Rotary District 5280 Governor Greg O’Brien is visiting all 62 Rotary Clubs in his district.  On September 21 he visited the Malibu Rotary Club, and after listening to Malibu Rotary Club board members tell him what the club was doing, it was his turn to tell club members and visitors the message he has been bringing to each club he visits.  His message is to “Imagine Rotary.”
Greg explains that his inspiration for this came when he was at the training session for District Governors that all district governors attend before they become district governors, just as all Rotary Club presidents must attend PETS (President Elect Training Seminar) before they become Rotary Club presidents.  

In the lecture hall in the hotel where the District Govenor Elects had convened there was a large sign on the wall with just one word “imagine.”  During the days that seminar lasted Greg asked people about the sign.  Was this something made for the District Governors?  Where did it come from?  One of the hotel workers said it may have been left over from a previous group having an event at the hotel.

Greg couldn’t get the “imagine” sign out of his mind. What was he supposed imagine? He thought about how previous Rotary leaders imagined.   He decided to adopt it as his personal theme when he became Governor of Rotary District 5280.  He used it when he addressed PETS, has used it each month in the District newsletter, and each club visit.

In the July Rotary District newsletter Greg wrote under his Imagine Rotary column:  “In 1919, a young artist sat at his desk in Kansas City, Missouri, where he had been practicing drawing animals. One day, he fancifully drew a picture of a mouse. Then he imagined the mouse standing upright on two legs. He then dressed his upright mouse in a pair of red shorts with suspenders, a pair of oversize tan shoes, and white gloves. The artist imagined a pet for his mouse, and he drew a picture of a dog with a long skinny tail. Then he imagined a girlfriend to keep the mouse company, so he drew a female mouse in a polka dot dress and a big bow on her head and oversize red high heal shoes. The artist, of course, was Walt Disney. From this one man’s imagination came a motion picture company. Then he imagined theme parks, and, well, you know the story. Disneyland and Walt Disney World employ an entire department of engineers, artists, and designers who are called the Disney Imagineers. they would bring to millions touched by their boundless creativity and perseverance. There is no Rotary club in this district with only four members. Yet that is what Paul Harris and his friends started with in Chicago. Their club grew because it invented itself from the ground up.

“In Rotary, we talk about growing membership as though it is some complicated and daunting task that few are lucky enough to achieve and sustain. Membership is not a task at all. It is the result that happens when clubs continue to reinvent themselves with new activities, creative programs, and attention to the satisfaction levels of their own current members. When current members are happy, they bring guests to Rotary. When they are not happy, or are embarrassed to share their club with a friend because they think the meeting may be poorly organized or boring, they don’t bring guests.”
Greg told President-Elects: “Out of our imaginations, we have the power to do what Walt did with a mouse wearing red pants and suspenders, and what Paul did by inviting three friends to have lunch. Simple things created and executed well by people who understand the power of imagination remain at the heart of all progress. Let us Imagine Rotary together. Start today. Keep it going. Disney believed “if you dream it you can build it.” In A Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner was told, “Build it and they will come.” I promise you that this is true. Imagine Rotary and then start building.”

Greg told us how each generation of Rotarians could imagine and build on the successes of the early Rotarians.  

The first gathering of the young businessmen who were to form what became the first Rotary club happened at the office of attorney Paul Harris on Thursday evening,  23 February 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. Young Harris, fresh from a wild five years as a reporter, actor, cowboy, seaman, granite salesman, fruit picker and hotel clerk, five years building a successful law practice, then had an idea. It was regarding observations of success and respect which could come from organizing professional acquaintances. More years past. He had given this much thought by the time he and Silvester Schiele walked over to Gus Loehr's office, in Room 711 that cold winter night in 1905, almost 9 years from his arrival in Chicago.  Several weeks later, Schiele was elected the first president of Rotary when the meeting was held in his office. Harris suggested several names, one of them being "Rotary." In 1907 they had their first community service project, building a “public comfort station” in Chicago near City Hall for men and women. 
In 1908 a second  Rotary club was formed in San Francisco California, U.S.A. by businessman Homer Wood. Paul Harris had asked Chicago Rotarian, Manuel Munoz, who was being sent to San Francisco by his employer, to "spread the word" about Rotary. The timing was perfect. San Francisco businessmen needed a boost. It has been just two years since the devastating earthquake of 1906 which nearly destroyed the city.

By 1910 there were 16 Rotary clubs and the first Rotary convention was held in Chicago where  The National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. Paul Harris was elected president of the Association and served two terms. Rotary "principles" were adopted in the form of five objectives. This was later changed to four:
These principles have been developed over the years to provide Rotarians with a strong, common purpose and direction. They serve as a foundation for our relationships with each other and the action we take in the world.


The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:
  • FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.


By 1912 50 Rotary Clubs meet in Duluth with delegates from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and the organization becomes "The International Association of Rotary Clubs." London joins the same year as the 50th club. 5,000 members. Paul Harris is named President emeritus.

In 1917, Arch C. Klumph, Rotary's sixth president, proposed to the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the creation of an "endowment fund for Rotary. . . for the purpose of doing good in the world in charitable, educational, and other avenues of community service." A few months later, the endowment received its first contribution of $26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, Missouri, USA. This was the beginning of the Rotary Foundation. 

In 1932, Herbert J Taylor, a member of the Chicago Rotary Club, was CEO of the Chicago Jewel Tea Company, which delivered packaged groceries in  house to house sales. This business was successful when others weren’t. A company that was about to go bankrupt, Club Aluminum, asked Herb to help them. He decided to leave the successful company to help the company that was going under, even though it meant he was only going to be making one fifth the salary he was currently making.  He felt sorry for all the people at Club Aluminum who were going to become unemployed. 

Herb was to write later: “”To win our way out of this situation, I reasoned we must be morally and ethically strong. I knew that in right there was might. I felt that if we could get out our employees to think right they would do right. We needed some sort of ethical yardstick that everybody in the company could memorize and apply to what we thought, said, and did in our relations to others.
So one morning I leaned over on my desk, rested my head in my hands. In a few moments, I reached for a white paper card and wrote down that which had come to me – in twenty-four words.”
When a company advertisement was placed before Herb, declaring his aluminium product as “the greatest cooking ware in the world”, Herb simply stated “We can’t prove that”. The advert was rewritten simply stating the facts.
Herb’s heads of department belonged to different religions and all found no incompatibility with their respective faiths. Thus, the test was “for any man to take as arises”.
The most significant and practical example of the test in action concerned an incident involving a Printing contract. One local printer won an order from Herb’s company beating all other tenders. The printer, however, soon realised that he had under-estimated his quote by $500. Legally, Club Aluminium could ignore the printer’s appeals and compel him to fulfil his side of the contract. Club Aluminium was deeply in debt and had acted in good faith but Herb asked his board to reconsider and pay the printer the extra $500. Remember the second line of the test, he told his fellow directors, - “is it fair to all concerned?”
Club Aluminium’s future grew brighter and brighter and in five years had pulled itself out of the red. Perhaps, the test had real, practical benefits.

What Herb came up with is the 4 Way test, which adopted by Rotary International January 1943:



The Four-Way Test is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:
Of the things we think, say or do
  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Greg told us about what happened to Rotary in Germany in the 1930s when the Nazis took over. Because of the things that Rotary stood for, such as “The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service,” was not compatible with Hitler’s Nazi doctrine Rotary district 71 in Germany was dissolved. 
During the war period Rotary clubs not only met and served their countries and mankind, they not only responded to the challenge of war, but farseeing Rotary leadership in all lands knew the war eventually would come to an end. There was no question but aggression would be repelled and freedom re-established. While helping to accomplish this, Rotarians were giving thought to constructive post war activities. The first world war opened our eyes to the futility of emotionalism. Far more dependable grim determination has now taken its place. There must be a better world organization than the League of Nations. There must be less selfishness; more of the Rotary ideal of thoughtfulness of and helpfulness to others.
So for several years Rotary International has had a committee on post-war activities, studying the problems that divide men and those that unite men and what must be recognized in every country as the rights and the duties of its citizens. This has been done so that Rotarians may be better prepared to make their contribution to what must be done by mankind to prevent future wars.
In 1945 Forty-nine Rotarians help draft the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. Many of the delegates from around the world were also members of Rotary clubs.
'The first meeting of the UN took place in London on the 16th January 1946, hosted by Rotary  District 13 at the Caxton Hall, presided over by RI President Tom Warren, who declared it to be the 'touchstone for a gesture of international goodwill unique in the history of Rotary'.
President of RIBI, Tom Benson said 'UN is a new beginning in international co-operation to make peace; Rotary, wherever established, is pledged to the ideal of service to mankind in international affairs'
In 1947  Rotary started the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship program which allows college graduate students to study abroad for cultural exchange and to build goodwill, and better international peace and friendships.
The object of Rotary can be summed up in service, ethics, international understanding and world peace.
High on the list of Rotary objectives is peace and conflict resolution.  After 9-11 RI President Rick King asked the Secretary General of the UN “What can Rotary do?” We speak Rotarian. Greg asks us to talk about what unites us.  The 4 Way Test defines us. We want to build better goodwill and better friendships.
The world needs more Rotarians!