Rotary is Thirty Years Old


In the February 1935 issue of The Rotarian, founder and first President Paul Harris wrote an article for the 30th Anniversary of Rotary. Instead of recounting milestones achieved or speculating on the future of the organization, he discussed not only the membership, but all of mankind in terms of the “special objective” (today we call it a Presidential Theme) of “Bob” Hill, the 1934-1935 President of Rotary International. Hill’s “special objective”? – Happiness.


Harris measures the goals of mankind, and compares them to the objective, and finds most are wanting. The message ends with Harris’ own (Rotary’s own) “special objective” - Happiness Through Fellowship and Service.


Doug Rudman


Rotary is Thirty Years Old


By Paul P. Harris

Founder of Rotary International


THIRTY years seems a long span, but it is not long when applied to great movements. We are still in the early morning hours on the clock of Rotary. There are no low-lying clouds, and there is every indication of a glorious day. Good morning to you, Rotarians. We are off on our second thirty years.


Our international president, "Bob" Hill, has announced his intention to make the promotion of Happiness his special objective during the present year. He could not have chosen more wisely. His program merits the support of all Rotarians of all nations. Happiness is the one thing universally desired. There can never be too much of it, provided that it be the kind which endures.


In the pursuit of happiness, men most frequently turn to wealth; in it they hope to find enduring happiness. Some look for it in the possession of gold, King Midas' sad experience notwithstanding. They hoard it beyond all possible needs.


Others expect to find it in the things which money can bring them: influence, power, business, and social prestige, the envy of those who are less opulent, and endless, interminable things.


Still others look for it in the advantages which they think it will bring their children, bigger and better things than other parents can afford to provide, and protection from such hardships as it was once necessary for their parents to endure; in brief, they desire to make the lives of their children a pathway of roses from beginning to end.


There have been, however, throughout the ages, those who have persistently believed that neither money nor the things which money could buy were conducive either to their happiness or the happiness of their children. While religious leaders, ethical teachers, and philosophers differed widely in other matters, they were in agreement in the belief that the possession of wealth was no guarantee of happiness. During the ages, many who were neither preachers nor teachers, have lived this doctrine.

Spinoza, while living with his family in destitution in an attic, was tendered a gift of money equivalent to $1,000 by an admiring friend. He refused to accept it, preferring to subsist on crumbs rather than risk the demoralizing influence of what to him was a large sum.


The distinguished electrical engineer and mathematician, Charles Steinmetz, refused to accept any salary whatsoever from the General Electric Company for his priceless service. Never, throughout the years, did his name appear on the payroll. When in need of money to defray his modest expenses, he asked for it, and, needless to say, got it.


To Charles Steinmetz, neither money nor the things money would have bought, seemed necessary for happiness.


The philosophy of Professor Einstein, considered by many the world's greatest living physicist, is in complete accord with the two just mentioned. To the greatest of the great, money has always been a matter of minor importance. Could the money appeal have added anything to Raphael's "Madonna" or "Transfiguration”?


THE late Thomas Arkle Clark, who for thirty-five years was dean of men of the University of Illinois, contended that one almost certain way to ruin a young man is through indulgence, and the learned dean made the startling statement that ninety per cent of the young men who failed to attain the requisite standards of scholarship at the university, failed because of parental indulgence.


If we heed the guide posts and danger signals which seers have hung out for the benefit of travelers on life's highway, we shall not look for happiness in the possession of money, nor in the possession of things which money will buy. To quote the words of Rotarian Frederic Smith of Omaha: "Folks don't need a million dollars any more than they need a million neckties or a million walking sticks."


Doctor Johnson in Rasselas, and Maeterlinck in The Blue Bird with delightful artistry have portrayed the futility of search for happiness through indulgence in selfish desires, and pointed the way to happiness through homely, useful service.


President "Bob" has well chosen his objective. I suggest that we celebrate Rotary's thirtieth birthday by resolving to help our chief to spread good cheer through smiling more frequently, frowning less frequently, through being more neighborly, friendly, and kindly than we have ever been before.


Presidents come and presidents go, but the movement's keynote remains unchanged – Happiness Through Fellowship and Service.




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