My Dear Friends,
As I think back on these last 12 months, the words of British writer and Royal Air Force pilot Roald Dahl come to mind. An avid photographer who amassed a collection of over hundreds of images, Dahl spoke of his memories as being far more vivid than his photographs could ever reflect. So many events and experiences, he said, were simply impossible to capture; they could not be adequately conveyed in images or words.
Language may fail, and photographs fade, minds are fallible, and details are lost. But some experiences, as Dahl said, never dim; they stand out in our memories, even after decades, as a wall of flame. They rear up forever over the landscape of our past, dividing our lives into what came before and what came after.
When I look back on my travels and experiences from this past year, I see a bright kaleidoscope of images cascading before my eyes, day after day, week after week. The meeting at the UN when we celebrated Rotary’s women of worth. The bright flags of Nepal fluttering over an entire village that had been rebuilt after the devastating earthquake. The feeling of awe in St. Peter’s Square at the Jubilee of Rotarians celebrated by Pope Francis. Joyful gatherings around the world, in so many countries, in so many languages- with friends I had never before met, my brothers and sisters in Rotary.
To serve as president of Rotary International is a colossal undertaking, one that cannot be truly conveyed in images or words. A thousand images jostle together in my mind, a thousand recollections, a thousand emotions. Together, they form a great mosaic; together, they show the bright and glorious work done by the hands of all Rotary club members.
As this Rotary year draws to a close, I want to take the time to thank you, my friends around the world. The personal commitment of so many of you in so many countries has made all the difference. Together, we have made great strides and helped move this great organization of ours towards a bright, progressive future.
I am prouder than ever to be part of this great organization: one that makes the world not poorer, but richer; replaces despair with hope; raises up those whom fate has brought low; and is a gift to so many, while allowing each of us to Be a Gift to the World.
President, Rotary International 2015-16