In 1985-1986 a Rotarian from Wenatchee, Washington became president of Rotary International with a theme of “You are the Key”. I believe he was referring to the little notch that you see in the Rotary wheel. It is a “keyway”. If you have a driving wheel, you need to be able to connect the wheel to the drive shaft. The keyway allows a “key” to keep the driving wheel from slipping and, as a result, the key ensures that the force is transmitted to where it needs to go. Rotary is a driving wheel. We aren’t passively turned by forces outside of our control. You are the key to driving Rotary’s service.
I was a Rotarian in 1985-1986 and Edward Cadman was that Rotary President. That year means a lot to me because that was the year when I made my first donation to the Rotary Foundation toward PolioPlus. Rotary had initiated the PolioPlus program in 1985 and encouraged Rotarians to donate to the effort to eradicate polio from the world.
In 1989, Edward Cadman was the Chairman of the Rotary Foundation, and his signature was on my first Paul Harris Fellowship. By then Rotary had enlisted the Center for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization to create the Global Polio Initiative (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Vaccine Alliance joined later).
I remember a Rotary physician telling me at the time that Rotary had taken on one of the most difficult diseases to eliminate. Yet over 1,000 children a day were dying or being paralyzed, and we were confident of our success.
1985 seems like a very long time ago. Our original goal was to raise $120 million and eliminate polio by 2005.
Now Rotarians have contributed over $2.5 billion, and we have cornered polio in a small area on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. My Rotary physician friend was right. Polio is a very difficult disease to eliminate. Still, we are down to what I describe as “one village in Pakistan”. It seems kind of crazy to quit now.
October 24 is World Polio Day.
How will you honour Rotary’s efforts to eradicate this horrible disease?
Rotarians, Rotary Clubs, and non-Rotarians alike can make a difference.
It can be something as simple as writing a letter to the editor to highlight what Rotary has done to date and what the advantages are to the world when we are successful.
It can be making a commitment to become a member of the PolioPlus Society, which is a commitment to donate to the Rotary Foundation PolioPlus fund until Polio is eliminated.
It can be inviting a few couples to dinner and have them make a donation to PolioPlus.
It can be holding a white elephant event or auction to raise funds.
It can be a large public event to raise public awareness.
Whatever you do, you will be making this a better world. We have already saved more lives than there are Rotarians in the world and saved more children from paralysis than the population of Cairo (over 20,000,000).
Let’s share the news. Submit your story to UD5020. Contact District 5020 PolioPlus Chair, Terry Toone (CLICK HERE TO CONTACT TERRY) to sign up for the PolioPlus Society.
We started this fight. You are the key to finishing it.