing and able to take up the responsibilities and go that extra mile, voluntarily and of their own freewill and accord.

Hong Kong observed the International Day of Remembrance on 29 September at the City Hall Auditorium. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive together with the eight religious leaders offered prayers and words on the occasion. Leaders representing the Catholic, Islam, Judaism, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i and Anglican spoke one after another and literally joined hands in prayers. It was something that does not happen very often. As I was sitting there, I wondered why the major service organizations could not do something similar in public to express their grief and emotion, to praise the valiant and the brave, and to offer condolences and prayers to the victims and their families.

Let me return to the two paragraphs I mentioned earlier. I was writing in relation to Law Week 2001, specifically on a Youth Leadership Training Programme organized by the Law Society of Hong Kong. The lawyers had designed a programme for the last two weekends in September and had invited 50 top secondary schools to nominate one or two students to go on the programme. I was invited to be one of the four panelists for a discussion on “What does it mean to be a good leader?” The event was to take place on 23 September, a Sunday morning.

I had thought that I was invited because I was known to be active in Rotary and Rotary was known to be serious in youth leadership training. Besides, I had relevant experience on youth policy from my last job. It turned out not to be quite so. I was invited because I worked for the Government and because the President of the Law Society is a good friend. I would return to this point in a while.

The other panelists were a consumer interest organization specialist, a young industrialist, entrepreneur and writer, and the Law Society President himself. I found out that these were all top students from band one schools. They were all self-motivated, well disciplined and reasonably articulate in English and Chinese. Each panelist spoke for 20 minutes, and there was a question and answer at the end. I recognized a few Interactors and the daughter of the Rotarian who told me the evening before that his daughter would be in the audience, which created some pressure. The event organizer (not Law Society personnel) assured us before the discussion that the students would not ask awkward questions. Indeed they did not, and how intellectually unchallenging! I hope they were not primed not to ask stimulating questions.

It was a pleasant morning. My only regret was having to miss the District Swimming Gala that was well supported by my club. I learnt that many members and their families had turned up and had a good time.

Back to the panel discussion, I had planned to draw on my Rotary experience, but since I was to represent the Government, I could only make a passing reference. It is always refreshing to be with young people, particularly the better ones. Too bad that there are not enough of them. As to the discussion theme, I hope I manage to get across the key message, which is that young people of today are to be leaders of tomorrow, whether we like it or not, and whether they like it or not. Leader positions are not advertised in the papers like job vacancies. One becomes a leader when one excels in the job he does and when opportunities beckon.

I think the Law Society should be congratulated for organizing a programme for young people in the Law Week. That is what I think an organization of public-spirited professionals should do. Rotarians are business and professional people. More importantly, we profess to be leaders in our business and professions. I therefore think there is scope for more involvement from Rotary for these and similar programmes. I might take the matter up with my friend and see whether Rotarians can take a more active role in next year’s programme. I see a role for Rotarians to do more for our youths in the community, and to be seen to be doing so.

Talk to you again next week.

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