The 66th convention, Montreal, PQ, Canada, June 8-12, with 12,975 in attendance

William R. Robbins
(Miami, Florida, USA)

See all Canadian Conventions

The Montreal Convention 1975

(Renew the Spirit of Rotary)

The total paid registration at the 66th annual Rotary International Convention held in the 333-year-old bilingual and multicultural  City of Montreal, Quebec, was 12,975. In addition there were 450 guests under 16 years of age for a total attendance of 13,425. They came from 87 of the 151 Rotary countries around the world.  Sleek subway cars and buses transported the participants to and from their 65 hotels and motels to the Montreal Forum, the Convention Centre.

            Pre-convention activity on Saturday night consisted of a superb concert by the 60-voice V’la l’Bon Vent Choir from Quebec attended by some 5,000 convention-goers. On Sunday afternoon, more than 200 youth exchange officers, parents, and students met to exchange ideas on a program that each year resulted in an exchange of 6,000 young people across national boundaries.

            The opening session of the convention convened in the Montreal Forum at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday 8 June, with Jack Pride of Bath, England, Chair of the 1975 Convention Committee, presiding.  The flags of Rotary nations were paraded smartly by young boys and girls.  In his welcoming remarks to the assembly, RI President William R. Robbins of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida said: “You have demonstrated over and over again that the true strength of Rotary lives in the dedicated hearts of individual Rotarians. The theme of this  Convention is ‘Renew the Spirit of Rotary.’  Every convention event was designed to help the individual answer the question, ‘What can I do?’ to help meet the needs and solve the problems.”

            The keynote speaker, Commissioner Arnold Brown, Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army for Canada and Bermuda and a member of the Rotary Club of Toronto, averred: “This assembly confirms that

the sprit of Rotary is international ─  one of the few truly binding forces in the world. It is one of its greatest strengths. It subscribes to the principle that true fellowship and service will survive the platforms of presidents and the decrees of dictators.”  His inspirational address emphasized the importance and the uniqueness of each human being. His trilogy of questions (What am I?) (Who am I?) (Whose am I?) emphasized that any person can make a contribution to a better world.

            The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rotarian  Franz-Paul Decker presented a lively Viennese program to round out the opening evening. Featured were Montreal soprano Collette Boky and Holland-born John Van Kesteren, tenor.

            On Monday 9 June the sub-theme of the Convention was Renewing Vocational Service. After welcoming speeches by Montreal’s dynamic mayor, Jean Drapeau and Montreal Club president Drew Webster, the vocational service emphasis of he day was launched by  the Governor of Bermuda, His Excellency Sir Edwin Leather. “Everything Rotary means by vocational service is inherent in the adage ‘ Practice what you preach,’” he said. “What is true of Rotary is equally true of human society,” he added. “The crisis of our time,” he claimed, “can be fairly depicted by the question, ‘Will the ideal of personal voluntary dedication to public service in a free society survive?’” He called for greater self-discipline, stronger family bonds, and a sense of mutual responsibility.

            In his major address, President Bill Robbins drew upon impressions gained in his travel to 32 countries during the year. “Rotary does not live in the high offices of the organization,” he said. “It lives on main Street─ in your heart and in mine ─in your club and in mine. Your Rotary Club is the sum total of the men of integrity who come together, first as strangers and then as friends. It is here men find mutual understanding, inspiration, and motivation. The true test of a Rotary Club is the kind of men it produces.”

            On Monday afternoon, Rotarians met in 55 different discussion groups called vocational craft assemblies, each related to a business or profession for discussion centred on ways of achieving high standards of work.

            Also. in the afternoon, the 400 young people in attendance at the Convention set off on the first event of a four-day program that included visits to an airline base, to an aircraft carrier in the St. Lawrence River, a bus trip to the Laurentian mountains, a St. Lawrence Seaway/Montreal harbour tour and bowling. On Monday evening, the Forum was once again the setting for a beautiful program presented by Les Grande Ballets Canadiens.

            On Tuesday, the emphasis turned to renewing the international service aspect of Rotary. The plenary session opened with a report on The Rotary Foundation by Chair William E. Walk rand 11 trustees. During the previous year, 4, 000 new Paul Harris Fellows had been created and an estimated $7 million had been raised. Three of the original Rotary Scholars participated in a panel discussion, moderated by RI Vice-president Wolfgang Wick, on the role of the individual in promoting international understanding. The panel consisted of Sylvia Bacon, Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Owen S. Freed, an attorney in Florida, and the Honourable Marc Lalonde, Minister of National Health and Welfare in the government of Canada. All agreed that the individual can play an important role in promoting international understanding and gave examples from their experience. In the afternoon and evening, more than 2,000 Rotarians and their guests were invited to the homes of Rotarians within a 100-mile radius of Montreal.

            “Developing the Leadership Spirit” was the theme of Wednesday’s plenary session. The entire audience was asked to constitute itself as the nominating committee of the Rotary Club of Conventionville. As such they were tasked with choosing the president of the club for next year, from among three candidates. The club was having problems: declining attendance, poor participation, little growth, lack-luster activity. It needed good leadership. Max, Matthew, and Orville – pseudonyms for three specialists in leadership motivation – presented themselves as candidates for the office of president. Each candidate offered a different style of leadership: Max was authoritarian; Norman was a consensus seeker; and Orville a delegator of responsibility. After each candidate read his prepared statement, the three men engaged the audience in a lively discussion, moderated by RI director-elect Dave Smith from Texas. A vote was eventually taken and Orville, the delegator, won.

            Ten international fellowship dinners filled Montreal ballrooms in the evening. Following the dinners, Rotarians and friends enjoyed dancing, fellowship and entertainment at the Forum.

            “Action on Youth” was the theme of Thursday’s plenary session. With Montreal as host of the Summer Olympic Games in 1976, it was fitting that Rotary had invited Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals in the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 to address the audience. Referring to his own experience, Owens spoke about faith and dreams. He recalled his thoughts at the start of the 100-metre dash in 1936, when his dream of being the world’s fastest human being was about to be realized. “I thought about the hours of counselling, of work, of coaching, and the men who helped me have faith in a dream.”  He told of several Rotarians he knew who had helped youths reach their dreams. He was particularly grateful that Rotarians had helped his fellow track team members in a poor Cleveland school to acquire shoes and uniforms. Jesse received a long standing ovation.

            The final word of the Convention went to RI President-elect Imbassahy de Mello of Brazil who announced his theme for 1875-76 as “To Dignify the Human Being.”       

Prepared by PDG Jim Angus, with considerable assistance from Rotary International Archivist Francine Keyes

RGHF Home | Disclaimer | Privacy | Usage Agreement | RGHF on Facebook | Subscribe | Join RGHF