A Ready, Fire, Aim reader, Ken, commented on my post about goal setting. He was wondering why I took one-third of Rotary clubs off of my potential Dare to Dream free-program list because I thought they were “disconnected from Rotary.” I’ve been thinking about using that term and Ken’s excellent comment ever since. How can a Rotary club be “disconnected” from Rotary? After all, a Rotary club’s ability to “practice Rotary” (whatever that means) on its own terms is fundamental to our organization. I’ve written about this before. On October 2016 I published an article asking if Rotary was a Franchise Operation? It accurately described a somewhat boozy, late night conversation between concerned Rotary leaders trying to figure out what it means for Rotary clubs to be autonomous, and how more often than not, that autonomy hurts Rotary’s brand in a particular community. (That was back when I was writing interesting posts worth reading…..)
After all of these years it seems we are still wrestling with the autonomy of Rotary Clubs. Actually independent and autonomous Rotary clubs are perfectly happy with themselves, even if their District Governors are somewhat stressed. It’s certainly important to me in the context of promoting Dare to Dream. How can we get Rotary clubs to watch a free excerpt of the movie if they don’t follow the news that is flowing down to them from Rotary leadership? A few Rotary clubs simply aren’t interested in anything other than the programs that they enjoy doing, often for the past many years. (As I told Ken, I can only guess how many constitutes “a few.”) The point is, these clubs don’t see this as a problem. But to be clear, when it comes to service projects, Rotary’s rules clearly give all clubs the right to be autonomous.
One of the great stories in the Dare to Dream movie is the story of Edgar “Daddy” Allen, the International Association of Crippled Children, and Rotary Resolution 23-34.
Daddy Allen was the legendary founder of the Ohio Society of Crippled Children, which became the International Society of Crippled Children, which ultimately became Easter Seals. Rotary clubs so loved providing services to crippled children (yesterday’s term for children with disabilities) that they joined the ISCC in huge numbers. The first Chairman of the ISCC was some guy named, Paul Harris.
The organization became so popular that it was suggested that ALL Rotary clubs be REQUIRED to financially support the ISCC. This did not sit well with many clubs who did not want Rotary International to dictate what service projects individual clubs could do, or should do. At the International Convention in 1923 the issue was clarified with the passage of Resolution 23-34 which clearly stated that Rotary clubs had complete autonomy in their choice of service activities. There could be no Rotary-wide service projects enforced by RI.
Rotary leaders had to deal with Resolution 23-34 as they figured out how to position Rotary to do polio eradication. As Dare to Dream filmgoers learn, the then new 75th Anniversary Fund would be funded by voluntary donations. The fund itself would be self-liquidating with a goal of raising $12 million over two years and spending it in five. Contributions to the Rotary Foundation were also voluntary, but when TRF began funding ongoing international projects through the new 3H program, it created one of the biggest controversies in Rotary history.
Unbelievably, its been NINETY-FIVE years since the debate in St. Louis about Rotary club autonomy. Apparently we still haven’t figured it out.
To learn more valuable Rotary lessons from Rotary’s history that are absolutely relevant today, watch the movie, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.
Follow Ken Solow on FB at daretodreamfilm and on Twitter at @Daretodreamfilm.
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