Harris Convention's speechs
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Harris Convention's speechs
1912 Convention at Duluth
"If you, Brother Rotarian, think that you have a great mission to perform in Rotary, remember that great missions are serious undertakings. Do not expect to perform great missions in a day. First, live with the principles of Rotary till they are as familiar to you as your own business, and associate with Rotarians until they constitute your warmest and closest friends. If your desire is results, mould your propaganda to conform to the recognised principles of Rotary before attempting to make it a part of Rotary."
1915 Convention at San Francisco
"It's a grand thing in this period of the world's history, when great nations are at war, to see two such standards raised aloft as have been raised by two of the world's great organizations. 'Truth' and 'Service' herald the dawn of a new day."
1916 Convention at Cincinnati
As always, the President Emeritus sent a carefully crafted message to rally the troops. Harris talked about the "progress of Rotary rapidly gaining momentum". He went on, "Indefinite, inarticulate Rotary is giving way to a Rotary definite and describable".

Rotary was beginning a new future - "Faith, hope, charity and clean business, these four, and the greatest of these is clean business." Good business would naturally produce by-products - namely - civic and charitable activities.

Paul Harris, in a letter, paid tribute to the Seattle Club who were a wonderful example of the new philosophy. He wrote, "The Seattle Club by reason of the tendencies of some of its leaders, and also by reason of special conditions which existed there, evolved the idea that Rotary's great usefulness would be, not in vying and competing with organizations, but established for the purpose of studying business elevating its standards and increasing its efficiency". Harris had been converted to the Seattle thinking by, amongst others, Past President James Pinkham.
1917 Convention at Atlanta
Paul Harris sent his customary message to the Convention calling on delegates that "This is the hour for American Rotarians". Paul Harris was, like most delegates, uncertain about the future as War spread around the globe.

"Rotary is one of our Nation's greatest assets. When all men are responding to our country's thrilling call, we cannot remain silent. Rotary's supreme purpose is to serve; never is service more appropriate than on the present occasion. How and where we shall serve remains for you to determine. May wisdom characterize your deliberations"!
War could be a blessing in disguise as it could allow Rotary to understand itself better.

Wilson's phrase of "the ideal of American citizenship" attracted Harris who said that Rotary can't exist in despotism and that War was Rotary's quarrel. "Rotary is the twentieth century's leveler of castes, destroyer of hypocrisy, the foe of artificiality, the lover of things genuine and the ally of truth and righteousness".

Harris, though, ended by wishing that - "This is our first war convention, may it also be the last". Alas, it would not be.

The British Clubs argued that war had actually helped in the formation of clubs as citizens graphically saw the need for service and co-operation. The International leadership again adopted a pragmatic approach to the British clubs by creating a maxim "to maintain not an intermediate organization but an organization of convenience".
1918 Convention at Kansas City
Paul Harris did not attend but (yet again) sent his message. Almost always, secretary Chesley Perry read it out to the Convention. Harris told delegates that there were 3 very available ways for Rotary to project its influence out into the non-Rotarian world. Firstly, by the elimination of all except general interest matter from the columns of 'The Rotarian', making of it a messenger of service and by the adoption of the usual means of increasing its circulation among magazine readers in general. Secondly, by the development of the vocational section plan to a point of real efficiency. Thirdly, by holding club meetings to which the public are invited.

Harris concluded his address by writing, "If it is to be the part of Rotary to educate the individual, then in very truth it may be said that Rotarians shall be leaders of men".
1919 Convention at Salt Lake City
Message from the President Emeritus. Paul P. Harris. "Friends of the Victory Convention: I greet you and congratulate you on your opportunity to participate in the affairs of a convention which gives promise of being at the same time more inspirational and more practical than any previous Rotarian gathering.

Since the last meeting of the International Association of Rotary Clubs, the dove of world peace has fluttered painfully, exhaustedly home. Never has it been more welcome than it was at that expectant, breathless hour. The spirit of broken hearted mothers and widows and fatherless children flung open the window to let it in and strong men of vision and human sympathy have resolved that it shall never depart again.

Men are asking: "Did the awful holocaust pay?"

Certainly not in material things. Indemnities are baubles when compared with the lives of men. Empires rise and fall, but truth is everlasting.

Real values are never to be found in material things. Invisible things are priceless. Victory is invisible, and when the final reckoning shall have been made, it will be known that Victory, the prize invisible, was really won by the legions of unseen, unheard things. Men? Yes, millions of them, mothers' sons; but who sustained those men through tired march and sleepless watch, who but spirit indomitable, invisible; and many of those very millions have themselves been taken from their broken ranks of living men and mustered into the ranks of the hosts invisible. The war was worth while. It taught us the value of unseen things; that liberty can never be dear at any price.

Rotary is interested in the larger values, in the invisible, eternal things for which men are willing to die.

A material Rotary would soon be a dead Rotary. A Rotarian who sees nothing in Rotary beyond the business he can get out of it it is a dead Rotarian and the soon he can be buried the better for the cause.

Rotary, being invisible, spiritual, is intelligible to the higher order of things. Diamonds cannot comprehend Rotary, but friendship, sympathy, integrity, devotion, idealism can.

The progress of men will depend henceforth on their ability to learn of things invisible. The forces of the eternal cosmos are gradually coming under the dominion of man. Electricity is an invisible force but not spiritual. Love is both. The world lived for many ages before the electrical current became the servant of man. The flickering flame of the spiritual force came with the dawn of intelligence. Man cannot live without it.

Now that the war is over, will there be anything left for Rotary to do? More, far more than ever before. There never has been such a call for clear minded, high minded, right minded men. Civilization seems at times to tremble, but it will survive and be stronger and better than ever before, because, thank God, today men think. Remember that in the final analysis men are square and that is applicable to both employers and employees. The countries which we represent and all civilization besides need Rotary, need it every hour.

I desire to avail myself of the opportunity presented to express my profound appreciation and deep gratitude for the wonderful efforts of the great men who have allied themselves with Rotary. Their devotion is boundless and they constitute living guaranties of the usefulness of Rotary.

If it could ever have been truly said that rotary was insular in its view point, that time is past. Rotarians now understand that the best rule to apply in cases of doubt is the broadest and most generous which the circumstances will permit. Rotary is not tied to tradition. All of the field of human usefulness is open. It has no occasion for lavish expenditure. Its ways are simple. May they ever be so to the end that Rotary may remain pure. If these things may be, Rotary will not seek smooth paths, for men grow strong as they stumble onward.

The men back of Rotary today are too broad of vision to be interested in narrow conceptions. They recognize the fact that Rotary has taken its place among the enduring orld forces, among the invisible things of value which cannot be measured in dollars and cents."
1920 Convention at Atlantic City
Only Paul Harris' words were present at the 1920 Convention. "The 'service way' out of difficulties is the constructive way, therefore Rotary has ever been constructive." He ended with the Golden Rule of "All things whatsoever ye would that man should do unto you, do ye even so unto them". This Golden Rule was the 11th duty for Rotary's Code of Ethics at the time.
1921 Convention at Edinburgh
MESSAGE PROM PRESIDENT EMERITUS Paul P. Harris.

Rotarians assembled at the first across-the-sea International Convention, greetings and best wishes for a happy and profitable meeting.

Ten years of expectation of this event this event have enhanced. not diminished, our interest in it. May it prove to be a rich fulfillment of our fondest hopes.

To all Rotarians, the convention of 1921 has great significance. To many minds it will seem the parting of the ways. Yesterday our Rotary was a child: today in strength and vigor, it steps into the world while we who rocked its cradle in the spectacle. Shall this Rotary of ours be of influence in the larger affairs of the world? Is it indeed the case that there has been and is a very special need in the affairs or nations of the presence of that spirit which we call Rotary?

There is unusual significance in the fact that this convention is being held in the classic and beautiful city of Edinburgh. the Edinburgh of John Knox, Edinburgh rich in historical! interest, Edinburgh. the city of culture, religion, education. Rotary is a product of the West, expressive of the freedom, the democracy, the good fellowship of the wind swept prairies. This convention will be a fine test of Rotary and afford excellent opportunity to judge as to its future. If the spirit of Rotary can bridge the chasm that lies between the freedom of the West and the conservatism of the East, we need have little fear as to its adaptability to other conditions to be met with elsewhere.

The motive power of Rotary is friendship. This is true today: the same statement could have been made in equal truth yesterday and let us hope that it may be truthfully made throughout all times. (Applause)

As the minds of men expand to embrace world visions the hearts of men must expand to a conception of friendship which includes all men, a friendship which not only tolerates national differences of opinion but also recognizes them as the natural heritage of circumstances and environment and as potential servitors of mankind, necessary to civilization’s highest purposes. No nation may live within itself again, and the measure of a nation’s progress as well as the measure of an Individual’s progress must ever be its readiness to learn from the experiences of others. May we never more be provincial, never more pedantic. The self sufficient nation of the future will not only be very lonesome, it will also be very useless—useless to itself as well as to others. It will fall hopelessly behind industrially, commercially, politically, and spiritually. Natural resources will carry a nation so far and no further; but there is no limit to the heights which may be attained by a spiritually minded, industrious, broadly intelligent people anxious to learn of the customs, resources, industries, and commerce of other peoples Rotary believes that the better the people of one nation understand the people of the other nations the less the likelihood of friction and Rotary will therefore encourage acquaintance and friendships between individuals of different nations.

No circumstance has disturbed the serenity of the relations of Great Britain and United States for more than one hundred years. Intercommunication begets understanding, understanding begets friendship, friendship means peace. Every American Rotarian should be a consistent reader of that wonderful little magazine, The British Wheel. No American business man should be too busy to read carefully one representative British weekly and every British business man should read regularly one of the best American papers. May we have a better understanding of your industrial, social, and political problems, and your solutions of them. Rotary is a pioneer blazing the trail to the finest and at the same time the mightiest of human conceptions and aspirations, all-inclusive friendliness.

The creatures of enthusiasm have clone their work well in Rotary and it is fortunate that it is so, for so great a project must depend a large measure upon the enthusiastic support of its followers.

We recognize the fact that enthusiasm has various ways of expressing itself. There is the exuberant enthusiasm which expresses itself in song and laughter and then there is also the serious, quiet enthusiasm that expresses itself in thoughtful, painstaking work. Both are useful both are necessary; the former because it makes men healthier, happier the latter because in the final analysis, upon it depends the real progress we are to make, the real esteem in which we are to be held, the real position which is to be ours in the affairs of men. It is customary and proper that sentiment soften the judgment of Rotarians in matters pertaining to Rotary, but the world’s verdict will not be sentimental. We shall gain that measure of justice to which we are entitled-no more. If our philosophy is unsound, rest assured it will be known; if the principles we profess to stand for do not find expression in actual deed, we shall come face to face with the disapproval which our conduct will merit. (more on music history here)

Rotary’s success or failure in its efforts to popularize its ideals of service throughout the world will depend upon the thoughtfulness, the humbleness and purposefulness with which it goes about its task.

Rotary very naturally has had its greatest growth in. the United States, but Rotarians of other nations must not be lead to conclude that Rotary is so characteristically and predominantly American influence of Rotarians from other countries, can be but little felt in the movement. He who contributes most to the common cause will rise to leadership, be he from nation large or nation small, be he from a nation well represented in Rotary or be he from a nation of a few Rotary clubs; and what is true of the individual is also true of the country which he represents.. It has been well said that there can be but one proper leadership and that is leadership intellectual and spiritual; to tolerate an other form of leadership would be to defeat the very purpose for which we exist. God grant that Rotary be clean and free from the corrupting influences of politics. (Applause)

American Rotary recognizes the fact that its preponderance of numbers imposes peculiar obligations; it is mindful of the fact that there is but one way for majorities to treat minorities and that is fairly with special consideration of their special needs.

Since the beginning of civilization, there has been a surplusage sayers of things. If there is any one particular in which I would have Rotary distinguished from other organizations it is in that quality character which results in the doing of things, if we may but be known as an organization composed of men of determination and action, we need concern ourselves no more as to the world’s verdict.

Pessimists will continue to contend that selfishness is now and must necessarily always be the dominant motive in life but Rotary contends that selfishness is a habit and that habits change as enlightenment increases, that it is not rational to suppose that men will perpetually resign themselves to the pursuit of pounds and dollars while there still remain other more enjoyable and satisfactory things to do, that it is reasonable to expect that it will be fashionable some day to build lives instead of fortunes. (Applause.)

Much of the New World’s material progress has been the result of the material of the Old World. The financiers of the old world supplied us with the wealth wherewith to stretch our railroads across our fertile fields to the end that the old world might be better fed and the new world supplied with other material necessities, but the contribution of the old to the new has been far more than material. We of America have inherited the traditions and the principles which make agricultural, industrial, and social progress practicable. We have accomplished much through the aid of British money but we have accomplished more, infinitely more through the aid of British ideals. (Applause.) There is no knowing to what ends the sinister influences of some of our American newspapers and movies might have taken our American young manhood had it not been for the counteracting influences of organization which first came into existence in the British Isles. It has indeed been a rare procession of organized forces which you have sent to our shore. The Puritans, the Pilgrim Fathers, the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Salvation Army, The Boy Scouts. It is with bated breath that we contemplate what our civilization might have been without them.

We must come to a higher and fairer appraisal of the part that the great writers of the past have played in the civilization of which we are so proud. Harriet Beecher Stowe struck the shackles from the limbs of a million American negroes while the whole civilized world sensed an urge upwards.

We in America shall never outlive or outgrow the influence of Charles Dickens. (Applause.) We have, in tearful suspense, watched with Florence Dombey as Paul’s frail bark floated down between the green banks arid the rushes out on the boundless sea, and in so doing discovered something within ourselves of which we little knew. Every American school, public and private, every American court of justice bears testimony of Dicken’s wonder pen. American manhood has been more sympathetic because of Copperfield and Nickleby, American womanhood the sweeter because of Little Dorrit and Agnes and Nell, American civilization might have stood the stress of the times without British pounds and shillings but American life certainly would have lacked much of its savor had it been without companionship with the illustrious men of letters from across the sea. (Applause.)

It is our purpose to mobilize the vigorous forces of success commerce and industry in an effort to raise the standard of civilization through promulgation of the ideal. of service. The ambition is a lofty one but not impossible to achievement. To accomplish the desired result, Rotary must necessarily avail itself of, every possible opportunity of extension and every reasonable means of expansion not inconsistent with our present plan of structure. The larger cities should have as many Rotary dubs as there are distinct business centers provided such policy be acceptable to the clubs already established in such larger cities. (Applause.) Boys work to which Rotary has so enthusiastically lent itself is the best possible means of impressing the ideal upon generations yet to come. (Applause.) No one who is conversant with what our boys have done can be pessimistic as to the outcome. Conceptions difficult of attainment to the adult are accepted as a matter of course by the youth of our lands if patiently and persistently presented.

In closing this message, I can not refrain from alluding to myself to the extent of stating that the Edinburgh convention has a very special significance to me. Edinburgh is the city in which my wife was born and bred, We frequently live together the scenes of her childhood the memories of which are to her precious and sacred indeed.

We join in expressing our heartfelt best wishes and our profound hope that Rotarians of her world and of mine will join on this occasion in happy union; that many friendships will be formed; that such friendships will continue as long as life lasts and that this convention will serve to cement in firmer and more friendly union the two great English-speaking nations, the first necessary step toward the attainment of the loftiest of all earthly aspirations, the brotherhood of man.
Sincerely yours,

PAUL P. HARRIS.
The message from the Founder of Rotary was received
by the convention with great appreciation and hearty applause.


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