16 February 2015 — For Presidents Day, The First President


SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22 — 12:30pm to 2:00pm — Our FOURTH SUNDAY meeting for February! We gather in The Fireplace Room at Denny’s, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.  (Meeting reminders: Inspiration, Daniele; Pledge, JoAnne; Four-Way Test, Sara; Rotary Minute, Yoko.)





This month’s Rotary E-Club E-wareness campaign presents information about domestic violence prevention.  Throughout the month our Club will provide resources gathered by our Club Members.  The information will be helpful to you and to the people you care about.  The campaign launches this week.










Paul Harris, the founder of the Rotary Club movement in 1905, wasn’t even the first President of the first Rotary Club; that privilege went to Silvester Schiele, one of the first four people including Harris who began meeting in Chicago.

On this Presidents Day holiday in the United States, we take a look at how Paul Harris did, however, become the first President of the national organization that ultimately became Rotary International. His election came out of the first Convention of Rotarians, as retold here, excerpted with permission from David Forward’s A Century of Service: The Story of Rotary International.

Those who attended the 1910 Rotary Convention never forgot the experience. The Chicago club enlisted many of its members to help with the arrangements. They were intent on being great hosts and even formed an automobile committee, where club members met arriving delegates at Union Station in a car bedecked with Rotary pennants, then chauffeured them to their hotel.

Sixty Rotarians registered, along with an equal number of wives and guests. Fourteen of the 16 clubs sent delegates, the remaining two having designated proxies to represent them. Every club was allowed one delegate for each 50 members, and they came together at the convention as equal partners. They were committed to the common purpose of building a national association and understood that a framework for future growth should include an idea exchange to learn about different clubs’ programs and policies.

Paul Harris called the meeting to order in the Congress Hotel, and delegates quickly tackled the agenda. First, they elected convention officers. Chesley R. Perry was resoundingly voted chairman. He took the podium and announced: “Rotary is already a wonderful force, and no one can attempt to foretell its future growth. You have important work to do in establishing the fundamental laws of this association.”

The delegates were in Chicago for serious business, but the atmosphere was more like a pep rally. Here were people from all around the country, whose scant experience with Rotary was the few months their home club had existed. Now they were meeting others who shared the same ideals and excitement. It was a time for sharing, fellowship, and fun.

“We want you to feel that Chicago is yours,” host club president Red Ramsay told the audience in the opening session. “We have thrown the key into the lake long ago.” A year earlier, the Chicago club had held a contest to elect their officers. The two slates ran as the red team and the blue team; the reds won, and their leader, who assumed the presidency, was known forever after as “Red” Ramsay. Red was a senior executive of the telephone company and chaired the Convention Entertainment Committee. He involved many other club members as they took the visiting Rotarians and their guests to dinner parties, swimming at Wilson Avenue Beach, and to a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Highlanders at the new Comiskey Park. [Editor’s note: in 1913 the Highlanders changed their name to Yankees.]

On Tuesday, the delegates joined the Rotary Club of Chicago at their regular weekly luncheon, then toured the city’s broad avenues, lush parks, and towering skyscrapers. That evening they dined al fresco at the famous Bismarck Beer Garden. The after-dinner keynote speaker, Daniel L. Cady of the Rotary Club of New York, told the exuberant audience, “Within 80 years, Rotary will encircle the earth, and by that time the Rotary wheel will contain a thousand spokes.” He was 69 years off in his predictions: the 1,000th Rotary club was added in 1921.

In the end, delegates adopted the constitution and bylaws and the formation of the National Association of Rotary Clubs of America. They unanimously elected its first slate of officers, naming Paul Harris as president. By Wednesday afternoon, their mission fulfilled, they adjourned the convention and returned home.

(end excerpt)

Other Rotary International Presidents of note to our own Club include:

Cliff Dochterman, 1992-93, author of “The ABCs of Rotary” and therefore a frequent contributor to our Club’s knowledge;

Rick King, 2001-2002, who formally “pinned” your Programs Chair (among others) at a luncheon in the Valley in 2008 and who shares a story with us in a moment, and who was PDG Nancy Schmidt’s RI President during Nancy’s year as District Governor of District 5260;

Kalyan Banerjee, 2011-2012, who gave our Club his time during his final week in office as our video guest speaker via Skype;

Sakuji Tanaka, 2012-2013, whose signature granted us our Club’s official Charter from Rotary International;

Gary C.K. Huang, this year’s President, who deserves a mention just because, well, it’s Presidents Day.

We close this week’s Program with an inspiring story, recorded by a former member of the former Rotary Club several of us served, from Past Rotary International President Rick King. We’re better at time and elbow grease than money, but the story is powerful: that we can find ways to help. (You can stop the video at the end of President Rick’s speech, approximately eight minutes in.)


If the embedded video is not visible, please click here to view it on YouTube.



The opinions expressed by guest speakers, or in advertisements that appear on external websites linked to this program, are those of the speaker(s) / websites / advertisers and not necessarily of the Rotary E-Club of The Greater San Fernando Valley or its members. No endorsement is implied. Programs are presented for informational purposes only.


3 responses to 16 February 2015 — For Presidents Day, The First President

  1. Thank you for sharing the video. I am so proud to belong to a group that does so much for so many. Our E-Club definitely rocks at giving time and using elbow grease to touch the lives of those in need. You never know how far your effort can reach. That is why it’s important that we try to reach a little farther every day.

  2. What a way to top off President’s Day! Thank you for sharing Past RI President Rick King’s moving account of what Rotary means and how rewarding and meaningful it is to be a part of it!

  3. It ‘s important to look back at the history of Rotary and realize that we are carrying forward a tradition of service that goes back over 100 years, even if we do it by technological means that the founders could never have envisioned.

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