Presidential message

Mark Daniel Maloney

President 2019-20

March 2020

March is the month we celebrate Rotaract — and this has been quite a year for our young partners in service.

Last spring, the Council on Legislation elevated Rotaract in our constitution: Rotary International is now the association of both Rotary clubs and Rotaract clubs. Then in October, the Rotary Board of Directors eliminated the artificial Rotaract age limit and took other steps to break down barriers that were preventing Rotaract from growing in some parts of the world.

These steps were long overdue, because Rotaract is a vision of what Rotary must become. Not only do we need to open our doors to our young colleagues, but we also have to open our ears and minds to the Rotary experience they find most engaging. That is one of the best ways we will meaningfully grow Rotary.

When I say grow Rotary, I mean it in many ways. We need to grow our service and to grow the impact of our projects. Most importantly, however, we need to grow our membership, so that we can achieve more. Rotaractors provide this opportunity, not only because they can transition to Rotary at the time that is right for them, but also because they understand what it will take to attract others like them.

Business as usual will not work for us anymore. Bringing in more members to replace the ones we lose is not the answer. It is like pouring more water into a bucket full of holes. We need to address the root causes of member loss in many parts of the world: member engagement that is not what it should be, and our member demographic that skews steadily older.

It is time to make some fundamental changes. We already know what the barriers are to an engaged and diverse membership. It is time to act on what we know: creating new membership models, opening new paths to Rotary membership, and building new Rotary and Rotaract clubs where the existing clubs do not meet a current need.

New club models represent an opportunity to connect with a more diverse group of individuals — particularly those who are unable or unwilling to join our traditional clubs. While new club models have been emerging for some time, it is up to district governors to make them a reality. In January at the International Assembly, our incoming district governors took part in an exercise called Build Your Own Club Model. It was a wonderful experience that put them in the right frame of mind for the work ahead.

Ultimately, however, it will be up to Rotaractors and young Rotarians to create new club models that are most meaningful to the next generation. We may think we know what young people want from Rotary clubs in the future, but I am confident that what young people say will surprise us. It will be our job to support their innovation, for it will help us grow Rotary as Rotary Connects the World.


February 2020

Happy 115th birthday, fellow Rotarians and members of the family of Rotary!

Much has changed in the world since 1905. Then, the global population was roughly 1.7 billion. Today, it is 7.7 billion. There were 5 telephones per 100 people in the United States 115 years ago. In 2020, it is estimated that 96 percent of the U.S. population has a cellphone — and both China and India have more than a billion cellphones in use.

In the 115 years since Rotary was founded, seemingly everything has changed except Rotary values. We began, and remain, committed to fellowship, integrity, diversity, service, and leadership. While our Service Above Self motto dates to 1911, the ethos behind those words had already been ingrained by Rotary's founders.

As the pace of change worldwide continues to accelerate, the need for Rotary service is greater than ever. It's one thing to read about service projects, quite another to see them in action and to see the grateful faces of people who have benefited from them. Rotary projects change lives and connect the world. And over the past year, I have seen some amazing Rotary projects in action.

Gay and I visited Japan's Fukushima prefecture last year. Few places in the world have had to deal with the kind of devastation that visited Fukushima in March 2011, when a tsunami touched off by an earthquake led to disaster at a nuclear power plant. But the story of Fukushima today is not one of destruction; it is one of hope and renewal. Rotary grants have helped improve access to medical and mental health care for victims of the disaster and reduced the isolation of these communities by sharing the experiences of people from other parts of the world who have also recovered from disasters. Our grants have also helped to foster self-motivation and encourage sustainable long-term community recovery across the region.

In Shanghai, I learned about the Careers in Care program. This helps migrant workers fill the need for skilled professionals in elder care facilities. After taking a course, trainees receive certification to boost their employment prospects, while the care industry benefits from an expanded talent pool. Rotary projects like this are successful because they address a local need, and they have the potential to attract local government funding to sustain their impact.

And in Guatemala, Gay and I went to Sumpango. Global grants there provide mechanical cows to produce soy milk; an improved water distribution system; water filters; clean compost latrines; family gardens; support for income generation; and training in WASH and literacy programs. The food items sold there not only provide nutrition to women and children, but also create a source of income for local women.

In every area of focus, and in every part of the world, Rotary projects are improving lives and helping communities adapt in a time of rapid change. As we celebrate another great year for Rotary, let us rededicate ourselves to strengthening the connections that make our service so impactful. We will make lives better as Rotary Connects the World.


January 2020

People from all over the world have multiple reasons for joining Rotary. Many new Rotarians each year join for the same reason I did — because Rotary is a great way to benefit your career. When I was a new attorney starting out in Alabama, Gay and I became partners in her father's firm. He instilled in us the value of joining Rotary as a way to build relationships and demonstrate to potential clients that we were serious professionals who held firm to values even more robust than what our profession required.

Rotary's commitment to vocational service is built on the highest ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful work, and the dignifying of each Rotarian's occupation as an opportunity to serve society. That last point is so important. No matter our profession, we all contribute mightily to the world when we conduct our work with integrity and always adhere to The Four-Way Test.

I have made balancing the demands of Rotary with professional and family commitments one of my priorities as president. No Rotarian should feel pressured to put in more time than a volunteer position should ever demand. This is true for several reasons, one of them being that the work we do in our day jobs is just as important to Rotary as the work we do in the organization. We carry our Rotary values everywhere, and our professional success helps build a case for Rotary every day we go into the office.

This is particularly important in our efforts to reach younger new members. We want to see a Rotary where no one is ever asked to choose between being a good Rotarian and being a good parent, business owner, manager, or employee. When we ask busy young people to join us, we should not be asking them to give up their time and freedom. We should be rewarding them with an experience that makes everything they already do even more inspiring.

Providing greater balance within Rotary will have another benefit as well: It will create opportunities for other Rotarians, including Rotaractors, to step up and take a leadership role on projects and committees. This will ensure that they remain engaged in our clubs and inspired to be Rotarians for life.

Throughout the world, Rotary is admired for its vocational service and for the time-honored values we instill in all business relationships. As we continue our work to grow Rotary, let us remember that vocational service remains a crucial selling point to potential members.

Rotary Connects the World, and by making Rotary's vocational service work known to people in more professions and at different stages of their careers, we will help grow our organization and make it stronger and more diverse.


December 2019

There is no experience quite like attending the Rotary International Convention. Discover the true spirit of aloha and Rotary with your family, friends, and fellow Rotarians from 6 to 10 June in Honolulu. It is the perfect setting for the entire family of Rotary to celebrate, collaborate, and connect.

There are two types of people who enjoy visits to Hawaii — those who have never been to the islands and are about to have unique and wonderful experiences, and those who have had those Hawaiian moments etched into their memories already and cannot wait to create some new ones.

The convention is the best place to find and share your aloha, which you will soon discover is much more than a greeting. Just as Rotary is a way of life for Rotarians, aloha is a way of life for Hawaiians — one that focuses on living in harmony, being patient, treating everyone with respect, and sharing joy with your family, or 'ohana.

Our host committee has arranged some fabulous events for you and your family. This includes a Hawaiian Culture and Lunch Boat Cruise, a two-hour tour that will feature spectacular views of Diamond Head, Waikiki, and the Kahala Gold Coast. On board, you can learn to play the ukulele, take part in hula dancing, and create your own Hawaiian flower lei.

You will also have the opportunity to enjoy a full range of island hospitality events, from small backyard picnics to multicourse family meals. There will be fantastic service projects to see, including two ancient Hawaiian fishponds. And a sunrise Walk for Peace will take place at the beautiful Ala Moana Beach Park, a 3-mile stroll in the shadow of the iconic Diamond Head crater.

Inside and outside the convention halls, we are going to hold the most family-friendly convention in Rotary history, including a family-centered opening ceremony and family-focused events in the House of Friendship. The opening session will, of course, include our traditional flag ceremony.

Our 2020 convention will also be a time to celebrate Rotary's historical ties to the United Nations. As I mentioned in my November message, June 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter. On the day before the start of the convention, Rotary and the UN will host our fifth joint event of 2019-20, one focused on environmental sustainability.

In addition, we are planning the greenest convention in Rotary history — and I will share more details about this in the months ahead. But now, go to riconvention.org and click the REGISTER button right below the Honolulu Hawaii 2020 logo. Early registration discount pricing ends 15 December, so do not delay.

Rotary Connects the World in no better way than at the Rotary Convention. Bring your family to meet our family. See you in Honolulu!


November 2019

Rotary Day at the United Nations, which we celebrate each November, is an important reminder of the historic relationship between our organizations. But this year’s event is even more important than usual, because we are building up to the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter in June 2020.

You might ask, why celebrate this anniversary? For Rotary, it is entirely appropriate, because we played such a critical leadership role in the San Francisco Conference that formed the United Nations in 1945. Throughout World War II, Rotary published materials about the importance of forming such an organization to preserve world peace.

Not only did Rotary help influence the formation of the UN, but this magazine also played a leading part in communicating its ideals. Rotary educated members about plans to create the UN through numerous articles in The Rotarian and through a booklet titled From Here On! When the time came to write the UN charter, Rotary was one of 42 organizations the United States invited to serve as consultants to its delegation at the San Francisco Conference.

Each organization had seats for three representatives, so Rotary International’s 11 representatives served in rotation. The people officially representing Rotary included the general secretary, the current and several past presidents, and the editor of The Rotarian. In addition, Rotarians from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America served as members of or consultants to their own nations’ delegations.

We have a deep and lasting relationship with the UN that deserves to be celebrated and appreciated. To recognize this relationship, Rotary will host five special events between now and June: Rotary Day at the UN in New York on the 9th of this month; three presidential conferences next year in Santiago, Chile, in Paris, and in Rome; and a final celebration just before the Rotary International Convention in Honolulu.

The focus on the UN in the year ahead is not only about the past; it also lights a path to our future. There are so many parallels between the work we do through our areas of focus and the work of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While those goals are indeed incredibly ambitious, they provide inspiration and direction — and are similar to many Rotary goals, which have proven to create lasting, positive change in our world. The goals can be achieved, but only if undertaken with the same long-term commitment and tenacity that Rotary understands so well. Alone, we cannot provide clean water for all, we cannot eliminate hunger, we cannot eradicate polio. But together with partners like the United Nations, of course we can.

Please consider attending one of our five UN celebrations. I look forward to sharing news of these special events with you throughout the year.


October 2019

Rotary's long-term, sustained battle against polio has defined our organization for decades. We have a right to be proud of all that we have accomplished through the years.

Our progress is real and noteworthy. In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries, with more than 350,000 new cases a year worldwide. Since then, Rotary and our Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners have reduced the incidence of polio by more than 99.9 percent, vaccinated more than 2.5 billion children against the virus, and prevented 18 million cases of paralysis. Over the years, Rotary has helped country after country move into the polio-free column. This includes India, which some considered impossible not long ago. Of the three types of poliovirus, type 2 has been eradicated and type 3 could soon be certified as eradicated. Nigeria has not reported a case of wild poliovirus in nearly three years. If this trend holds, we will be down to just one type of wild poliovirus in only one section of the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There are major challenges in that region. But it is crucial that we remain optimistic. Look at all that we have accomplished so far. This is no time to get discouraged or to think that the task is impossible. We will end polio forever, but only if we remain steadfast and vigilant. World Polio Day is a time for Rotarians from all over the globe to come together, recognize the progress we have made in our fight against polio, and plan the action we must take to end polio forever. The key word is action, because we still have important work to do.

This year, we want to see as many Rotary clubs as possible holding World Polio Day events around the world. Need some ideas? How about organizing a viewing party for friends and club members to watch Rotary's Online Global Update? You could also dedicate a club meeting to World Polio Day or create a fundraising event. Remember, every dollar raised is matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Once you have created an event, register it at endpolio.org/register-your-event. Then promote it using the World Polio Day toolkit, available at endpolio.org/world-polio-day.

Mark your calendar to tune in to Rotary's World Polio Day Online Global Update on 24 October. This year we will stream our program on Facebook in multiple time zones around the world. Visit the Rotary International Facebook page to RSVP to your region's program. And do not forget to follow the event on social media and share it with your network.

When we reach our goal, polio will become only the second human disease eradicated on the planet, and Rotary will receive international acclaim. But what matters most is the children who will never again have to face this terrible, disabling virus. Rotary must continue to connect the world in the effort toward polio eradication. It is up to us. Let us finish the job.


September 2019

Here in the United States, another summer is winding down. And for the Maloney family, every summer ends with a return to my hometown of Ridgway, Illinois, for the annual Popcorn Day festival, where I am honored to serve as the “Popcorn King,” the master of ceremonies for the day’s events. 

Regardless of the season, every family has its own traditions. I would like to suggest a new one for yours: Find an opportunity to introduce your family to Rotary. One of my family’s traditions is to take our daughters and grandsons to the Rotary International Convention. The 2020 convention in Honolulu will be a wonderful way to introduce your children and grandchildren to the internationality of Rotary. We are planning many family-oriented events for everyone to enjoy.

Any time is a fabulous time to bring family members on a Rotary service project or to a fundraising event. But perhaps you have not seen many family-friendly events at your club. That is precisely why one of my top priorities this year is to make most Rotary events welcoming to family members.

We must foster a culture where Rotary does not compete with family, but complements it. We should never expect our members to choose between the two. That means being realistic in our expectations, considerate in our scheduling, and welcoming of children at Rotary events on every level.

Often, the young professionals that Rotary needs to attract in order to remain a dynamic 21st-century service organization are the very people who have the greatest family responsibilities. We must not keep these prospective young members away from their families by holding events on evenings and weekends at which their children are not welcome.

For too long, we have closed the doors of many Rotary events to children and sometimes even spouses. What wasted opportunities these are! Every chance we have to pass on the gift of Rotary to young people is one we must take if we are going to grow Rotary and ensure that the next generation is fully engaged in our mission.

So let us open our doors and do it in a fun way, with opportunities that make our children and grandchildren want to learn more about Interact, Rotaract, and Rotary membership. Start small if you must — perhaps by holding some of your meetings at more family-friendly times — but think about how you can continue these kinds of events for years to come.

Bringing children to Rotary events is not just fun; it also exposes them to the world! Make this a memorable year for your family — and an unforgettable year for the ever-expanding family of Rotary as Rotary Connects the World.


August 2019

During 2019-2020, I am encouraging Rotarians and Rotaractors to grow Rotary. We must grow our service, we must grow the impact of our projects, but, most importantly, we must grow our membership so that we can achieve more.

Let us try a new approach to membership, one that is more organized and strategic. I am asking every club to form an active membership committee consisting of people of different backgrounds who will look methodically at the leadership of the community.

Your club's membership committee will then apply Rotary's classification system — designed to ensure that the range of professions in your community is well represented — to identify potential leaders with the skill, the talent, and the character that will strengthen your club. If your club's membership committee is unsure how to proceed, look to the club membership committee checklist on Rotary.org for clearly defined steps to organizing its work.

How else will we connect to grow Rotary? We will also form new types of clubs — either independent clubs or satellite clubs — with different meeting experiences and engaging service opportunities, not just where there is no Rotary, but also where Rotary is already thriving. No Rotary club in the world can possibly serve all segments of its community. Therefore, we must organize new clubs to engage the community leaders who cannot connect with our existing clubs.

Growing Rotary is all about taking the connections that make our organization unique in the world and strengthening and multiplying them. Let us commit ourselves to growing Rotary and to welcoming the next diverse generation of women and men as Rotary Connects the World.


July 2019

I love to travel! I even enjoy the mundane process of getting from here to there. But last year, my wife, Gay, and I had one of those experiences that would strain the optimism of even the most cheerful traveler. We found ourselves with six hours to wait, at an airport where we were not scheduled to be, on a day we had not planned still to be traveling, having woken up that morning at a hotel unknown to us the night before. It was one of those days.

As we waited at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Gay and I took a walk to people watch. We went from one end of the terminal to the other and back, looking at every gate, every destination, every group of people waiting for their flights.

Each gate was its own island of humanity. When we walked down the center of the concourse, we were in New York, moving along with everyone in one river. But when you veered off into those seats, you left that current and landed on an island. You were already in Delhi or Paris or Tel Aviv.

As we started our walk, I thought: "All these different people, all these different countries, all in one place. This is like Rotary!" But as we walked past gate after gate, I realized something. It was not like Rotary at all. Because everyone in that river was heading for an island. And every island stayed an island. The people heading to Taipei might be talking to one another, but they were not talking to the people heading to Cairo or Lagos.

Contrast that with Rotary. Rotary allows us to connect with one another, in deep and meaningful ways, across our differences. It connects us with people we would never otherwise have met, who are more like us than we ever could have known. It connects us with our communities, to professional opportunities, and to the people who need our help.

Connection is what makes the experience of Rotary so very different from walking along that concourse at JFK Airport. In Rotary, none of us is an island. All of us are in Rotary together, whoever we are, wherever we are from, whatever language we speak or traditions we follow. We are all connected to one another — part of our communities and members not only of our clubs, but also of the global community to which we all belong.

This connection is what lies at the heart of the Rotary experience. It is what brings us to Rotary. It is why we stay. Please join your fellow Rotarians on this journey as Rotary Connects the World.