Rotary's Power for World Peace

The Rotarian, February 1917

Rotary Just At The Threshold

An anniversary message from the Father of Rotary' in which he gives expression to his personal and unofficial views upon Rotary and passing events.

By Paul P. Harris President Emeritus I. A. of R. C.

The Rotary anniversary period is to me my special opportunity of having a fling at passing events, of joining for the time being with the small but growing circle of earnest men who pin their faith to the written word and of renewing my touch with all of my fellow Rotarians. Rotary is twelve years old this month.

The first twelve years in the lives of humans constitute the period of transition from infancy to adolescence; from tiny, helpless babyhood to romping, healthful boyhood or to blissful, bashful girlhood; past the threshold of promise to the beginning of actual realization of life. Rotary, if worthy, will outlive generations of men, and as worth while things go, has not as yet past its day of swaddling clothes. You and I may still continue to rock the infant cradle and to search with unflagging interest for baby's first small tooth.


There are nearly thirty thousand Rotarians in the world today, a stupendous number as compared with the membership of ten years ago, few as compared with the population of a great city, state or nation. There are wards in Chicago whose aldermen represent in the city council a constituency of more than twice the number. In point of numbers we occupy a position only relatively important.


Inspiration in Growth


We have not begun to exhaust our possibilities of material growth. Had the great war not put a stop to proceedings, Rotary undoubtedly would ere now have been established in some more of the belligerent countries. How far‑reaching the influence of a truly international association might be in international disputes is difficult to foresee. One thing is certain and that is that its tendency would not be to aggravate differences. Who knows but what some day there may be a truly international association of Rotary clubs, representative of various national organizations and qualified to act in matters of international scope? Rotary will continue to grow materially that her power may be greater. The opportunity for extension in South American countries, Australasia [Asia] and in all parts of the civilized world is undeniable. The development seems inevitable. There may perhaps some time be ten members to every one of the present day.


Whence is to come the man power with which to cope with the problems incident to increased membership? Where shall we find men such as Klumph, Albert, Galbraith, Gundaker, and Pidgeon, who can and will make the sacrifices necessary to service on future boards? The work is almost stupendous. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these big, broad‑minded men.


There is inspiration in growth. Our increase in numbers must be even more rapid in future than in the past if we desire to hold our leadership in the race. There are now several other organizations formed on our general plan. Some of them permit as many as four representatives to each line. Such obviously have a great advantage. We cannot be oblivious of the fact that some of these organizations are making wonderful progress. This is no period in the life of Rotary for smug complacence. If we indulge in it, we shall be beaten ignominiously in the race.

May we win the victory and may ours not be an easy win! Success to them, that they may be worthy of our rivalry. They may prove to be the most helpful influence that has ever been brought to bear upon us. Intolerance is hatred's most prolific hatchery. Under the old conception of religion, hatred born of intolerance struggled with love for mastery. If there must be denominational Rotary, let there nevertheless be friendliness.


Election of Members


Possibly the existence of rival organizations may prove to be an incentive to Rotarians to permit more than one club to a city on the theory that the existence of more than one Rotary club would be preferable to the existence of several similar but unaffiliated clubs.


Much has been written about the importance of admitting to membership only those of highest standing. In view of the fact that our membership is limited, it is an especially important consideration. If we are to affect the practices of the trades represented we must do so thru powerful personalities. Members must be of high standing if the club is to be. But let the rating be of character, not of finances. There are many big little men and as many little big men. Let us not be forgetful of the fact that Christ himself if on earth this day would be unnamed in the books of Dun or Bradstreet.


Men come and live and go, without ever haying made worthy demand upon the big man inside. Within you and me there is a man and there is a superman. Will there be a crisis in your life or mine so imperative, so undeniable that you or I will of necessity cast off old self and drag this superman from within? How would it seem to be so engrossed in a purpose so great, so exacting, so unselfish that time would stand stock still?


These Are Mighty Times


In the life of Rotary, will there be a crisis so imperative, so undeniable that Rotary will mightily raise itself above itself and throw off all that is trivial? These are mighty times. This is a serious age, more in keeping with deep, intense thought than with fun. It would seem that the world has made more progress in the last ten years than in preceding centuries. Theology, law, medicine, and last but not by any means least, business, have simply burst the walls of worn‑out precedent and dogmas that have held them captive and have come into the light of truth and to recognition of the fact that service is life.


Possibly within the next ten years we shall arrive at the point where it will be thought as sacred a duty to train the character of youth as to train the intellect, when sociology will be considered as essential a feature of religious training as the books of Moses. How much better a place to live in is the world today than it was two or three centuries ago. Can you realize the fact that men of those times were burned at the stake just for thinking?


Perhaps no institutions have developed more in point of character than clubs. It is a far cry from the boisterous conviviality of the early English clubs to the purposefulness of Rotary of today. Play has its proper place in the affairs of men and boys, but life must not be all play.


I am a believer in universal service, not with sword and bayonet but with a pick and shovel. If I had my way every boy regardless of birth and station would have his day, not in digging trenches from which to kill, but in making good roads over which commerce could flow, in tilling the soil that there might be an abundance for all. By dint of universal participation in humble and wholesome service, I would raise a democracy so secure that political storms could not shake it, for its foundation would be the bed rock of reality.


I would increase life's measure of happiness by increasing Men's capacity to enjoy. The present day quest of happiness too frequently begins and ends with the pursuit of wealth and in oblivion of the fact that there is a theory of equitable compensation running thruout nature's laws; that happiness must be earned. Life is a scheme of service and the sooner that fact is understood, the more readily we shall be able to adjust ourselves, the larger our reward, the more abundant our happiness.


Understand Nature's Laws


We must have a better understanding of nature's laws. They are more humane than human laws, tho inexorable. The fact that nature's laws are inexorable is the most humane of all their manifestations. Consideration of that characteristic discourages infraction. A child intuitively withdraws its hand from the hot stove and is wise enough never to put it on a hot stove again, while the adult criminal continues to transgress with reasonable chance of escape. If punishment were certain, crime would be practically unknown, and we are learning things about punishment these days‑that it should be a means of making, not of ruining men. Violation of the laws of hygiene means punishment of the severest kind because it affects health, upon which happiness so depends.


He who breathes deeply has the better chance of thinking clearly. He whose mind is right is most likely to be morally right and to understand the doctrine of "Service above Self."


In my town there is a young multimillionaire who recently gave $100,000 for a rug. Last winter it was said that human lives could be saved in Armenia for about ten dollars per head. If the report is true, the price of the rug in terms of human lives was ten thousand lives. Think of it, the lives of ten thousand men, women and children! This same young millionaire is a likable man. I have no doubt but what he would have risked his own life to have saved the life of any one of those Armenians had the situation been such that it appeared to him to be the thing to do. The trouble is that he permitted his thinking to be done by the dames and beaux of fashion. He broke no man‑made law and yet in the sight of God is there any difference between sins of omission and sins of commission? Shall we ever understand that the other fellow's necessities should have precedence over our luxuries, our absurdities? If so, we shall attain the estate of the brotherhood of man. 

If Rotary fails to find a way to rise above its present limitations, the grandeur of our development will be but comparative. It is to be expected that Rotary will be inspired to draw upon the big man inside, to rise far above self and its surroundings; tho prevented from great numerical growth by its plan of membership, it can nevertheless be without spiritual limitations. In the broader sense, Rotary may well be all things to all men. We may limit the number of those who bear the responsibilities of Rotary but the best that there is in it must be open to all. Ours has become an endowment too rich to be confined to any organization the membership of which is in any manner restricted.


How Rotary Can Grow


Rotary will have begun its real growth when it begins to put into systematic and practical operation its plan of making all Rotarians representatives of Rotary in their respective lines of trade. In this manner it becomes possible to minister to the needs of all. Here is our open door. If all other means of ingress and egress be barred and fastened, let this door always be open.


The late Dr. Münsterberg said that the Will is the man. Certain it is that the will of man dwarfs titanic difficulties, rises above genius and holds dominion over all mortal things. If the will of man once gives the command, this world will know no more war, no more intemperance, no more pestilence, no more want; because after all has been said and done, these are simply ridiculous things.


You say I am dreaming? Five years ago, I would have said as much to any one making such a statement; but times are changing wonderfully, Friend. Today even the man about the town, the bon vivant, is predicting National Prohibition; and war is committing suicide. I wish that it might be Rotary's privilege to deal the hideous monster a farewell thrust, the only perfectly lawless thing loose in the world today in a civilized nation.


Right here I want to make an admission, and in advance to explain that I am not making it for flattery's sake. I am making it because I am deeply convinced of its truth. I want to admit that in my humble opinion the one irresistible force that is making prohibition inevitable is the force that stands back of good business. Ministers and reformers have been battering against the fortress of intemperance from time immemorial. Doubtless they have helped greatly in many ways; they have helped business to a clearer understanding of the injurious effects of the use of liquor.


Finally the business world has awakened to the fact that alcohol and efficient business will no more mix than oil and water. Railroads and other great industries not only demand of their employees that they do not drink during business hours, but they say further‑"We cannot afford to have in our employ men who drink at all." The Illinois Steel Company now permits a milk wagon route thru its entire plant and publishes a bulletin educating employees in the effect of the use of liquor. One of their bulletins recently came out with the significant inquiry‑"What has booze ever done for you?" There is not much that is sentimental about the way that business handles big questions, but the business man generally brings to bear a keen insight.


Service and Economy


The business crusade against dishonesty is no less effective than its crusade against intemperance. Dishonesty's great ally is extravagance. Economy is the culture that will put the dishonesty bacteria out of business when once it gets its forces together in the business blood‑stream. Few men are intentionally dishonest. In most instances they are driven to it by desperate social requirements. Many a man has been behind the bars, a martyr to his family's extravagance and his own weakness, and many another man has lost out in the business race as a result of his having made excessive charges to cover high expenses. One can sometimes get a pretty good idea as to the quantity and quality of service a young lawyer can afford to render, by taking note of what he spends his money for and how he spends.


Are you interested in service? You are interested in economy then. Some people despise it and if circumstances make its presence necessary, they will cover it over with a hundred and one little pretexts and shams, not half so slightly as rugged honest economy, the Most underrated of all human virtues. Bear in mind that I am writing about the economy that makes men and women, not the economy that makes misers; the economy that is necessary to enable one to measure up to his full responsibilities and to do his share of the world's work whatever its rigors may be. Economy also is a great aid to business in that it is the enemy of that old murderer which men call worry. They are making a science of economy in Europe today and civilization will profit by their experiences.


If extravagance affects honesty, how disastrous then must it be to charity; and the question arises‑How long may we avoid life's responsibilities on the plea of being broke?


Penal statutes against waste, and compulsory insurance to be provided by the government at cost will go a long way toward abbreviating the list of prevalent evils. I stand for simplicity and against extravagance and luxury in the life of Rotary. Let us not indulge in costly and fantastic demonstrations so long as there are real purposes yet to be served.


The Will of Rotary


There are two available methods of abetting national crime; one is by openly assailing opposition to it and the other is by declaring remedial measures impracticable. "I can't" never built any telephone systems nor railroads. "I will"  built them. The "can't" men and women have spiked many a good gun. Pessimistic friends did as much to retard the development of the prohibition movement as optimistic enemies, and there will be those who will continue to deride world peace theorists until the day when theory will give way to fact. Peace among nations must be the order of the day; and if commercial boycott proves inadequate to quell disturbances then armed force must be resorted to.


It is an easier matter to interest men in war than it is to interest them in peace; it therefore requires more moral courage to talk peace than to talk war. Fourth of July oratory has a natural leaning toward the bellicose. George Bernard Shaw has said that Americans seem to know that their institutions are great and glorious, but know nothing of them beyond that fact. I think that Americans would do well (and can at the same time be quite as patriotic) to turn some of their oratory toward educating their fellow countrymen to the idea that there are other people in the world besides themselves entitled to a view‑point. How can we be certain that the other fellow needs a whaling before we know anything else about him?


If the will of Rotary once gives the command, Rotary may place itself in the very vanguard of progress; but its step must be quick and certain, for the pace is terrific.


Not Pharisees but Rotarians!


There are many church going people who get little benefit from their church affiliations. Why? Because they view church going, bible reading, and prayers as ends and not means to ends. Sermons to such are not an inspiration to deeds, but merely an enjoyable sensation, a warming, cheering influence. Having been born in the right spot, geographically speaking, their theology is sound, their orthodoxy unimpeachable. Such are not real Christians or real Jews; they are modern Pharisees, very observant of forms and ceremonies and very forgetful of the needs of men; and so may it not prove to be the case that we shall have to face the same conditions in our own circles?


We shall have to watch our steps closely lest Rotary prove to be to us a mere thrill, a sensation to be experienced at club meetings, not a means to an end‑ the welfare and happiness of men. May we be Rotarians, not modern Pharisees!


Researched and scanned by Dr. Wolfgang Ziegler, 30 September 2003

space picture
  space pictureMünsterberg, Hugo

Danzig, East Prussia

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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