In 1905, a spark ignited in Chicago. Attorney Paul Harris envisioned a gathering place for professionals from diverse backgrounds. This simple idea, fueled by a desire for fellowship and service, became the seed of a global phenomenon: Rotary.
Rotary's name itself whispers of its origins. In those early days, meetings rotated from office to office, fostering a spirit of community and shared purpose. From the beginning, the focus wasn't just on camaraderie. It was about giving back. As Paul Harris himself declared, "Rotary's legacy would be built on the results it achieves."And achieve it did. Rotary's reach transcended borders with remarkable speed. Within 16 years, the organization spanned six continents, a testament to its universal appeal. But Rotary wasn't just about growth; it was about resilience. When World War II cast a dark shadow, clubs in several countries were forced to disband. Yet, the spirit of Rotary persisted. Members continued to meet in secret, their commitment to service unwavering. After the war, they emerged, ready to rebuild not just their clubs, but their communities.
Rotary's dedication to service is a constant thread woven through its history. Take polio, for example. In 1979, a project to immunize 6 million Filipino children marked the beginning of Rotary's fight against this crippling disease. Today, thanks to their unwavering efforts, polio is nearly eradicated, a testament to the power of collective action.
The story of Rotary isn't just about grand gestures; it's about the countless acts of service, big and small, that ripple outwards, creating a wave of positive change. It began with a $26.50 donation to The Rotary Foundation in 1917, a seed that grew into a force for good. This commitment to service continued with the Foundation's first gift of $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children in 1930.
Rotary's story is far from over. It's a story that continues to be written by its members, individuals from all walks of life, united by a common purpose. As Rotary looks towards the future, one thing remains certain: the ripples of service started by Paul Harris in 1905 will continue to spread, creating a more connected and compassionate world.
So, I pose this question to our Thiensville-Mequon Rotary Members: How will you make your ripple?