June 2020
My Rotary journey began 40 years ago when I joined the Rotary Club of Decatur, Alabama, at the age of 25, and it has brought my family and me many unforgettable moments. But nothing could have prepared me for connecting with the world as president of Rotary International. My individual Rotary journey has become a shared Rotary journey with each of you.

All of the incredible people Gay and I met this year — Rotarians, Rotaractors, and the extended family of Rotary — will be an inspiration for the rest of our lives. We visited clubs and projects from Uruguay to Ukraine, from Nigeria to New Zealand, and beyond. We were privileged to crisscross the globe, circumnavigating it twice and moving back and forth between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Each country and each stop held its own Rotary magic. While in Zimbabwe in March, we participated in a medical vocational training team mission with Rotarians from India, providing health, hope, and life itself to the thousands who came for treatment. We also felt the energy of more than 300 young people at a Rotary Youth Symposium in Harare. What a thrill it was to be with these young people!

This year Rotary launched our new Action Plan, and I trust each club is putting that plan to use. And I have been energized by the efforts to embrace the priorities I set for this Rotary year: engaging families, providing leadership opportunities for all ages, celebrating our history with the United Nations in its 75th year, and, most significantly, growing Rotary.

As COVID-19 reached around the globe, we found ourselves in a world transformed. We have been forced to connect in ways we could never have imagined, testing our ability to adapt. We have made tough decisions, including canceling club meetings, district conferences, presidential conferences, and, much to our regret, the 2020 Rotary International Convention in Honolulu. Together everyone is placing the public good and welfare first, despite the loss of meetings, events, and experiences that had been planned for years.

As we looked forward to the Rotary Convention in Honolulu, we learned about the aloha spirit. Our Rotary friends in Hawaii showed us that "aloha" means mutual regard and affection. It extends warmth and caring with no expectation of anything in return. The spirit of aloha applies wherever in the world we may live. As Rotarians, Rotaractors, and members of the family of Rotary, we are connected, and as aloha has been defined to me: Our connection to one another is based upon mutual respect for our differences as well as our appreciation for what we have in common. Community is the sum of individuals — individuals who have concern for one another, who care, share, and take responsibility.

As I have witnessed the members of the Rotary community act to care for humanity amid the coronavirus pandemic, I have seen the aloha of Rotary. We are indeed people of action. Every day, but particularly during this pandemic, the Rotary community has demonstrated its aloha spirit. It is a gift to be shared, and we are each a steward of this gift of Rotary. Gay and I have been amazed, inspired, and humbled by all of you within the family of Rotary.

Indeed, I would say that the last part of our shared Rotary year was transformational. We found new ways to make the lives of others better, new ways to move forward together. And, together, we will continue to grow Rotary so that we may increase our gift of Rotary to our local and global communities.

Gay and I will always remember and treasure our year with you, our shared journey, as Rotary Connects the World!