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Message to the 1935
To my friends in Rotary, greetings!
It is always a special joy to meet friends in unaccustomed places; it matters not that we were expecting them; it matters not that we saw them at home yesterday or the day before. The great, inspiring fact is that they are here. We experience a new emotional thrill, a new sense of excitement when we meet our home friends in distant places and hear them say, "What a small world this really is."
God must have loved mankind when he created for them friends. Friendliness knows no bounds; it surmounts all barriers; it navigates all seas. I have already met many old friends since arriving in Mexico and am looking forward to meeting many more.
My wife and I have just returned from a journey to Hawaii, Japan, China, The Philippines, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, and wherever we went we met friends, many friends. A goodly number from Australia returned with us and are attending this convention. They are lovely people. A part of the way we were privileged to be in the company of President Bob and Mrs. Hill.
No better travelling companions could have been found anywhere. The trip was a great adventure; it brought us to fuller realization of the fact that Rotary is a world wide movement. It also convinced us that all people are friendly when once one knows them.
After having completed so long a journey, I might have concluded it unwise to attempt another so soon. I probably would have so concluded had it not been for one commanding fact; the fact that the convention was to be held this year in Mexico.
When Rotarians travel abroad, their Sixth Object comes frequently to mind. However obscure it may have been while we were at home, it bursts out in full effulgence when we travel abroad, When a good Rotarian crosses a border line, he becomes an ambassador of good will. It is good to look into the faces of so many ambassadors of good will as are assembled here today.
Sir Norman Angell, placing responsibility for all wars on misunderstandings, says that all of the nations engaged in the World War firmly believed that their cause was just and honorable and that the cause of their enemies was unjust and dishonorable. If at any time during that cruel devastating war the belligerents had been able to look into the minds and hearts of their enemies, they would have found no consciousness of guilt.
They would have found only the spirit of crusaders in the interest of a righteous cause for which they were willing to die. What a tragedy that misunderstanding should continue. Ambassadors of good will dedicate themselves to the eradication of misunderstanding.
The ranks of the breeders of bad will and misunderstanding are teeming with well intentioned men who, alas, lack understanding. There are good men in number who think that they are promoting the best interests of their country when they slander the people of other countries. These unwitting offenders are not confined to any one country; they are to be found everywhere.
They admit of but one standard of conduct and that is their own standard; by it, they measure all. Misunderstanding others, they are themselves misunderstood and their own country suffers immeasurably thereby. There is a world of wisdom in Immediate Past President John Nelson's trenchant reminder, "When traveling abroad, leave your national yard stick at home."
Thomas Hardy said that travel is the best cure for international misunderstanding. He who remains at home is quite certain to underestimate the fine qualities of others and to overestimate the good qualities of his own. This is called provincialism; it is an obsession, and amounts to mental derangement at times. A little travel may relieve the patient's suffering to some extent. Much travel will affect a cure. Widely travelled men are not sufferers from the superiority complex. Travel opens up wide vistas revealing unsuspected virtues and beauties of character.
Nine years ago in company with Harry Rogers, then international president, and Mrs. Rogers, Jean and I visited Mexico. We were met at the border by Chelino and Roda Garza and Chelino's two brothers and their wives. The six travelled with us all the way from Laredo to Monterrey, Saltillo, Guadalajara, where the conference was held; then on to Mexico City where we remained several days; then on again over the mountains and down into the Valley to Vera Cruz. Not once did they leave us, not once did their tender solicitude abate.
They interpreted for us, pointed our interesting bits of scenery, patiently explained the customs of their country, provided us with diversions, good things to eat and drink, and literature; in fact they became our servants in very truth. I have planted a tree in my garden of good will at my home in Chicago in memory of Chelino and Roda Garza. Their son came to help me. It's a twin Norway spruce. One half of it stands for Chelino, the other for Roda.
Mexico is a land of beauty; it has been singularly blessed by nature. Its mountains rival the grandest that are to be seen in other parts of the North American Continent. We admire it all but most of all we admire the people; the generous‑hearted, hospitable Mexican people. Their art, music, their exquisite sense of harmony in the use of colors amaze all who have not been here before. Their frescoes lead the modem world and many authorities consider them the best produced since the days of Michael Angelo.
Our impressions will be many and varied. To some, one will be deepest. To others, another. If I may be permitted I will say that I am sure that there will be one thought uppermost in my own mind when the curtain falls at the end of the last act of the 26th annual convention of Rotary.
It is the thought that a superlative opportunity is afforded Rotarians to enroll themselves as ambassadors of good will, whether they be world travelers or stay‑at‑homes, whoever they are, and wherever they may be located, in great cities or in small villages, off the frontiers between countries or in the interiors of countries, whether they be butchers or bakers or candle stick makers, they can carry on.
May we ambassadors of good will never permit ourselves to speak in derogatory manner of the people of any nation. To speak ill of other nations is to sow the seeds of war. If we do speak in such manner, we shall be guilty of defamation of character; we shall be saying that which is not true. Let us go farther in the performance of our duty as ambassadors of good will.
Let us rebuke any and all violators of the rules of decency in international relationships. Let us show our colors, let us make it manifest that we are not in sympathy with calumny in international affairs any more than we are in sympathy with the most disreputable slander of the fair name of a neighbor.
We humans are creatures of habit, and it is just as easy to acquire the habit of speaking kindly as it is to acquire the habit of speaking unkindly. We ambassadors of good will must acquire the habit of speaking kindly of our neighbors whether they be neighbors at home or those across the seas. We are all of one family ‑ God's children.
This is a lovely world in which we live. I do not know how it could have been improved upon. The scenery is wonderful; there are mountains and plains, rivers, lakes and seashore, according to one's taste. There is a wide range of climate. One may choose between the tropics, temperate, or arctic zones. The four seasons give us kaleidoscopic changes; each has its special charm. There are flowers in endless variety of color and perfume, and birds in season fill the air with song. It is a great heritage for all of the members of our family of nations. Everything has been arranged for us with consumate skill and kindly thoughtfulness. The rains fall, and then the sun shines.
The Creator might have gone right on and made the regulation of this snug little world of ours automatic, so that it would not have been necessary for us even to press a button or turn on a switch in order to create good will and to preserve order. But it was not destined so to be. Something ought to be left for us to do. If a kind friend were to deed us a house and lot, we would not consider it a hardship to have to keep it clean and in order. There is not so very much left for us to do, yet that little is of infinite importance. It is left to us to keep this snug little world of ours in decency and in order.
Rotarians, ambassadors of good will, we are enjoying a rare privilege; the privilege of making places for ourselves in the warm pulsating hearts of our Mexican friends. Let us make the most of our opportunities. When we leave this country, we shall do so treasuring happy memories of courtesies the like of which many of us have never experienced before if we will meet our Mexican friends half way. And may I remind you of the fact that Mexican friendship is warm and passionate; so warm and passionate that our greetings, though they may seem to us to be ever so cordial, are likely to seem to them cold and meaningless. When you greet Mexican friends, don't be stand offish. Let yourself out. Give them the best you have got. Demonstrate your enthusiasm.
What a lovely thing it would be if each and every Rotarian visiting Mexico would cultivate the friendship of some one particular Mexican Rotarian and follow it up, nurture it, year after year through the exchange of correspondence, and through visiting back and forth when possible. Such interchange of visits between Mexican Rotarians and Rotarians of my own country will be very practical when the international highway is completed. I pray that we may make the most of our opportunities. There are no fortifications on the border line between the United States and Canada od the North, nor between the United States and Mexico on the South. Why should there be? In the name of God, we are neighbors. If I had my way, we would erect peace memorials on both border lines and they would be higher than any war memorials ever built.
Oh the responsibilities of border lands. They are challenges to the very best that there is in us. Let us rise to the challenge.
Ambassadors of good will, let's make this a neighborly, friendly, kindly world. We can if we will. Remember the words of the immortal bard of Ayr:
Then let us pray that come what may,
As come it will for a' that,
That sense and worth o'er a' the earth
May bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that and a' that
It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man the world o'er,
Shall brothers be, for a' that.
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