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Making a Difference

Rotary's wheelchair donation program.
Rotary's wheelchair donation program.

(This is a summary of Past RI President Cliff Dochterman’s speech at the International Assembly).

Rotary's trajectory is nothing short of remarkable, evolving from localized acts of goodwill to global problem-solving. Edgar "Daddy" Allen, a pioneering Rotarian, made waves in the 1920s advocating for disabled children and created EasterSeals. While Rotary didn't narrow its focus to this single cause, the discussion empowered clubs to pick their own projects. That's why today we see such a rich tapestry of initiatives, ranging from local community projects to humanitarian aid.

By the 1960s, Rotary had set its sights on international challenges. Rotarian Carl Miller catalyzed this shift in 1963 through the Matched District and Club Program. By the late '70s, despite initial skepticism, the Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) program had laid the groundwork for the PolioPlus initiative, affecting millions worldwide.

Take a look at projects like Gift of Life and the Jaipur foot initiative, and you'll see the ripple effect of a single Rotarian's vision. More recent efforts, such as Rotarian Action Groups focusing on issues like water scarcity and HIV/AIDS, indicate that our impact is continually widening.

Our partnerships have multiplied our reach. Programs like Avoidable Blindness, where we've sponsored hundreds of thousands of cataract surgeries, or the worldwide wheelchair donations, highlight the limitless possibilities when we collaborate.

Looking ahead, we're leveraging technology to mobilize even faster. Rotarian Action Groups are forming alliances with NGOs for more ambitious objectives. Throughout these changes, the enduring constant is the ingenuity and dedication of Rotarians. In the realm of service, there really are no limits.

The takeaway is simple: From humble beginnings to a worldwide network, each Rotary project starts with a single Rotarian thinking, "I can make a difference." Membership provides the path to achieving that dream.


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