Rotary International President John Kenny urged Rotarians to take steps toward making the world a better place during a visit to the Rotary Club of Chicago on 7 July.


Kenny addressed members of the Chicago club, the birthplace of Rotary, as one of his first official acts, a long-standing tradition for incoming RI presidents. Noting that the world faces immense challenges, he quoted the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, who said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." 

"We know how to take that step," Kenny said. "We will take that step through our Rotary emphases. We will take it through projects in water, health and hunger, and literacy; through club and district projects; and with the help of our Rotary Foundation."

During the luncheon, which served to install club officers and recognize Paul Harris Fellows and other donors, Kenny reiterated his conviction that individual Rotarians will play the biggest role in the future of the organization.

"The future of Rotary is, to a great extent, in the hands of our incoming officers, who will have so much new responsibility in the year ahead," said Kenny, a member of the Rotary Club of Grangemouth, Scotland. "It is in the hands of outgoing officers . who will continue to serve as a guide and resource for others. And it is, most of all, in the hands of every member of every single Rotary club.

"I have said before that I believe it is time to give Rotary back to the Rotarians," he added. "I believe very strongly in the autonomy of each Rotary club, and in the power of the individual Rotarian to make a difference."

Kenny's message and the 2009-10 RI theme, The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands , resonated with attendees.

"The theme is an appropriate one. It recognizes, as John said, that every Rotarian has a responsibility to help Rotary grow," said Angelo Loumbas, 2009-10 president of the Chicago club.

Robert Knuepfer Jr., a Chicago club member and governor-elect of District 6450, said the theme reflects the history and legacy of Rotary. "The founders took business and professional leaders from the community to give service back to the community," he said. "The outcome has always been in the hands of individuals and not the organization."

"I think it's wonderful; he is right on target," added John Spitkovsky, a member of the club since 2000.

Jorge Aguilar, who was inducted as president of the Rotaract Club of Chicago, said the emphasis on the future is important to his club. "In Rotaract, we see ourselves as the next generation. We need to get the word out and set up great service projects, and we will be successful."

Kenny also reminded the Chicago club of the deep connections between Rotary and Scotland. Paul Harris's wife, Jean Thomson, hailed from Edinburgh. Harris named their first home after a road in Edinburgh, and Jean returned to the city after Harris's death. To learn more about Harris's early history, visit Rotary History and Archives or the Harris timeline at the Rotary Global History Fellowship.