2 February 2015 — World Peace and Understanding

IMPORTANT DATES

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8 — 10:00pm to 4:00pm — The next ONE MORE ITEM FOOD DRIVE, in support of Valley Food Bank, at Gelson’s in Sherman Oaks.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9 — 6:15pm  — Club Board of Directors Meeting, The Fireplace Room at Denny’s, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. All Club Members always welcome.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22 — 12:30pm to 2:00pm — Our FOURTH SUNDAY meeting for February! Special guest speaker TBA. We gather in The Fireplace Room at Denny’s, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.

 

ROTARY E-WARENESS CAMPAIGN, FEBRUARY 2015: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVENTION

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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.

 

THIS WEEK’S PROGRAM

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We cheat a little bit this week, showing you this image of the 2012-2013 Rotary International theme.  The President of Rotary International, Sakuji Tanaka, emphasized peace and the role Rotarians can play in achieving it.

Rotary International designates February as World Understanding Month.  As Past RI President Cliff Dochterman says in his famous book The ABCs of Rotary, “World Understanding Month is a chance for every club to promote Rotary’s continued quest for goodwill, peace, and understanding among people of the world.”

Making friends with Rotarians around the world is a first step.  Rotary Clubs are almost everywhere.  In a few places, Rotary Clubs used to be there…and we hope will be again, as another step forward in furtherance of peace.  For example, check out what our Member Brenda found in Cuba just this past weekend:

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(This plaque honors Sr. Oviedo Godals, an active Rotarian for 33 consecutive years, and a charter member (socia fundador) of the Rotary Club of Cienfuegos from 1910 until his passing in 1953.)

Sadly, there are no Rotary Clubs in Cuba now.  But can there be again someday?

This week, there are two parts to our program.  Let’s each take just a few minutes and teach us all something in the comments.  Pick a country, any country (the US doesn’t count…too easy).  Is there an exotic place you’ve visited, or always wanted to?  Go to Google, search for “Rotary Club” and the name of the country…then, from the results, pick a Rotary Club in that country and share the address of their website in your comment.  Peace is possible.  The Rotary Clubs of Jerusalem, Israel and Amman, Jordan teamed up just a few years ago to help charter the Rotary Club of Ramallah in the West Bank area.  Peace is possible.

Go…Google…play…find…learn and teach.  Then come on back here, please.  Thank you.

PART TWO of this week’s program gives us the chance to learn some history of the deep involvement of Rotarians in the process of building peace.  Excerpted with permission from David Forward’s A Century of Service: The Story of Rotary International, here is a look at how Rotarians were an integral part of the formation of the United Nations as a piece of a larger puzzle of achieving peace after World War 2.

 

Less than a month after World War II began, The Rotarian began publishing a series of features on the need for reconciliation among all nations. One of those commentaries covered the 1940 RI Convention in Havana, Cuba. Long before there was a United Nations, before “human rights” was a term most people even understood, the Rotarians meeting in Havana adopted a resolution calling for “freedom, justice, truth, sanctity of the pledged word, and respect for human rights.” Indeed, the delegates concluded, where those basic human rights do not exist, Rotary cannot live nor its ideals prevail. It was a major milestone in Rotary history. It threw down the gauntlet and said, in effect, “Rotary has no interest in the religious or political affairs of your country, but if you do not treat your people with the rights any human being deserves, then Rotary cannot operate there.”

When the newly chartered United Nations wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it used the resolution from the Rotary Havana convention as its framework—and Rotary provided copies of the UN’s document for its local clubs to debate and distribute in their communities.

In fact, Rotary as an organization—and Rotarians individually—played an important role in the formation of the United Nations in 1945, and UNESCO even before that.

As bombs rained down on Britain in the darkest days of World War II, Rotarians set about planning for a workable peace once the fighting had stopped. By 1942, London had one of the strongest clubs and most active districts— District 13—in the Rotary world. It was also the temporary home for thousands of other Rotarians whom the winds of war had deposited in the British capital. Some were military officers or diplomats stationed there by their governments; others were refugees from continental Europe.

These Rotarians convened a conference to plan a world at peace; so compelling was their vision that ministers, diplomats, and representatives from 21 governments attended. The outcome was a world body that would serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas in culture, education, and science, and in the months ahead they held several follow-up meetings to bring their dream to reality. This group evolved into UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization).

UNESCO’s formation showed that Rotarians and Rotary could make an impact in a world yearning for peace. World War II had sounded the death knell for the League of Nations; but even before the last gun had fallen silent, politicians began working to create a more effective global organization that could prevent such horrors from occurring again. Beginning in 1943, conferences were convened to address specific issues. The most famous of these meetings were those covering food and agriculture in Hot Springs, Virginia; relief and rehabilitation in Atlantic City; the monetary and financial conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire; civil aviation, in Chicago; and the Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, D.C.) conference on international security. Rotarians participated as working observers in these meetings and duly reported their progress in The Rotarian.

In April 1945, Rotary was in the forefront of arguably one of the most important meetings of the 20th century: the finalizing of the charter of the United Nations in San Francisco.

The UN Charter Conference was the ultimate meeting of world leaders. They gathered to establish how future international disputes would be resolved; governments sent only their highest-ranking ministers, their very brightest minds to San Francisco.

Rotary was invited to attend as one of the observer organizations. There being few UN staff at that time, these 23 Rotarian observers guided agendas, performed translations, suggested wording for resolutions, and helped resolve disputes between delegates. Rotary provided 11 official observers to the U.S. delegation alone—only one other organization had more than three.

“The invitation to Rotary International [as a consultant] was not merely a gesture of goodwill and respect toward a great organization,” declared Edward R. Stettinius Jr., the U.S. secretary of state. “It was a simple recognition of the practical part Rotary’s members have played and will continue to play in the development of understanding among nations.” More than half a century later, Rotary International continues to support representatives to a number of UN and other international organizations, including UNESCO, the World Bank, the United Nations Environmental Programme, Council of Europe, and other agencies. Rotary International currently holds the highest level of consultative status a nongovernmental organization can have with ECOSOC (the UN’s Economic and Social Council).

Of the 50 nations that sent official delegations in 1945, Rotary clubs were still active in 32, and 27 of the delegates or technical advisers were Rotarians. Five of them were heads of their delegation. Paul-Henri Spaak of the Rotary Club of Brussels was elected president of the General Assembly (in the first 12 years of the UN, fi ve Rotarians served in that office). Faris El-Khouri, founder of the Rotary Club of Damascus and Syria’s prime minister, signed the UN charter for his country. Warren R. Austin, head of the U.S. delegation, was the first president of the Rotary Club of Burlington, Vermont. Rotarian Ricardo J. Alfaro was a former president of Panama and his country’s ambassador to the United States.

At first, the speeches were sluggish and dismally formal. Then the diminutive chief of the Philippines delegation arose. He was Brigadier General Carlos P. Romulo, a member of the Rotary Club of Manila and former vice president of Rotary International. Romulo was no stranger to Rotarians, who had long appreciated his eloquence and wit in his many speaking engagements. “The next morning headline readers around the world knew the great conclave at San Francisco had a keynote,” reported Leland D. Case in The Rotarian. Romulo went on to become president of the UN General Assembly, and Rotary International set about fertilizing the seeds of peace that he and his fellow delegates had sown.

The Secretariat published a series of booklets promoting the UN and UNESCO and sent them to clubs around the world with instructions that local Rotarians should themselves become better informed and then disseminate the facts as peace advocates in their communities. From Here On!, a 124-page booklet on the UN charter, had a circulation of almost a quarter-million, while In the Minds of Men (the UNESCO story) and Report on the UN by Rotary International were published monthly from 1947 to 1952.

There were wars before Rotary existed and wars after; the senseless slaughter of human life did not stop with the signing of the UN charter in 1945. But whereas the United Nations acts as a corporate body to try to resolve conflict, Rotarians have always tried to help peace percolate up from the grassroots. Peacemaking is first a local matter.

One hundred years after Paul Harris founded Rotary, there is, of course, still conflict in the world. No man, no organization in history, has been able to stop war and likely never will. But Paul Harris’s idea was more personal. He believed the path to peace was walked one step at a time, one person at a time.

 

 

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.

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3 responses to 2 February 2015 — World Peace and Understanding

  1. The level of participation of the Rotary both during World War II and in the formation of the United Nations is much more far reaching than I ever understood. This was a very informative chronological explanation of both the role of Rotary and the progression that lead to what we now know as the United Nation. I take one point from this more than any other, and that is that peace is achieved “one step at a time, one person at a time.” This is why I want to devote the second part of my life to continuing this pursuit. Paying back those who have helped me by sharing my skills and time to hopefully benefit both our current generations plus future generations.
    Lauren E. Levinson

  2. For the Part One challenge this week, I searched Google for a Rotary Club in Liechtenstein…because last week “We Liech Liechtenstein” happened to be a category on Jeopardy. But none of the Clubs there (understandably) had a website with an English option, so it wouldn’t have been much fun to share. Instead, I searched and found the website of the Rotary Club of Jerusalem. http://www.jerusalemrotaryclub.org/ It was the first Rotary Club in what was then called Palestine, under British control, and founded in 1929. It remains an English-language Club, the only one in Israel. From the beginning its members were both Arab and Jews. I chose this because my great uncle (maternal grandfather’s brother), Dr. Daniel Burman, was a long-time member of that Club until his passing in 1989. I regret that I never knew he was a Rotarian, although I knew him well.

  3. My pick is alicespringsrotary.org in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. “The Alice,” as they call it, is the heart of the Outback and the geographical center of Australia. It is also the gateway to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. The Rotary Club sponsors the annual “Bangtail Muster” parade which is now in its 54th year. I say good on ya, to the Rotary Club of Alice Springs.

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