Thoughts of Rotary Leaders: Julio Sorjus
Trustee, The Rotary Foundation, 2012–2016
It was our founder, Paul Harris, who stated that “The promise of Rotary lays in its future, not in its past.”
He added: “This is a changing world; we must be prepared to change with it. The story of Rotary will have to be written again and again.”
When we gaze into the future, across the horizon, and explore the possibilities open right in front of us in two, five, or ten years, we are forced to admit that there is a mixed picture ahead.
My friends, the average age of Rotarians, 30 years ago, was 47. It has now become 61 years of age, and it unfortunately continues to climb. Evidently, our presence among the young is very limited. If we go on like this, our organisation will experience a serious contraction in a few years. To put it simply: unless we act and change today, we risk becoming a relic of the past.
As President Kalyan Banerjee has wisely stated, we need to curb the greying of Rotary, and then encourage its greening. We cannot afford to ignore that only 11 percent of today’s Rotarians are younger than 40, while 68 percent are over 50 and 39 percent are over 60.
How, then, can we make Rotary more attractive for the young?
How can we motivate and attract young people to join us – and then stay with us?
How will we make sure that Rotary retains its magic and charm in the eyes of the future generations? Specifically: How can we make sure that the young people of Brazil, India, Egypt, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and Spain continue to heed the call to service?
How will Rotary develop and send an inspiring, loud and clear message, a long term vision about where it needs to be heading?
If somehow we came to be in possession of many books, or medicines, or wheelchairs, or simply much cash: what would we do with those resources, if we didn’t have a plan, a vision, or a direction?
There is only one answer to the plight of modern organisations. Without a doubt, the only tool available to us to fully bring the organisation to a position where it can match its current challenges is Leadership.
We need modern, nimble leadership. Innovative and visionary conductors, open to the new realities. We are not talking here about the leadership of yesterday, which was based upon personal whims and superficial fashions.
Rotary needs committed leaders of high ethical standards, with the capacity to clearly articulate a passionately shared vision. We are seeking men and women who are able to communicate our ideas in simple, yet compelling ways. We need to identify the young men and women, with a fierce passion for excellence, who can move others to join in the struggle of shared aspirations of service to human beings in dire need.
More than ever, leadership in Rotary is everybody’s business, since, as leaders, we have a moral commitment to make sure the changes taking place are effected in a manner consistent with our core values, aspirations, priorities and dreams.
This is leadership requiring that every one of us should embrace truthfully and courageously, the vision of our dear organisation. We are here to serve, to help others and to give ourselves to others, day in and day out, thus empowering every man and woman in the organisation to implement and execute our goals. Hands-on service is the very essence of Rotary, and it amounts to being the required path of leadership in Rotary, so let us begin.
It is time for us to lead.
It is time to turn the page.