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Message to the 1937
in attendance at the twenty‑eighth convention of Rotary International,
we are here to celebrate the closing of one of the most remarkable years
in the history of Rotary. Under the capable and devoted leadership of
our president, Rotary has made great progress in many directions.
Attention has frequently been called to the large number of new clubs
organized during the past year and all who believe in Rotary are
thrilled with the story of accomplishment in this direction.
It is not, however, the only story of accomplishment. A great advance has been made along the entire front. Rotary is not only a bigger movement than it was one year ago; it is also a better movement. Things which were obscure have become more clearly discernible. We have a better sense of direction. Future administrations will be able to press forward with greater confidence and courage.
The progress of Rotary to date has challenged the attention of students of international affairs. Nothing like it has been known. In international affairs heretofore, emphasis has been placed upon the differences between men; differences in race, religion and politics largely.
In Rotary, the approach is entirely different. Emphasis is not placed on the differences between men; it is placed on their similarities. All men regardless of race, religion or politics believe that the ideal of service is ennobling. Rotarians of more than sixty nations, Rotarians of divergent and conflicting views concerning religion and politics have subscribed to the ideal of service.
In clubs in the Far East, representatives of a score of races and a dozen religions have for the first time in history been brought together. Before the day of Rotary, such things were considered impossible.
But behold these are greater wonders: a transformation little short of miraculous has taken place in that supposedly sterile soil, the flower of friendship has taken root. What about the many points of difference between the members of such clubs, have they been removed? No, none of them have been removed. The Mohammedan is still a Mohammedan.
The Buddhist still a Buddhist; the Christian still a Christian, but what does that matter? They are friends, all friends. Heretofore they have always thought ill of each other, that is over now. Friendship has spread a mantle of charity and tolerance over all these extreme differences. In common sense and good conscience it no more matters what my friend's religion is than what the color of his hair or eyes.
Rotary is not concerned with the differences between men, it is concerned with their common ideal, the ideal of service. One can make allowances for men in whose hearts and minds the ideal of service dwells.
Of course, we continue to love friends of our own race, our friends who have the same historical background as we, but we are going to expand the capacities of our hearts to include others whose homes are far away and who have entirely different historical backgrounds. Their friendship also will gladden our hearts. From them, we shall learn new things. They will take us out of our old channels of thought and give us new fresh viewpoints. Their culture will prove to be complementary to ours. They will enrich, broaden, sweeten our lives. Every nation has something of value to give to every other nation but we must prepare our minds for this new orientation.
We must abandon the habit of looking for the faults in other countries and gloating in them; we must cultivate the habit of looking for lovely things and glorying in them, and we must give our children opportunity to search with us. In our public schools they will study the languages and customs of the people of foreign countries. Are these thoughts visionary, Utopian? No, we have tried them out in Rotary and we have demonstrated the fact that they are practical, that they will work.
To be sure we are still an inconsiderable number in the world population, but we are growing. Our present membership of 180,000 will multiply time and again; but that is not all. Along the trail which we are blazing other organizations in increasing numbers will follow. We must not be without vision in these things.
Civilization advances by leaps and bounds. After the thoughts of men have remained on a dead level for a sufficient length of time, suddenly they begin to rise. No more fitting illustration of this truth can be found than in Europe's renaissance. But Europe's renaissance in art and literature is not the only illustration of this truth.
Once upon a time a Polander of scientific turn of mind advanced a new theory and astronomy had its renaissance. A Frenchman advanced a new theory and the science of medicine had its renaissance; an Englishman, a theory and life was given new meaning; an American, an inspiration and darkness gave way to light.
Neither Poland, France, England, nor America were the sole beneficiaries of the devoted efforts of any of these men. National boundaries could not impede the advance of their ideas. The people of the entire world were the beneficiaries of these gifts and of gifts of great Germans, Italians, Scandinavians and others. The world is made up of a family of nations and all members of the family are entitled to share in the products of the genius of men of the ages.
Such gifts to the world could not have been foreseen and no man now living, looking back at the calamitous days of the world war, can say which of those whose lives were snuffed out was a Copernicus, a Pasteur, a Darwin or an Edison. No one can say how far civilization would have advanced had the youth of that generation all been permitted to live.
The Rotary plan is one of prevention rather than cure. Rotary makes its overtures of good will and understanding before the war clouds arise.
During the past three years it has been the privilege of Mrs. Harris and myself to visit many Rotary clubs on all five continents besides Australia and New Zealand and wherever we have gone, we have considered ourselves ambassadors of good will, both going and coming. In public parks and playgrounds on all of the continents we have planted good will trees and they stand there now as living testimonials of the good will and understanding which Rotary seeks to extend throughout the entire world.
A year ago in Buenos Aires, we saw a sight that gladdened our hearts. On one of the avenues of that beautiful city a monument was being erected by the good people of the city of Montevideo in the neighboring little country of Uruguay symbolizing the respect and love of Uruguayans for Argentinans.
And have you heard of the monument known as the Christ of the Andes? It is a titanic statue erected high up in the Andes mountains on the border line between Argentina and Chile with the momentous inscription which reads: "These mountains will crumble to dust before Chile and Argentina break their faith to their oath of peace made at the feet of Christ". (Applause).
May there be many such monuments erected on border lines between countries throughout the world. In the way pointed out by these South American countries may the citizens of many countries cross their border lines and erect monuments and plant trees symbolizing respect and love of their neighbors. These are mere gestures of good will, of course, but multiplied time and again they will eventually bear fruit. There have been gestures in plenty in the past but unhappily they have been gestures of ill will. It is time for a renaissance in our thinking on international affairs. Rotary is blazing a trail over which many of the present generations and of generations yet to come will follow.
Great international conventions like this convention will, as means of transportation improve, be the order of the day. Like great birds, transport planes will arise from cities scattered throughout the earth, take flight across the seas, and land their precious human cargoes in beautiful cities like Nice where men and women of many nations will work and play together as we are doing here. The coming and going will be free as the coming and going of migratory birds.
Passports, visas, customs and all other impediments to the free intercourse of the children of the earth will have been abandoned as obsolete. Now that art, music, literature, science, and industry each has had its renaissance, it is time that human relationships, the most important of all in the affairs of men, have their renaissance and Rotary is leading the way to that happy event.
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