Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide, who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.There are approximately 1.2 million Rotarians, members of more than 29,000 Rotary clubs in 161 countries.
A Brief History
Rotarys first day and the years that followed... February 23, 1905. The airplane had yet to stay aloft more than a few minutes. The first motion picture theater had not yet opened. Norway and Sweden were peacefully terminating their union. On this particular day, a Chicago lawyer, Paul P. Harris, called three friends to a meeting. What he had in mind was a club that would kindle fellowship among members of the business community. It was an idea that grew from his desire to find within the large city the kind of friendly spirit that he knew in the villages where he had grown up. The four businessmen didnt decide then and there to call themselves a Rotary club, but their get-together was, in fact, the first meeting of the worlds first Rotary club. As they continued to meet, adding others to the group, they rotated their meetings among the members places of business, hence the name. Soon after the club name was agreed upon, one of the new members suggested a wagon wheel design as the club emblem. It was the precursor of the familiar cogwheel emblem now worn by Rotarians around the world. By the end of 1905, the club had 30 members. The second Rotary club was formed in 1908 half a continent away from Chicago in San Francisco, California. It was a much shorter leap across San Francisco Bay to Oakland, California, where the third club was formed. Others followed in Seattle, Washington, Los Angeles, California, and New York City, New York. Rotary became international in 1910 when a club was formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. By 1921 the organization was represented on every continent, and the name Rotary International was adopted in 1922.
One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary 4-Way Test. It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company is credited to this simple philosophy.
Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International in 1954-55. The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. Here it is in English:
The Rotary Emblem
Rotarys first emblem was a simple wagon wheel (in motion with dust) representing civilization and movement. It was designed in 1905 by Montague Bear, a member of the Chicago club, who was an engraver, and many Rotary clubs of the time adopted the wheel in one form or another. In 1922, authority was given to create and preserve an official emblem, and the following year the present gear wheel with 24 cogs and six spokes was adopted. A keyway was added to signify that the wheel was a worker and not an idler.At the RI Convention in 1929, royal blue and gold were chosen as the official colors.
Becoming a Rotarian
Membership is vital to a Rotary clubs operations, and an important component of club service is to enlarge the club with enthusiastic and service-minded new members. An important distinction between Rotary and other organizations is that membership in Rotary is by invitation. The clubs classification committee maintains a list of the types of businesses and professions in its community and seeks candidates to fill classifications not already held by an active member of the club. (Examples of classifications: High Schools; Universities; Eye Surgery; Tires Distributing; Tires Retailing; Dramatic Arts; law civil.) In this manner, a club is assured it includes a significant cross section of its communitys vocational life, and has the widest possible resources and expertise for its service programs and projects.
Membership in a Rotary club is by invitation and was based on the founders paradigm of choosing one representative of each business, profession and institution in the community. What is called the classification principle is used to ensure that the members of a club comprise a cross section of their communitys business and professional life. A Rotarians classification describes either the principal business or professional service of the organization that he or she works for or the individual Rotarians own activity within the organization. The classification is determined by activities or services to society rather than by the position held by the particular individual. In other words, if a person is president of a bank, he or she is not classified as bank president but under the classification "banking."..The classification principle fosters a fellowship for service based on diversity of interest, and seeks to prevent the predominance in the club of any one group. When a person becomes an active member of a Rotary clubs, it is said that a the member has been loaned a classification. He or she may propose one additional active member in that classification. On completing five, ten or fifteen years of service, depending on the individuals age, he or she becomes a senior active member and their classification is released to enable another person to join the club.
The Founder of Rotary
Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, was born in Racine, Wisconsin, USA, on April 19, 1868, but moved at the age of 3 to Wallingford, Vermont, to be raised by his grandparents. In the forward to his autobiography My Road to Rotary, he credits the friendliness and tolerance he found in Vermont as his inspiration for the creation of Rotary.
Trained as a lawyer, Paul gave himself five years after his graduation from law school in 1891 to see as much of the world as possible before settling down and hanging out his shingle. During that time, he traveled widely, supporting himself with a great variety of jobs. He worked as a reporter in San Francisco, a teacher at a business college in Los Angeles, a cowboy in Colorado, a desk clerk in Jacksonville, Florida, a tender of cattle on a freighter to England, and as a traveling salesman for a granite company, covering both the U.S. and Europe. Remaining true to his five-year plan, he settled in Chicago in 1896, and it was there on the evening of February 23, 1905, that he met with three friends to discuss his idea for a businessmen’s club. This is commonly regarded as the first Rotary club meeting. Over the next five years, the movement spread as Rotary clubs were formed in other U.S. cities. When the National Association of Rotary Clubs held its first convention in 1910, Paul was elected president. After his term, and as the organization’s only president-emeritus, Paul continued to travel extensively, promoting the spread of Rotary both in the USA and abroad. A prolific writer, Paul wrote several books about the early days of the organization and the role he was privileged to play in it. These include The Founder of Rotary, This Rotarian Age and the autobiographical My Road to Rotary. He also wrote several volumes of Perigrinations detailing his many travels. He died in Chicago on January 27, 1947.