A lawyer, a mining engineer, a coal dealer, and a tailor walk into a room – and start the Rotary Club. They were inspired to build their friendship and serve their city. The strength of Rotary today was seeded by the simple but powerful inspiration that brought together that small group in Chicago.
Not too much longer after that another group gathered here in Milwaukee to start the Club we enjoy today. And here we are! We have lawyers. We have engineers (without borders). I don’t think we have a coal dealer, and I know we’re looking for a good tailor. But we have bankers and builders, policy makers and pundits, medical doctors, non-profit leaders, educators, government officials, designers, accountants, architects, marketing gurus, oilmen, communications experts, religious leaders, art aficionados, and entrepreneurs. And I am honored for the first time in our Club’s history to succeed consecutive woman presidents.
Our Club members come from different life experiences, professional backgrounds, faith traditions, and political points of view and we gather in friendship to enjoy each other’s company and serve our city. The diversity of our experiences and viewpoints is our great strength.
With our different experiences and viewpoints we have, in our Club, the ingredients we need to make Milwaukee a better place. With Rotary’s Four-Way Test we have the recipe we need to keep bringing those ingredients together for the common good without breaking down into partisan rancor or getting trapped in ideological boxes – something of a rarity these days. As we engage and listen and learn and act we can test ourselves with four questions. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? As we pass that test we can move forward together in friendship and in service and do good things.
For more than a century, our Club and its members have done a great deal of good for Milwaukee and for other communities in need. In the coming year we will continue with vigor the work we have already started. We’ll continue to recruit the next generation of leaders to our Club and diversify our membership to better reflect our city, we’ll give scholarships to first generation college students, we’ll work with our friends in Guatemala on water and bridge projects, we’ll read and tutor and support the Johnson’s Park neighborhood, we’ll be Live at the Lakefront, we’ll hike at the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum, and we’ll move forward with the Milwaukee Urban Stables.
And we are poised to do even more. This year’s Rotary International theme is “Be the Inspiration!” Rotarians worldwide share as our vision: Together we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change around the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. Here in Milwaukee, with a dose of Mid-Western sensibility, we connect people and resources for the common good.
In the year and years ahead what more can we do to be the inspiration and fulfill the vision of lasting change for the common good here in Milwaukee and in the other communities we support? That’s a question we will probe as a Club over the next year as we explore together how to hone our strategic vision, further focus our actions, and harness the strength of our Club so we can continue to do our best to build friendships and serve the common good.
Thank you President JoAnne for your strong and energetic leadership this past Rotary year. Thank you Mary McCormick for your steady and expert guidance. And thank you to all of my fellow members. Our city needs us to keep doing that Rotary thing we do. And we need each other. It is an honor and a joy to join you on the journey in friendship and in service.