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BJ Metz - Rotary International Themes

Our regularly scheduled speaker had to be postponed so BJ Metz filled in with an impromptu presentation based on the annual themes of Rotary. January features the annual International Assembly where all the District Governors Elect in the world receive their final training. The highlight of the Institute is when the Rotary International President Elect announces the annual theme for the coming year.

The tradition dates to 1949 and credits Percy Hodgson with the creation of the first theme. Percy’s theme included a whopping 83 words which makes it surprising that he didn’t start and end the tradition at the same time. Our DGE Diane Donaher was in Florida as RIP Gordon McInally announced the 2023-24 theme will be “Create Hope In The World”. The theme is published in each of the 8 official languages of Rotary: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. This is not the first theme to address the idea of hope. There was “Rotary Brings Hope” in 1986-87 and “Rotary Is Hope In Action” in 1953-54.

Early themes were textual in nature but eventually graphics took over and annual pins emerged. Along with the pins came clothing. Each Class of District Governors had a unique color blazer. The 1990s saw the advent of theme ties and scarves. RIP President Rick King started a year of controversy with his “Mankind Is Our Business” theme. This well-intentioned Dickensian theme did not fare well in some parts of the world. He compounded the problem by using an eagle resembling a Nazi symbol as a reward for bringing in members.

RI President Raja Saboo from India urged us to “Look Beyond Yourself” in 1991-92. Twenty years later another Indian President, Kalyan Banerjee, asked us to “Reach Within To Embrace Humanity”. Raja Saboo took his own advice and decided that India could look beyond its borders with medical expertise. He has spent decades leading medical missions to Africa accounting for over 67,000 surgeries.

Holger Knaack from Germany used “Rotary Opens Opportunities” in 2020-21 because his original choice of “Rotary Cares” did not translate well in certain languages. In 2014-15 Gary C. K. Huang chose “Light Up Rotary”. BJ wore Gary’s pin to volunteer at the Miracle League and was surprised when a young autistic volunteer kept staring at the pin. She announced that she didn’t like it. She objected to it because the pin said “Light Up”, but it didn’t. BJ ended the show with the 2003-04 theme from his own District Governor year: Jonathan Majiyagbe’s theme of “Lend A Hand”.


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