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.
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. In 166 countries worldwide, approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 31,000 Rotary clubs.
Rotary club membership represents a cross-section of the community's business and professional men and women. The world's Rotary clubs meet weekly and are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds.
The main objective of Rotary is service - in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotarians develop community service projects that address many of today's most critical issues, such as children at risk, poverty and hunger, the environment, illiteracy, and violence. They also support programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers, and other professionals, and vocational and career development. The Rotary motto is Service Above Self.
Although Rotary clubs develop autonomous service programs, all Rotarians worldwide are united in a campaign for the global eradication of polio. In the 1980s, Rotarians raised US$240 million to immunize the children of the world; by 2005, Rotary's centenary year and the target date for the certification of a polio-free world, the PolioPlus program will have contributed US$500 million to this cause. In addition, Rotary has provided an army of volunteers to promote and assist at national immunization days in polio-endemic countries around the world.
The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International is a not-for-profit corporation that promotes world understanding through international humanitarian service programs and educational and cultural exchanges. It is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and others who share its vision of a better world. Since 1947, the Foundation has awarded more than US$1.1 billion in humanitarian and educational grants, which are initiated and administered by local Rotary clubs and districts.
So how did Rotary get its start? A gentleman named Paul Harris is the founder of Rotary. Born in 1868 in Wisconsin, Harris attended the University of Vermont, Princeton and University of Iowa where he received his law degree in 1891. Upon graduation he travelled the world and worked in a number of jobs as newspaper reporter, college teacher, actor and cowboy. His early travel and work experiences broadened his vision and were of material assistance in the early development of Rotary.
In 1896, Paul Harris went to Chicago to practice law. One day in 1900 he dined with a lawyer friend in Rogers Park, a residential section of Chicago. After dinner they took a walk and he was impressed with the fact that his friend stopped at several stores and shops in the neighborhood and introduced him to the owners who were his friends. Paul Harris’ law clients were business friends, not social friends, but this experience caused him to wonder why he could not make social friends out of at least some of his business friends---and he resolved to organize a club which would band together a group of representative business and professional men in friendship and fellowship.
For the next several years he devoted a great deal of time to reflecting on conditions of life and business and by 1905 he had formulated a definite philosophy of business relations. After talking about his ideas with several business associates he decided, with his friends, to organize a club which he had been thinking about for five years. On February 23, 1905, the clubs first meeting took place and the nucleus was formed for the thousand of Rotary clubs which were later organized throughout the world. The new club which Paul Harris named “Rotary” because the members met, in rotation, in their various places of business, met with general approval and membership grew quickly. Almost all members had come to Chicago from rural areas and were anxious to affiliate with other business people when they arrived in Chicago. When Paul Harris became president of the club in its third year he was anxious to extend Rotary to other cities because he was convinced that the Rotary club could be developed into an important service movement. The second club was founded in San Francisco in 1908. The next two years 16 other clubs were formed and then it was decided they should be united into an organization which would extend the movement to other cities and to become a clearinghouse to exchange ideas among the other clubs and the National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. Shortly thereafter Rotary clubs formed in Canada and Great Britain making the movement international in scope. In 1922 that organization was renamed Rotary International. Paul Harris was the first president of the International Association. When he passed away in 1947, he was named president emeritus of Rotary International.
During his time in Rotary, Paul Harris was also prominent in many civic and professional endeavors. Most of his efforts focused on disadvantaged youth. To this day Paul Harris is considered the “father of Rotary” and the foundation that now bears his name funds projects all over the world.
The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:
FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
SECOND: 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;
THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian's personal, business, and community life;
FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service
From the earliest days of the organization, Rotarians were concerned with promoting high ethical standards in their professional Lives. One of the words most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics is The 4-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor (who later served as RI 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 4-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred Languages and published in thousands
of ways. It asks the following four questions:
Of the things we think, say or do: