Text by Gérard Morel, Governor 2001-2002.
In the midst of the turbulent atmosphere in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century, caused by the rise of individual capitalism, Paul Harris, a lawyer, took the initiative of meeting with three friends every week, alternating between their homes. Their common goal was to maintain ethical business and professional relationships.
And so, on February 23, 1905, the ROTARY was born. Its rapid growth, first in the United States and then in the rest of the world, is proof that this initiative corresponded to a need felt by a large number of industrialists and merchants.
Originally, a Rotary club was made up of a single representative from each profession in the town or region, each of whom was recognized by his or her peers as a representative of a particular sector of activity, and had the authority to sign on behalf of his or her company or, in the case of self-employed professionals, his or her firm. By definition, the social level of a club's members enabled it to develop social projects in its environment.
Since the First World War, Rotary has campaigned for understanding between peoples and the pursuit of peace. In the second half of the twentieth century, it also became involved in international projects, from scholarships for students from 1947 onwards, to participation in humanitarian programs, symbolized by the campaign against Polio since 1985.
These new orientations led to an increase in the number of clubs and in the number of Rotarians. Each profession had to be represented by several members in the same club, or in several clubs in the same locality. To this end, various membership categories were created: MBAs (Membre Doyen Actif), freeing up their exclusive representation of a single profession, MRAs (Membre Retirés des Affaires) for retired members, and supplementary members. Professionals could belong to a club as long as they had supervisory responsibility in the management of their company or administration.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Central Council of the RI simplified the enlargement by deciding that the same profession could be represented in the same club by several members, up to a maximum of 5 per club or - in the case of a club with more than 50 members - 10 % of the club's membership.
This broadening of the membership base, which is still in force today, was even supplemented a few years ago by statements from a RI President advocating that Rotary should be experienced as a family, and that ascendants, spouses and children of Rotarians should be included! This rapid evolution went hand in hand with a change in Rotary's public image: from a professional association putting resources at the service of others to a purely humanitarian association without having any specificity. The result is a "blurred" image of what Rotary is, and therefore of the reasons for joining.
There is currently a need to refocus the objectives of a Rotary club on the professional, and this refocusing is linked to the effectiveness of a club, which depends directly on the quality of the material and financial resources contributed by each member. Personal commitment and a willingness to take an interest in others are not enough if they are not accompanied by the professional or social standing of each club member. More than age, this is undoubtedly what best differentiates the conditions for membership of a Rotary club from those of a Rotaract club.
In conclusion, to take into account both Rotary's original raison d'être and its recent evolution, we need to think about what a clear definition might be to convince people to get involved.
Here's a sample:
"ROTARY is an international association of clubs made up of men and women who are responsible professionals, motivated by a desire to serve, whatever their political or religious beliefs. Respectful of tolerance and ethics, both professional and private, Rotarians militate for peace and understanding between peoples."
Gérard Morel was Governor of District 1660 for the 2001-2002 Rotary year. He presented our club with its charter on Saturday, February 16, 2002.
Former director of a parisian business school, Gérard Morel was also a committed and prominent Rotarian. A member for 50 years, at first in the Rotary Club of Rouen and then in the Rotary Club of Paris Ouest, he was several times President, then Governor of our District in 2001/2002. After his term as Governor, he always remained at the service of the District and all Rotarians, notably by promoting the Peace Centers in France and the United States.
A benefactor of the Rotary Foundation, he received the Service Above Self Award from Ian Riseley, then President of Rotary International, in 2018.