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Paul Harris' message to the 1942
|Convention in Toronto|
My Friends of Rotary:
It is good once again to be on the north side of the border. It is good
to know that there still is an unfortified border line between two
countries and that those two countries are our beloved Canada and the
We of the United States felicitate ourselves in the fact that we have good neighbors. If we had been given all of the countries of the world from which to make selection, we could not have done better.
Toronto convention number one is still a happy memory. It is one of the conventions most frequently spoken of, one of the most outstanding conventions of all time. We anticipate that the present convention will be equally happy.
We shall never cease to be grateful to Canada for its loyalty to Rotary nor for its great contributions to its advancement. Canada has given us three grand presidents of Rotary International ‑ the gifted Leslie Pidgeon, the sagacious and devoted Crawford McCullough, and the lamented John Nelson, who was cut down in his prime.
I shall always think of Jim Davidson as the ambassador deluxe of Rotary. He and Colonel Layton Ralston wrote the names of Australia and New Zealand on the roster of nations and the three‑year residence of the Davidsons in the Far East resulted in the completion of the round‑the‑world chain.
The United States and Canada are now fighting side by side in a monumental cause ‑ the preservation of civilization as we know it and love It. The bonds between our two countries will again be strengthened. We have been allies in peace and now for the second time we are allies in war.
Civilization is dangerously ill but it will not die. We and our allies must win this war and in due course we must help make permanent the peace that will follow.
Rotary's most glamorous purpose is to foster international understanding and good will, and during our many years of experimentation we have accumulated considerable knowledge on that baffling subject. We have actually succeeded in creating a world‑wide fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service. Our membership includes representatives of more than 50 countries and devotees of practically all of the major religious faiths and most of the political ideologies. We have been able to accomplish this by adhering strictly to the one matter in hand and avoiding all others. If the nations of the world will take a leaf from the pages of Rotary leaving all countries free to follow their own political and religious ideas and unite in the one purpose of effecting lasting peace they will succeed. If on the other hand they attempt to force their political conceptions on each other, chaos will come again. We still continue to hear men say there is not room enough for more than one political ideology. Well, several will be represented at the peace table. Which country will be first to surrender its ideology?
Rotary is an expression of a doctrine which is precisely the antithesis of this ‑ and Rotary still lives.
Why should one insist on everyone else being cast in his own particular mold? Such insistence would be to attempt to impose limitations on progress. Let other nations experiment as they please. We haven't yet attained the supreme heights of human wisdom. Let's try to improve our own way of life. It will stand a lot of improving.
I live in a democratic country and cannot conceive of any way of life which would be preferable to the democratic way. I shall be happy to see other countries subscribe to the democratic way of life, but only of their own free will.
The flowers in my garden differ in form and color. What a monotonous garden it would be if all were precisely alike.
Live and let live should be the rule of men. Perhaps at long last an international code of ethics will be evolved declaring it unethical for nations to interfere, either by force of arms or through proselyting, with the form of government of other nations.
There is no end of things to fight about of course, if that is what we want to do. The colored races ‑ brown, black, yellow and red ‑ can fight the proud whites and the flaxen haired can fight the dark haired; the gray haired, the baldheaded. My fealty most naturally adheres to the baldheads. Long may they live and become the dominant race. Their judgment is generally mature and kindly and one seldom sees a baldheaded man in an insane asylum.
Even before we have cleaned up on this war, anxious thoughts are being given the future by earnest men of all nations. So quite appropriately our great President, Tom Davis, and his board of directors, have designated as the high purpose of this convention "Learning How To Live Together." Our splendid president strikes a clarion note in his plea for the elimination of hatred as the first step toward learning how to live together. The function of the soldier is to restore and maintain order. Rage will be no more serviceable to him than it is when lodged in the heart of a policeman.
No words of mine are needed to back up President Tom's proposal. Everyone knows that our efforts to learn how to live together will be fruitless until we have purged our hearts of hatred. If the first world war accomplished nothing else, it opened our eyes to the futility of emotionalism. Where are the brass bands which marched the streets of our cities to inflame the hearts of men, women and children twenty years ago? Emotionalism has given way to the far more dependable grim determination. So far as I can judge from what I see and read, even in the countries which have suffered most grievously ‑ Great Britain and China - the prayer is not for revenge, it is for peace. If they can be that magnanimous, we of more favored nations ought to be able to follow along. The Rotary Clubs of Great Britain have manifested commendable poise. If that spirit is carried to the peace table, we shall have peace.
To realize the enormity of the task of our representatives at the table, we have only to consider the countries which will be represented on that occasion. The peace terms will not be left for the determination of a mere handful of men, as was the case at the termination of World War I.
Nearly every manner of political conception will be represented. Can such a body hold together in spite of their differences? It depends upon how they approach their task. To begin with, it will be necessary that they respect each other and unite in the one all‑absorbing purpose ‑ that of effecting permanent peace.
The League of Nations is dead. No wonder that it is dead. Hearts of men were not attuned to that high ideal. The world was not prepared for it. We have learned much since then. We are better prepared now. May we hope that a league of nations dedicated to peace on earth will be born at the peace table. The spirit of Woodrow Wilson still lives and your great Canadian journalist, John Wesley Dafoe, thinks that a league of nations would be more effective than an alliance of a few strong powers. Such a league must be beyond suspicion. Its affairs must be conducted not only honorably but also with tender regard for the interests of the weaker nations. The new league of nations, if there is to be one, must not be used for the redress of grievances nor by any member nation or group of mernbef nations, for their own exclusive benefit.
I think that the success of such a league will depend upon the generality of its acceptance. A generally accepted plan could feasibly support its ruling by international police. Efficiency will be greatly impaired if the smaller nations are given reason to believe that the powerful nations wield too great influence in the deliberations, and I think that it would be a fatal error if wheels develop within the wheel. All nations want to be free; they do not want to be under the domination of any supreme oligarchy be it ever so beneficent.
All people now yearn for peace above all things and they are posted in world affairs as never before. Millions hang with breathless interest on their radio receivers listening for the last word of war news. If they do so now, how much more will they do so when the great day comes; when the peace terms are being discussed! The celebrated case of peace versus war, must be tried before the greatest jury ever assembled to try any case, a jury consisting of the citizens of the entire world.
Rotary International has been very good to me; it has made it possible for my wife and me to visit Rotary clubs on all of the continents. We have tried to be true ambassadors of good will. We have been privileged to meet the humble as well as the mighty and we have planted good will trees in the name of Rotary International on all continents and on some of the major islands of the seas as living symbols of Rotary's steadfast allegiance to the cause of international understanding and good will.
When we stop to consider the vast expansion of the powers of destruction by air during the past twenty years, when we realize what has been done and is being done now to the cities of Europe, we find ourselves driven to conclude that the only alternative to the establishment of international law and order is to abandon urban life and scatter to the rural districts where some of the lucky ones may escape the coming devastating scourges by emulating the example of field mice and burrowing under the ground ‑ a very ignoble end for beings fashioned in the image of God.
Rotarians assembled at Toronto convention number two, this is a supreme moment in the life of Rotary. The grandest opportunity to serve humanity is directly before us.
Let us remember that it is always darkest just before dawn. These are the before daylight hours. Let us fervently hope that when the sun does rise it will usher in a day of unprecedented glory ‑ the day of the brotherhood of man.
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