My Rotary Presidential Address
President of the Rotary Club of Kent
My fellow Rotarians, first and foremost, I want to thank you for the esteemed privilege and honor of this evening. Over the course of my thirty-three years of living, I have been asked to lead clubs, teams, organizations, and departments. Without a doubt, this is the greatest honor of my life.
Secondly, I want to thank Amy Hobson for her leadership and friendship over the past year and a half. Long before I was selected for this position, we met and began developing a strategy for her year and beyond. Since being elected, she has worked diligently to ensure a smooth transition between boards. She has answered countless questions and has been easy going throughout the entire process. For that, and much more, I will be forever grateful.
Finally, I want to thank my partner, Brandon Reaves. The last two years has been an amazing journey. I want to thank you for your diligence, persistence, love, kindness, and gentle soul. You never allow my ego to overinflate, but you’re the first to stand by my side when the world is less than kind. For all that you do, all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to spend the next few moments explaining what inspires my vision for the Rotary Club of Kent. It is my solemn hope that when we depart tonight, you leave inspired and ready for change.
If you are an avid consumer of the news, you might be led to believe the world is a more dangerous place than ever before. Terrorists in distant lands, disease, famine, growing inequality, and the evaporation of wealth do nothing more than cement the belief in violence and ill will toward our fellow men and women inhabiting this tiny speck of dust in the universe. Every day, the world seems to be thrown into chaos and tumult. If you belong to a service organization, such as ours, it may become easy to succumb to cynicism. One could look at the work we are trying to accomplish in our little corner of that speck of dust floating in the universe and think it is all for nothing. I, for one, would not blame you for believing such things. You are wrong but I would not fault you for believing so.
In 2011, I packed up everything I owned. Moved to a city I had never visited without knowing a soul and decided to make a life for myself. Within two weeks of arriving in Kent, I was asked to attend a Rotary Club meeting. My first impressions were pretty typical for someone of the age of 27. I looked around the room and saw predominately older, white, men. At the time, we were meeting at a country club and my prevailing thought was that nothing could be more pretentious. In my mind, if Rotary wanted to keep their club old, white and male, they were holding their meetings in the right place.
After a few meetings, I began to ponder questions each new member must ask themselves, “Is this for me?” “Is this the best avenue of service?” “Can I make a measurable difference here?” Just as I reached answers to these questions, answers that would have had me looking elsewhere, I was introduced to the work of Polio Plus, global grants, and our own service in the community. I was asked to join a few committees. The members of this club asked me to come along and use my talents where they could best be used.
Since becoming a member, I have been tasked with building our social media presence, international donations, community grants, the dictionary project, getting Backpack Buddies off the ground, Escapades, and now an opportunity to serve as your president. From my first steps into the country club to now, it has been a long strange trip but one of the most amazing journeys of my life.
As we begin a new Rotary year, I am asking each every member to keep one thought in their mind, “A Year without Fear.” Over the next 12 months, myself, the board of directors, committees, and the membership will change. Everything we do will be called into question and analyzed. It is my sincere hope to have high-level conversations about what needs to change and what can be enhanced. When this year is finished, I hope we have some concrete ideas about the future of our organization and our place within the systems of South King County. To get there, we must be brave. We must question boldly. We must have uncomfortable conversations. Without a doubt, the board will and has made decisions with which you will disagree. If so, please let us know, constructively, of course.
Our aim is simple. We want to build a service organization for the next generation of leaders. We want to be the sole choice of people wanting to make difference in their community. We want to be a networking organization without compare. We want to be your best friends when the doors to our meeting room is closed and the project is finished. We are service, networking, and friendship. When it comes to these three principles, no other organization in Kent will do it better.
As someone who has been tasked with this position, my commitment to these ideals is deep. My commitments to these ideas were solidified after my trip to Atlanta to take part in our International Convention. When the final bell rang, I was left with some ideas that will guide me as we move forward. These ideas are foundational to me because I now have a better understanding of our place in the global community.
Our reach extends beyond the borders of Kent, WA. We are global ambassadors for peace. We stand as a clarion call to all those brainwashed by 24-hour news and succumbing to cynicism. We preach of an idealistic and harmonious world. Yet, we do more than preach. We roll up our sleeves and show the world how to get there. We bring together people of different faiths and no faith at all, straight, gay, old, young, American-born, and immigrants from foreign shore, low income, middle of the road, and the financially blessed. We blend all of this together and end the divisions and labels that separate us. Instead, we put forth a simple and single label, Rotary, Rotarians. We give our money, time, and talent because we believe in human beings and work to improve their lives. We speak for marginalized people whether they are on the streets of Calcutta, Cairo, Rio, Mexico City, Detroit, Kent, or any place in between. We believe every person in our society is worthy of dignity. We plant seeds; seeds for shade we shall never sit in. We are a coalition of people committed to similar ideals. We wage unflappable peace in the face of a world seemingly giving way to chaos. We are Rotarians and we believe in a world of more of us and fewer solders.
So, as we move forward, and you feel the sweeping change coming our way, concerns about meetings, projects, and the fine details will rise. While all important, I ask you to remember our purpose. Anything beyond that is secondary. As your president, I promise to keep us focused on our purpose and how best to achieve that aim.