My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,
I noticed early this morning that Rick King’s picture was already on center stage of the RI Website, more than 24 hours, East Coast time, ahead of his term. And why not? By convention, the president-elect is president after the international convention; and indeed some has said, after the international assembly at Anaheim.
So, my friends, how have your year been? I wonder what Joseph Chan is thinking or doing tonight. This is Past President Joseph of RC of Wanchai. He is taking up the presidency a second term. I cannot help thinking about that classic essay – If I could be Club President a second time – which I shared with you sometime ago, before you all became Action Presidents.
I have actually been planning for this last issue for some time, and I thought about what to say on the flight back yesterday. Should I say something funny, something erudite or something deep? Should I be brief or should I ramble on as I so often do?
This is not a farewell letter. I am not leaving the place or Rotary, and so are most of you. At the International Institute in San Antonio, Frank Devlyn was confronted by Institute Committee Chairman Robert Cerwin, in a friendly way of course, to answer the question, “How would you like to be remembered after your year?” The theme of the Institute, by the way, was “Creating the Path to a Bright Future.” President Frank first responded by reflex, with accompanying body language, “Like a nightmare, the soonest forgotten, the better,” Then he got serious after the expected laughter and said, “Well, I’d like to be remembered as someone who tried, someone who tried to create awareness and had taken action. After 1 July, I would go back to my club and do the jobs Rick King has asked me to do.” Let me quickly say that those may not be the exact words he deployed. They are simply my recollection or interpretation, but if I am asked the question, I will surely give a similar reply, but will be careful to replace Rick King with Johnson Chu.
Well, there is indeed a lot to be done, and so little time. The sequence Frank had asked his audience to do over and over again in San Antonio goes like this. He would ask, “What is our task?” to which the correct response would be, “Create Awareness, Take Action.” He would then say, “Because,” as the audience thundered with the response, “Mankind is Our Business.” It was fun.
At the Closing Plenary Session, the President was thanking everybody including of course his wife Gloria Rita. At this point, they put her on stage. As Frank was hugging and kissing her, she struggled for airtime with Frank and said, among other things, “It has been a great and marvelous year. Rotarians have been generous and marvelous wherever we went, but it’s time to go home.” Once again, those were not her exact words. Gloria Rita said them more gracefully. It was a touching moment.
Yes, it’s time to go home. Once again, Rosita and I thank all of you for all that you have done to make the year a difference for Rotary and for us. I hope it makes a difference for you personally and I hope that you are a better person than you started your year. The image of the migrating wild geese flying and honking in formation has now become stronger than ever. The lead bird leads as long as necessary and will make room for a stronger bird to lead when it feels tired, but will honk on the side in perfect formation. This is what leadership; collective leadership in particular, is all about.
Yes, the quest will go on. The quest is to follow the stars, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, to fight for the right, without questions or pause, and to be willing to march unto hell for a heavenly cause, knowing that if we are true to this glorious quest, the world will be better for this as we lay to our rest. And the world would be truly better when one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage, to fight the unbeatable foe, to reach the unreachable star and to dream the impossible dream.
I wish all your dreams come true. Take care and may God bless you all.