What is Rotary
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. There are approximately 1.2 million Rotarians, members of more than 29,000 Rotary clubs in 161 countries.
On Feb. 23, 1905 a Chicago lawyer, Paul P. Harris, called three friends to a meeting. What he had in mind was a club that would kindle fellowship among members of the business community. It was an idea that grew from his desire to find within the large city the kind of friendly spirit that he knew in the villages where he had grown up. The four businessmen didn’t decide then and there to call themselves a Rotary club, but their get-together was, in fact, the first meeting of the world’s first Rotary club. As they continued to meet, adding others to the group, they rotated their meetings among the members’ places of business, hence the name. Soon after the club name was agreed upon, one of the new members suggested a wagon wheel design as the club emblem. It was the precursor of the familiar cogwheel emblem now worn by Rotarians around the world. By the end of 1905, the club had 30 members.
The second Rotary club was formed in 1908 half a continent away from Chicago in San Francisco, California. It was a much shorter leap across San Francisco Bay to Oakland, California, where the third club was formed. Others followed in Seattle, Washington, Los Angeles, California, and New York City, New York. Rotary became international in 1910 when a club was formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. By 1921 the organization was represented on every continent, and the name Rotary International was adopted in 1922.
One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary 4-Way Test. It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test 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. Taylor later became President of Rotary International.
The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. Here it is in English:
“Of the things we think, say or do:
1. Is it the Truth?
2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Many clubs end their meetings by repeating the 4-Way Test!
Avenues of Service
For seventy years (since 1927), the program of Rotary has been carried out on four Avenues of Service (originally called channels). These avenues — club service, vocational service, community service and international service — closely mirror the four parts of the Object of Rotary:
Club Service includes the scope of activities that Rotarians undertake in support of their club, such as serving on committees, proposing individuals for membership, and meeting attendance requirements.
Vocational Service focuses on the opportunity that Rotarians have to represent their professions as well as their efforts to promote vocational awareness and high ethical standards in business. For decades, Rotarians having been applying the “4-Way Test” to their business and personal relationships and in recent years, a “Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions” has given expression to their concern for ethical standards in the workplace. From offering career guidance in high schools, to seeking ways to improve conditions in the workplace, Rotarians and their clubs engage in many different kinds of vocational service.
Community Service includes the scope of activities which Rotarians undertake to improve the quality of life in their community. Many official Rotary programs are intended to meet community needs, whether it is to promote literacy, help the elderly or disabled, combat urban violence or provide opportunities for local youth.
International Service describes the activities which Rotarians undertake to advance international understanding, goodwill and peace. The spread of Rotary clubs across the globe allows for the concerted Rotary support of humanitarian efforts worldwide.
Object of Rotary
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.
Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions
The Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions was adopted by the Rotary International Council on Legislation in 1989 to provide more specific guidelines for the high ethical standards called for in the Object of Rotary:
As a Rotarian engaged in a business or profession, I am expected to:
- Consider my vocation to be another opportunity to serve;
- Be faithful to the letter and to the spirit of the ethical codes of my vocation, to the laws of my country, and to the moral standards of my community;
- Do all in my power to dignify my vocation and to promote the highest ethical standards in my chosen vocation;
- Be fair to my employer, employees, associates, competitors, customers, the public and all those with whom I have a business or professional relationship;
- Recognize the honor and respect due to all occupations which are useful to society;
- Offer my vocational talents: to provide opportunities for young people, to work for the relief of the special needs of others, and to improve the quality of life in my community;
- Adhere to honesty in my advertising and in all representations to the public concerning my business or profession;
- Neither seek from nor grant to a fellow Rotarian a privilege or advantage not normally accorded others in a business or professional relationship.