Rotary International was founded in 1905 as the first club dedicated to service in the world. Today, the organization has over 1 million members and over 34,000 clubs around the world. Morris Gad, a philanthropist and the CEO of Diamonds International, is involved with a few Rotary clubs in Antigua and the Barbados. Gad has supported the efforts of Rotary International by sponsoring several tournaments and prizes in the Caribbean.
Rotary International earned its name because in the early days of the organization, members would rotate from one person's home to the next for meetings. Paul P. Harris, a lawyer, started the first club in an attempt to capture the small town spirit in a professional club. The first club had four members: Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Harris.
The club became popular and the idea for Rotary spread across the country and eventually across the globe. By 1915, there were clubs in San Francisco, New York and even Winnipeg, Canada. By 1921, Rotary had a presence on six continents. After 1921, the organization began calling itself Rotary International.
Although the club started with the mission of promoting its members professionally and socially, as it grew, it started to focus on serving communities in need. Club members pooled resources to provide support to people who needed it.
A number of highly regarded people have served as members of a Rotary Club. Famous members include the author Thomas Mann and the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The club has also attracted people in positions of power, such prime ministers and other heads of state.
Women in the Club
Women could not join a Rotary Club as individual members until 1989. Although women could not be members before 1989, they were able to participate in the club, as long as their husbands were members. Paul Harris' wife, for example, gave several speeches to members of the club and was active in the "Inner Wheel."
Motto and Ethics
The primary motto of Rotary International is "Service above self." A secondary motto is "they profit most who serve best." The organization adopted a code of ethics in 1943. The code was first created by Herbert Taylor in 1932. The code, known as the "Four Way Test," asks people to consider the following in all they do:
● Is it true?
● Is it fair to all?
● Will it build goodwill?
● Will it benefit all involved?
Rotary International sponsors a number of service projects and smaller organizations. One of its projects, End Polio Now, seeks to eradicate the disease from the entire planet. While most people in developed countries think of polio as a problem solved, it still destroys lives and ravishes communities in developing lands. The world is 99 percent free of polio, but there are still three countries where the disease is epidemic.
Rotary also sponsors a number of clubs for young people. Rotaract is a club for people between the ages of 18 and 30. The clubs are in 176 countries and are usually sponsored by a Rotary Club.