Today marks the beginning of the 2018-2019 Rotary year, and the beginning of our time together in Rotary office. It is the day that we accept the baton of leadership from those who held our offices before us, and begin the task of preparing to pass those batons to our successors. If we do our jobs well, we will leave office, one year from now, with clubs and districts that are larger and stronger, more efficient and more effective, and more fully committed to the work and the values of Rotary.
The metaphor of Rotary leadership as a relay race is one we use often, as it so aptly expresses the nature of Rotary office. Yet Rotary leadership is not an individual, but a team sport. You and I, and all of your fellow leaders, enter this Rotary year together, as part of a team. We share the same goal: a world transformed by Rotary service, one project, one club, one community at a time.
Our theme in this Rotary year is Be the Inspiration. I chose this theme because, throughout my years in Rotary, I have seen that what truly motivates Rotarians is their work. The Rotarians who have the biggest impact through their service aren’t always the women and men with the greatest resources, the most experience, or the largest networks. They’re the ones who are inspired. Whether it was something they did, something they saw, or someone they met, they’ve all had experiences that lit them on fire—and inspired them to serve.
This year, I ask each of you not only to seek that inspiration within yourselves, but to Be the Inspiration for others. Work to build clubs and districts with Rotarians who find meaning in their service, who know they are having an impact, and who are inspired to do even more. Lead with passion, lead by example—and lead Rotary to a future even stronger than its present.
You and I, and every district governor, club president, and Rotary officer around the world, have been chosen this Rotary year. We’ve been chosen by our fellow Rotarians, who believed that we were the best people to do the work that now lies before us. In the twelve months ahead, I intend to work as hard as I can, as well as I can, and I know that you will do the same. We are all in this together—and together, we will Be the Inspiration.
Yours in Rotary,
Rotary International President, 2018-19