Rotary International is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 31,000 Rotary clubs located in 167 countries.
The world's first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago was formed Feb. 23, 1905, by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. "Friendship was the foundation rock on which Rotary was built and tolerance is the element which holds it together," he said in "My Road to Rotary." The name "Rotary" derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.
Rotary's popularity spread throughout the United States, and by 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. The organization adopted the name Rotary International a year later.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving the professional and social interests of club members. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its principal motto: Service Above Self.
The mission of Rotary International is to support its member clubs in fulfilling the Object of Rotary by:
fostering unity among member clubs;
strengthening and expanding Rotary around the world;
communicating worldwide the work of Rotary; and
providing a system of international administration.
The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage: the development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; high ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian's occupation as an opportunity to serve society; the application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian's personal, business, and community life; the advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.
One of the world's most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics is The Four-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor (who later served as Rotary International president) when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy.
This 24-word test for employees to follow in their business and professional lives 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.
Adopted by Rotary in 1943, The Four-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. It asks the following four questions:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Rotary International's 96th annual convention was June 18 to 22 in Chicago. More than 40,000 business and professional leaders from 159 countries attended at Chicago's McCormick Place. Despite the diversity of political, cultural, and historical backgrounds they represent, the Rotary club members are united by a common mission - promoting peace and building better communities through Rotary's worldwide network of volunteers.
At this event, Rotary club members from countries or regions such as India and Pakistan, Israel and the Arab world, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, Rwanda, and D.R. Congo - where international conflicts or civil wars have pitted one group against another - will be forging new friendships and strengthening old ones so they can better serve humanity.
Meanwhile, Rotary clubs will showcase more than 50 outstanding community service projects. They include a program to rebuild tsunami-devastated schools in Asia, a landmine removal project in Cambodia, an initiative to eradicate malaria in Tanzania, and an effort to treat and rehabilitate pediatric burn victims in the Americas.