Posted by Mike Poznanski on Jun 27, 2017
Some speeches are good, I believe this speech from our new President Mike is Outstanding.  Thank you Mike  [It is worth the read I promise you] 

Fellow Rotarians and Guests

I don’t own a cat or a dog, and I never have.  I don’t own a ferret or a fish, or a parakeet or a budgie.  But on a rainy weekend in late February, after driving back and forth to Seattle and being disconnected from the Canadian wifi and cell signal for nearly 3 days, my phone buzzed as I crossed the border.  There was a message from my credit card company flagging me for fraud because I’ve never once had any dog or cat related expenses, and suddenly coming up on my account were several items with the description of PETS.

PETS of course is an acronym for President Elect Training Seminar, and one of the activities at PETS is to meet fellow Rotarians from the whole area stretching from northern California to Alaska.  And this year there were several sessions devoted to membership, focusing on how we can attract new members to clubs.  A common exercise in those sessions and a good icebreaker when meeting fellow Rotarians was to think about why you joined Rotary and why you stay.

Let me share you my story by re-introducing you to another lawyer you should all be familiar with by now.  Paul Harris founded Rotary in 1905 in Chicago.  According to an interview by Leland Childs, a radio commentary from Alabama, Harris said that his intention with beginning the club was that he could make social friends out of at least some of his business contacts.  He figured that if he was going to be doing business with these people he might as well hang out with them too.  Not a bad idea, but not necessarily the same reason I joined Rotary.  I wasn’t looking for a social club, but I was looking for business connections.  When I joined the law firm of Davidson Lawyers in Vernon BC, one of the partners told me I had to sign up with one of the four Rotary clubs in the city.  And, since three of the other lawyers had already placed themselves on three of the other clubs, I was left with the fourth, a breakfast club that met on Tuesday mornings.  But business contacts and breakfast paid for by my employer wouldn’t be enough to hold my attention for long.

According to the Paul Harris interview I read, Harris quickly learned that the fellowship of business contacts could lead to something greater.  He said in that interview:

“It seems to me that one of the outstanding successes of Rotary has been the welding together of representatives of almost every nation in the world, regardless of politics, religion, or creed. You see, as the Rotary ideals of friendship and service to others spread rapidly from country to country, it soon became evident that Rotary could be a potential source for the development of international goodwill.  Thus through its worldwide fellowship of business and professional [individuals] who are bound together in their devotion to the ideal of service, Rotary has endeavored to encourage and foster progress in the advancement of international goodwill, understanding and peace and not only among its own members, but among all the peoples of the world.”

Harris tuned the fellowship and gathering of community leaders into action.  And so did the club I had joined.  We participated in community events, held free CPR classes, and fundraised for community ventures.

But it took time for me to understand the notion of being a Rotarian, and to understand a solid foundation, some underlying system of values that grounds one into continuing to act and focusing not on the instant rewards of business connections or fellowship – In other words the larger goal of Rotary.

I have an interest in American independence history.  I had the pleasure of visiting Boston in June 2016 with Christine for our anniversary and I got to experience one of the birthplaces of American Independence.  We got to throw tea off a ship anchored in Boston Harbour and protest the King’s arbitrary taxes while learning 1770’s cuss words like “Fie” and “Boo”.  But while the US Declaration of Independence was primarily a statement on the early colony’s struggle under the over-taxed and heavy-handed rule of the British Empire, it also highlighted its purpose very early on in the preamble, as a justification for revolution.  That there are truths that we all as human beings find self-evident, and that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no one is entitled to strip away.  Based on these seeming simple truths, humanity has created many other documents spanning history from the English Magna Carta to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  These documents strike a chord with me in being a lawyer since one of the things you learn in first year law school is an introduction to the inviolability of human rights and the purpose of which lawyers and the legal system strive to uphold against the unequal power of the government.  We are taught, and I believe, that the government in liberal democracies should strive to not interfere in human lives unless there is a harm to protect, whether from foreign sources or each other, or where we are incapable or lax in governing ourselves in a productive and just manner.

The practice of law is an expression of those freedoms that we as human beings are all entitled to.  It is necessary to undertake the practice of law understanding the gravity of the profession and its role of equalization in society.  As lawyers we call this balance the rule of law and as fellow lawyers we strive to uphold it in everything that we do.  The rule of law governs us all in democratic societies and dictates that each one of us is equal in the eyes of the law and no one is exempt from its reach (not even the heavy-handed King).  It is a common undercurrent of what makes us human and is the core of our rights in a civil and democratic society.

It is the equality of humanity and the unity of our existence on this planet that therefore justifies a call to action and promotion of the humanitarian in all of us so that we can all share a common experience free of poverty, strife, hatred, autocratic rule, disease, famine, war, and other limitations to human freedom.  The Rotary motto of service above self is about recognizing that although we are all individuals, we are also interconnected in our various relations each locally and across the globe.  We cannot ignore that we are all equal or that we ought to be equal, and we need to strive to help establish that equality through acts of service.

Equality can therefore be fostered through strengthening interpersonal relationships, vocational integrity and contributions from one’s profession, financial donations or improvements to local community and public interests, promoting peace and understanding internationally, and empowering youth and young professionals to follow behind us in leadership.  We know these as Rotary’s Five Avenues of Service.

It is not a coincidence that a lawyer created Rotary.  The principles which underlie the rule of law overlap with those of Rotary.

So when I was asked to join a Rotary club from my fellow lawyers in that small city of Vernon, British Columbia, I had no idea that my legal career would translate so well into humanitarian service for the promotion of equality both locally and across the world.  I suspect the other lawyers in my office may not have interpreted that call to the same degree, but I would hope that they knew something of the rule of law, and they could also likely feel the same underpinning behind Rotary and its message.  That underpinning is not just present in our respective vocations though, but is a message that is universal across humanity.  Some call it “giving back to society”, or “helping out”.  It’s more than that – it is fostering the very fabric of our human interconnectedness and our equality as human beings.

Sometimes asking why you joined Rotary or why you stay in Rotary aren’t really the correct question.  Perhaps the question ought to be an exploration of why Rotary exists, and search for an answer of how we each participate in that call.

When Paul Harris created Rotary in 1905 it started as a business club but it took shape once Harris himself developed the Objects of Rotary – the core of why Rotary exists.  These are often overlooked but form part of the foundational elements of Rotary.  Let me read them to you:

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 [social] 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.

In summary, we are all joining a social club of community leaders to serve through example, and take action for the betterment of all humanity.

We all join Rotary for different reasons and we all find something within Rotary that continues to drive us.  

So why did I join Rotary – well, because I was told to.  But why I stay is because I believe in it, and I look forward to sharing that belief and my experiences with you over the next year.

Thank you.