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DG Fred's November Report

PLEASE SHARE our End Polio Video with your extended family, friends, neighbors, school and office-mates,  fishing and poker game buddies. your book and/or wine tasting group, and all those folks in the corners of our lives who might want to join our effort to defeat one of history’s most vicious diseases.

For the month of November, Rotary 5160 is teaming up with our Rotary family to raise money for End Polio Now. Throughout the month, we will be sharing our Polio stories and why they joined Rotary. The goal is to raise funds and awareness to fight Polio head on. These funds will be matched by Rotary International and the Gates Foundation. While we appreciate monetary contributions, we also hope you can raise awareness by sharing our End Polio Now video

Caricature of Fred Collignon, by noted Berkeley artist, Stan Washburn

Caricature of Fred Collignon, by noted Berkeley artist, Stan Washburn

Rotary’s theme for November?
Community and Economic Development.

The Early Days:  It all goes back to our beginnings as leaders. In Rotary’s early days, we came together to foster our businesses and improve the community. We worked to improve infrastructure so our communities and business could grow.  We advocated for paving roads, providing lighting, improving the water supply. Early on, we also focused on making our schools better and the community more livable. Yes, but, how was this economic development?  Our communities’ improvements meant we could attract those we needed for our businesses – workers, managers, and customers.  So, we also created parks and open space. We made sure to support our hospitals and our police and fire departments.  We staged community events that would bring our communities together, and created relationships with Rotarians and potential trade partners around our region, nation and world   Early on, that was called “community development,”  and it made possible more economic development in our communities.

Current Community and Economic Development:  It’s easier to talk about “economic development” in our international work, because many less developed countries lack the business, financial and government infrastructure that growing jobs and business require. Rotary has fostered micro-finance to spawn new enterprise and has provided direct aid in establishing new businesses in some countries.  However, the latter still can stir dissent even within Rotary, because we are more divided than in past decades about how to foster economic development.  Rotary old-timers may recall Rotary’s long association with advocacy for free trade – talk about something now controversial!!

Simply helping each Rotarian celebrate their vocation and work is one of the most important things we can do.  Encourage your members to talk about their business and careers during club meetings, and foster the networking that those joining Rotary always seek.  The truth is, all of us will benefit from this networking; not only in our work lives, but also in the many different community roles most of us hold.

But there is so much Rotary can do to foster local economic development. We need to continue with all our varied work in community development that every Rotary club does.   We can keep each other up to date on what’s happening in our own local and regional economies through choosing top-notch program speakers and through our discussions with each other.  We can help educate the thousands of youth in our Rotary youth programs and the many more in our schools about economic literacy, and about the problems any business or customer has. We can help them to debate the ethics of what an employer and employee owe each other, and provide practice in project management as they undertake service. We can help them to master the skills of speaking and organizing and persuading people across the line of age and gender and culture.   We can do workshops and mentoring within our clubs for young adults (and just younger Rotarians) on more advanced challenges we all confront in moving up the corporate ladder, starting our own firms, or balancing the incentives for success with ethics.  Selling a business or property, or transferring it to one’s workers or family, is a pretty compelling topic for many Rotarians by age 50. Ultimately, many of us has tips based on experience that could help others.

Last but not least, our Rotary commitment to ethics compels us to address new ethical challenges in our businesses, our economy, and our society.  What is Rotary’s future role in the area of increasing economic inequality at home and around the world?  How do we answer the cynicism of youth about business, capitalism, and our representative democracy  given the collapse of ethics evident in the recent near-depression and in the behavior of some of what we thought were among our finest corporations, or in how our government works? These are tough questions, and we have much work to do to discover the answers.

I believe you’ll agree with me: our November Rotary theme does indeed have much relevance for our clubs, for our service, for what we do as individuals, and for the future of Rotary.