Reflections from the Rotary International Assembly


By Bronwyn Stevens, Rotary District Governor Elect, 2017-18.

Transferring from an international US flight to one that carried us home to Melbourne involved a bus ride across the tarmac in Los Angeles. Some of you will have experienced this. At night, in the dark, with the tarmac lights glowing red, green, yellow, blue and white it was quite beautiful. The bus was darkened.We were huddled together, quiet, and I was standing sharing a handhold pole with several others including a little child. Occasionally soft touches would flutter across the back of my hand. There was no embarrassment or ill ease. The fingers moved on to more exploring. Our bus sped on. A Qantas plane took off quite close by and astonished, I gasped. It was surreal and utterly beautiful, evoking a longing for home. The child’s voice in the stillness “daddy will this bus fly us home?” 

A reply “Yes, its going to grow wings and fly us to Australia.”

I reflected in those moments how interconnected the world is. This was explored by 2018 Rotary International President Barry Rassin using an analogy of the sea. He lives in the Bahamas, surrounded by ocean. He watches it every day, the tide  coming in and out. He thinks of people living on other islands and countries connected by water. A wave features in his theme. “Be the inspiration”

Rotary’s 2018 theme was universally embraced by the 537 District Governor Elect’s, Lebanon with Israel, Russia and China with America, all nations of the world united. Rotary united us with intents of peace, goodwill, understanding and our overarching motto Service above Self.

The transcript of RI Barry’s theme message can be found at 

Barry urged us to hark back to our inner 3 year old imaginations and let them fly with visions. Let’s dream, inspire and create visions that translate to actions in serving humanity - perhaps they will eventuate differently in the end to those we first imagined (a plane instead of a bus!)

During the week-long program there were general sessions shared by partners and DGE’s and then targeted break out small sessions. All sessions were compulsory, and we were “clocked in”. We started at 8.30 and finished at 6.

I wouldn’t have missed a minute. The speakers were inspirational, using stories of humanitarian service to underpin the message they were delivering. Always, the commitment to service of humanity was at the forefront.

A focus on the family of Rotary resonated. Respect for Youth and their leadership abilities. Rotaract, Interact and Earlyact inherently part of our clubs and not operating in silos. In other countries Rotary clubs have Rotaract members on their boards and this extends to District level.

Rotary’s no 1 achievement but no 1 challenge was highlighted. Polio eradication is successful, the team that Rotary has with this campaign is effective, Zero cases in 2018 is wonderful, but the danger involved in this mission was brought starkly home knowing that two Pakistan immunization workers were shot dead on Thursday morning.

Polio transmission in this final phase is only a plane flight away and it is crucial we continue supporting this campaign to its conclusion.

An update on The Rotary Foundation, our Rotary charity had it stack up as one of 2 best in the world. That is a wonderful opportunity for clubs to partner with corporates to get project funds. Charity Navigator in assessing financial health, transparency and accountability of over 9000 charities helps the public make intelligent giving decisions.

In 2017 it assessed The Rotary Foundation and gave it the highest possible score. For the 10th straight year it gave a 4-star rating.  In 2017 The Rotary Foundation achieved a perfect score of 100 and was in the top two,  number one positions with Charity Navigator.

Warren Buffet wisely said “we sit in the shade today because someone planted a tree”

We sit in the shade today in Rotary because someone planted Rotary trees.

It is time for us to plant trees.

Do we weigh the egos in our clubs against the challenges of the children of our world?

We will honour our past while retooling for our future. What an honour it will for our District Support Team to have an opportunity to assist as providing inspiration and strengthening for clubs.

What an utter honour it is serving as District Governor Elect for District 9800. 

Thank you for the privilege to support you in this capacity.

The opening word of the International Assembly was “Ubuntu”.   Past District Governor Julie Mason used that word in her Club visits in the context “I am because you are”. The context it was used in for the  International Assembly was “tribes coming together around the drum to celebrate, connect and engage.”  Both contexts work for me.

Group Photo:

From the left Zone 7&8 Coordinator and Rotary International Director Noel Trevaskis with all 5 Victorian District Governor Elects, 2017 RI President Ian Riseley and Juliet, Bronwyn Stephens (9800), Malcolm Kerr (9790),Anthony Stokes(9780), Russell Gurney (9810) and Janne Speirs (9820)

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