Our regularly scheduled 3rd Thursday meeting for March was a little different this year.  Instead of attending a local club Zoom meeting, Club members were asked to register for and participate in the District 7090 Conference which was being held virtually.  Over 4 days, interesting and inspiring speakers shared their perspectives of how Rotary is changing and evolving and offered a variety of suggestions for local clubs.  There was also a lot of merriment and virtual socializing!  
Liz asked several of the members who attended any or all of the days for their thoughts about the conference.  It is interesting how the perspectives are different based on how our  different Rotarians view "their Rotary".  One key message through out the conference and what your fellow Rotarians recollect is the need to change and the possibilities that abound.
ADG Jeanette shared:  The Rotary District  7090 Conference kicked off on Monday March 15th.  It was a free virtual event for the first time in history.  Each night welcomed between 100-160 participants.  In the first night Margaret Andrewes talked about D.G Frank’s Little Lending Libraries challenge.  He challenged all the clubs to come up with their own design of a lending library to be installed in their town.  Photos of all the participating clubs with their LLL were showcased.  Congratulations to Grant Schaming for his rendition of our LLL.  Thank you also to Marie Solvason who will be giving the project its finishing touches with paint. 
There was a somber moment when we paid tribute to all the Rotarians we lost this past year.  Finally the evening ended with an hour long social event centered around Beer and Rotary.  What a fantastic start to a great Conference. 
Joan W. felt the theme for the Rotary Virtual Conference for March 16th was Diversity , Equity and Inclusion. I had my introduction to Jennifer Jones, our Rotary International President- Elect, who is from the Windsor Roseland Club.  Wow, really sums it up. She instantly captured my attention, she is an inspirational speaker, genuine in her words and and commitment to Rotary.  Rotary International will be in good hands with Jennifer at the helm. 
Next up was Valerie Wafer, who shared with us, her commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. During her time as owner of many Tim Horton franchises , her and her husband were well known for their inclusive hiring practices and accessibility employment.  Her message was sincere and thought provoking. Then we were introduced to Michael Jacques and his father who reside in Fonthill.  Its very hard to put into words the impact of their conversation.  I can’t imagine the hurdles they have overcome throughout Michael’s life with autism.  I did not expect to laugh as much as I did listening to their stories.
Zoom sometimes makes it difficult to feel close to the speakers and their message.  All the speakers this evening  brought compelling messages that even virtually provided food for thought for Rotarians as we look to our future.
Jim H said "  Gee.  I should have kept notes."  Day 2 of the Conference included Jennifer Jones, Member of Rotary Club of Windsor, Rosland  and nominee for Rotary International President for 2022-23 as one of the keynote speakers.  Jennifer will be the first woman to hold the position of RI President . It is evident that she is from a younger generation than most of the previous Presidents and is media savory.  She pointed out that she  is highly motivated by personal goals and challenges.   Her observation is that the younger generation is  still attracted to the values of Rotary and the work of Rotary, but not necessarily to the current meetings formats.  Jennifer pointed out that  Covid demonstrated that Rotary can adapt rapidity and most Clubs were able to pivot to virtual meeting formats and virtual fundraising successfully.
Valarie Waifer also presented on the value of inclusion. Valarie is known for  hiring policies when she owned a chain of Tim Horton's Restaurants in Toronto. She stressed the value of having an inclusive workforce that includes employees with various types of disabilities. Customers now look to employers to provide opportunities to challenged individuals. Valarie spoke of her Rotary experiences  in a number of countries having served Rotary International in various capacities and is currently a member of Rotary International Board of Directors.  She is also active in the local community with Youth Mental Health issues.
Michael Jacques, a young author, from Fonthill spoke about his struggles as a child growing up with Autism.   An intellectual disability also prevented him from learning to read or write.  Despite these handicaps he was able to author a Child Level Book,  "I Belong, Can I play" which addresses the value of inclusion, friendship and belonging for children growing up with disabilities. He was able to write the book using an IPad with voice recognition . The book  took him a number of years to complete  and he resisted  assistance from his parents. He is now being invited to speak about his experiences at events throughout North America.  He has a very supportive family which has encouraged him in many respects.  He is also an employee of Sobeys Stores and spoke extremely highly of his work experience with this organization including going to Head Office for a meeting on inclusion.  Proceeds from the Book are being donated to Community Living Ontario and Special Olympics.
Kathryn D recounted Thursday March 18th's session.  Past Rotary International President Barry Rassin started off the event by talking about how important it is for the long term health of Rotary everywhere to consider tapping into youth participation.  His opening remarks were followed by a panel discussion in which PRIP Rassin asked questions of a panel of 4 Rotoract participants.  They indicated that they enjoyed the participation at the Rotoract level as they were able to work on their own projects while being supported by regular Rotary Club members.  
Bob M's tell us that "Over the years I have attended my share of District conferences.  I have seen the best and painfully sat through some that watching paint dry was more inspiring. Anyone who tuned into the evening has to agree with me this was one of the best Rotary evenings in a long time.  Covid has put Rotary’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges in the spotlight for most of us.

Some of the moderators for the evening were members of Rotaract clubs and recently passed members that helped bring the discussion of Youth and Rotary to the evening.  There were a number of positive points regarding the need to instill the work of Rotary in the younger generation and how we as Rotarians need to champion this.  As part of the discussion we broke out into small groups with one of the Rotaract members.  The discussion brought out a number of ideas as how to include younger members of our communities in our clubs and activities.

The second highlight was Evan Burrell an Aussie who by profession is an inspirational speaker and communication professional.  Evan is as pure Rotary as one could find.  As a professional his power point kept us on the edge of our seats for at least a half hour.  With the use of visual props and his own antics along with humor and enthusiasm he left us with a number of important messages about the value, strength and importance Rotary.  At the end of a very busy day I must admit that I was ready to do the token few minutes and quietly slip away.  It was a great evening, learned a lot and would not have missed it for anything.