Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders, who provide humanitarian service to communities all over the world. They encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
Rotary is a non-religious and non-political organization. It is open to all persons regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or political preference. Today Rotary is recognized as the world's first volunteer service organization.
FOUNDED IN 1905
Paul Harris, an attorney, created the first Rotary Club on February 23, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He wanted to recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. So, he organized a meeting with a few other businessmen. Gustavus Loehr was a mining engineer. Silvester Schiele, a coal merchant, and Hiram Shorey a tailor.
[The first four Rotarians: (from left) Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul P. Harris, circa 1905-1912.]
The aim was to exchange ideas and build long-lasting, meaningful friendships. They chose the name Rotary because they started rotating between each man’s office for their weekly meetings. Their club became so big that within one year they had to settle on a single regular meeting place.
Rotary’s popularity spread throughout the United States in the decade that followed. Clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. A year later, the organization adopted the name Rotary International.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded. Instead of serving the professional and social interests of its club members, Rotary began to serve communities in need. Rotarians pooled their resources and contributed their talents to help others less fortunate. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its principal motto: Service Above Self. Rotary’s popularity spread throughout the United States in the decade that followed.
ROTARY AND THE UNITED NATIONS
After World War II, Rotarians became even more involved in promoting international understanding. In 1945, 49 Rotary members served in 29 delegations to the United Nations Charter Conference. Rotary still actively participates in UN conferences by sending observers to major meetings. Rotary also promotes the United Nations in Rotary publications.
STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION
In order to carry out all their different endeavors, Rotary is structured into three levels: club, district, and international. Each club is chartered by Rotary International, headquartered in Evanston, Illinois, USA.
A Rotary Club in the basic unit of Rotary activity. Each club decides who their members are. Most clubs have weekly meetings at their usual meeting place. There they discuss club business and invite guest speakers.