In the summer of 1917, only a few months after the United States entered the first world war, Rotary held its eighth annual convention in Atlanta. Although many Rotarians at the time thought the convention should be canceled, the Board of Directors ultimately agreed with Paul Harris that it should continue as planned. In the midst of such uncertainty and fear, Harris penned, as part of his convention greeting, some of the most-quoted words in Rotary:
Individual effort when well directed can accomplish much, but the greatest good must necessarily come from the combined efforts of many men. Individual effort may be turned to individual needs but combined effort should be dedicated to the service of mankind. The power of combined effort knows no limitation.
Fittingly, it was at this convention that then-President Arch C. Klumph proposed a Rotary endowment fund “for the purpose of doing good in the world.” The power of combined effort was joined by a new power: that of combined resources. It was a combination that has proved unstoppable and has been behind so much of Rotary’s work for the last 100 years. Today, it is difficult to imagine Rotary without its Foundation. It was the Foundation that turned Rotary from an organization of local clubs into an international force for good with the power to change the world.
In this Rotary year, we are marking the centennial of our Rotary Foundation in the city where it all began: Atlanta. Our 108th Rotary International Convention promises to be one of the most exciting yet, with inspiring speakers, great entertainment, and a wide array of breakout sessions to help you move your Rotary service forward. And of course, we’ll be celebrating the Foundation’s centennial in style.