Friendliness, Tolerance, and Usefulness
The Role of Rotary in Promoting Democratic Principles Through Peacebuilding
            “I have no hesitation in saying that world peace could be achieved
            and made permanent if reared on Rotary’s firm foundation of
                                    friendliness, tolerance, and usefulness”
                                                                        Paul Harris, Message to 1940 RI Convention
Recently in an unpublished paper submitted for peer review, Professor Goldstone, a sociologist, and Peter Turchin, an expert on mathematical modeling of historical societies, have concluded that the US is “headed for another civil war”.
The conditions for civil violence, they say, are the worst since the 19th century – in particular the years leading up to the start of the American Civil War in 1861. The reason for this is trends that began in the 1980s.  “With regard to inequality, selfish elites and polarization have crippled the ability of the US government to mount an effective response to the pandemic disease,” they write.  “This has also hampered our ability to deliver an inclusive economic relief policy and exacerbated the tensions over racial injustice.” We also currently have a stock market at an all-time high while one-half of the nation is food insecure, rent insecure, and one major auto repair away from walking.
After pages of graphs explaining their work, they do end with optimistic possibilities.  First, awareness of the issues brings potential resolutions.  Second, Goldstone believes the present has also brought out the best in some Americans.  “There’s something good in America that is still very much alive,” he said.
It is my sincere belief that Rotarians now stand in a position to be the forerunner of a positive change.  Rotary is “something good in America”.  Paul Harris began Rotary to be an alternative to the unethical business practices which had become the way of operation in Chicago.  As individuals, as communities, and as colleagues, most have endured challenging times before that ended positively.
The tools for Rotarians are extensive.  As any carpenter knows, most require training,  practice, and conscious awareness.  So what is in our toolbox?
Let’s start with the 4-Way Test.   Does Truth serve as the way we live at all times?  Are we comfortable calling out obvious lies we hear around us in a positive constructive manner?  Do we demand consistency of our leaders or are we OK when the lie benefits us?  Have we developed a habit of lying to avoid negative feelings?  Fairness requires sensitivity to others around us.  Fairness deals with equality, justice, and consistency.  The third test deals with goodwill and better friendships.  Every word we utter, action we take, or expression we make either builds our relationships or defeats a positive connection.  Do we always broadcast a positive demeaner even in front of negativity?  And last, is it Beneficial to all Concerned?  If we were to take four seconds to ask ourselves these questions prior to responding to a negative event it could positively change the outcome.
In the second drawer of our toolbox are Rotary’s Core Values of Leadership, Integrity, Service, Diversity, and Fellowship.  Rotarians are recognized for their leadership ability, they take action, and are committed to completion.  For example, Rotary is continuously recognized for the leadership and commitment shown in their efforts to eradicate polio.  Integrity was the original reason Rotary exists and remains a critical element.  Service Above Self is our motto and what we do.  The concept of fairness, goodwill, and beneficial to all has no limits to whom it should apply.  Rotarians are made up of great diversity throughout the Rotary world.  It is in the process of fellowship that leaders join, share ideas, and take action.
One of the newest, 2017, and very exciting tools in Rotary’s toolbox is the relationship with the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).  IEP is an independent, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the worlds focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human wellbeing and progress.  It quantifies and measures what works towards the development of peace.  After analyzing over 4,000 markers in 166 countries eight pillars consistently stood out as essential to peace.  They are:
  • Well-functioning Government
  • Equitable Distribution of Resources
  • Free Flow of Information
  • Good Relations with Neighbors
  • High Levels of Human Capital
  • Acceptance of the Rights of Others
  • Low Levels of Corruption
  • Sound Business Environment
All of these function equally well on the macro or micro level.  Whether it is our neighbor next door, community, or world, all are essential to a peaceful environment.  They also point out the greatness of Rotary International’s 4-Way Test.  If we embrace this test and our core values, then these eight pillars are assumed, predictable, and automatic.  Aristotle said that a virtue is a trait of character manifested in habitual action.  Are the virtues of our magnificent toolbox always a habit with us? 
When Rotarians live to be beneficial to others, attempt to expand goodwill through better friendships, and live with integrity, they will defeat the angst and turmoil taking place in front of us. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan mentions we all want to live as well as possible, but none of us can flourish unless we have a peaceful, cooperative social order.  And we cannot have a peaceful, cooperative social order without rules.  The moral rules, then, are simply the rules that are necessary if we are to gain the benefits of social living.  Rotary’s toolbox is filled with the most powerful moral rules.
The role, now more than ever, is for Rotarians to promote democratic principles through social living, allowing the 4-Way Test to become habit, and embracing our core values.  We must recognize our security, our peace, comes not from carrying the biggest club as someone will always find a larger one, but from the power of compassion, from love, from creating goodwill and understanding.  When taking the time to truly listen and understand another’s point of view, it is always amazing how much commonality we can discover.  As Goldstone said: “There is something good in America that’s still very much alive.”  That “good” is innate in Rotarians.  Let’s go wage peace!
District 5450 Peace Committee
Jim Halderman, D5450, Ombudsman,