Out of Chicago

I had hoped to write to you from Chicago. I couldn’t. So many things were happening and I simply couldn’t find time for doing so. Now, in the quiet township of Blois along La Loire, a picturesque river flanked by numerous chateaux, I have this urge to share with you a few things about the Convention while they are still fresh on my mind.

I would start by concluding that the centennial convention held in Chicago was a big success. The Host Committee has done well in publicizing the Convention and Rotary within the city and should be congratulated for so doing. It was attended by over 41,000 from 161 countries. Our District was represented by over 140 participants, mainly from Hong Kong. Later in the year, RI would issue the convention proceedings, at US$ 7 per copy including postage. I suggest that would be good value and that you should seriously consider ordering your copies now regardless of whether you had attended, as a souvenir album of the centennial convention. RI has billed it as a must for all club libraries, a perfect souvenir of an historic occasion and an ideal gift for members who couldn’t be there.

Our District fielded a float for the Centennial Parade held before the Convention Opening. I had planned to attend, but unknowingly I had signed up for sergeant-at-arms duties and was assigned work that morning at the registration hall. It was hard work. The real sergeants tried hard to keep order, but there were too few volunteers around. Indeed I found myself the only person with the black hat during most the session. I learnt afterwards that the District float was well received and more importantly the over-one-hundred who joined the parade had a good time. Indeed, that was one of the two main occasions when anyone from the District would meet the most of each other from the District, the other one being the dinner held the night before in China Town, which unfortunately I could not attend as well because I had signed up for at least three others for the same evening and in the end had chosen to attend the reunion of the Frank Devlyn Amigos. Because I missed both occasions, I had to rely on Fate and chances to meet them.

I am happy that I met a good number of the group from the District, though not all, very often in circumstances that I least expected, which had made the reunions more spontaneous and happier.

Meeting people and putting names and faces together are perhaps two of the main reasons why people go to conventions again and again. For many Rotarians, the conventions could be the only once-a-year occasion for meeting many of their friends overseas. I certainly appreciated this very much in Chicago, perhaps more than most people. I had missed out the last three conventions even though I had registered for them, because on two occasions my wife was not well at the time and on the third, the dates crashed with my son’s commencement. In Chicago, I met up with quite a few Rotarians from districts in Canada, the United States and Europe, again in the most bizarre circumstances and when I least expected. The joy, happiness and spontaneity of such meetings and the emotions from all sides truly and fully epitomized the meaning of fellowship in general and international fellowship in particular. Sometimes, such reunions blocked traffic, and very often led to meeting more new friends. I can never have more of such meetings.

One feature of the Chicago Convention that deserves special mentioning is the audio and visual effects deployed in the plenary sessions. They are perfect illustrations of how technology can help focus the mind, imprint ideas and bring home messages more effectively and efficiently. Audio-visuals must have added power, spirits and dynamism to the key note speeches and helped to bring out the best in the speakers and the audience. Still on speeches, I cannot even begin to describe how powerful and ecstatic some of them are and I would only refer you to the convention proceedings when they are published.

One message came out strongly from the interviews and the speeches. Rotary must remain young to be more relevant and useful to the world. It follows that Rotary must work more closely with women and young people to regain its youthfulness.

Still on speeches, the Convention Committee had invited Dr Rosanna Wong to speak in the Rotary Foundation Alumni Reunion Seminar. Dr Wong of course is the Executive Director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youths and a household name in Hong Kong with an impressive public service record, but more importantly, she was an outstanding Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar sponsored by the District and has since been a good friend of many clubs and Rotarians in the District. It being not a plenary session, she spoke without any audio visual aids, but that had not reduced her eloquence nor the forcefulness of the message she had sought to put across. She was congratulated left right and centre after her presentation by many on the scene including Foundation Trustees Chairman Carlo Ravizza. Dr Wong had once more helped to put Hong Kong on the world map.

One other feature is the distance convention goers in Chicago must walk between sessions. The walking was of course good exercise on the one hand and had provided excuses and new jokes on the other. “We are making up for the miles we missed out on the Race to the Finish Walk,” seemed to be a popular one.

There are many other features worth discussing, but I would stop here and leave you to find out more from others who were there. Suffice it to say that it had been a rather eventful week for me, so much so that I could hardly find time to see the city or to visit a few friends living in Chicago, which I think would provide me an excuse to visit this great city again.

Talk to you later.

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