In 1910, Rotary founder Paul Harris convened the first Rotary convention at the Congress Hotel in Chicago with just 60 registrants from the 16 Rotary Clubs in North America. For those following our club’s history, that’s one year before we received our official Rotary Charter. Today, average attendance at a Rotary International Convention is likely to be closer to 20,000-30,000 Rotarians from around the world gathered in fellowship.
I personally have attended almost every iteration of a Rotary training or convention possible: district assemblies, officer training, Presidents-elect training, Zone Institute, regional training, Large Club Conference, and District Governor International Assembly to name just a few (and most of which I’ve attended many times over.) Each is important in its own way but usually very limited to one aspect of Rotary. How do we grow Rotary? What are other large clubs facing? Do I have to use another database? I’ve always left with new knowledge and tools to help Rotarians, but if I’m being honest, it’s been many years since I left a training or convention feeling energized… that is, until I attended my first Rotary International Convention this year.
I, along with President Wes Milbourn, President-elect Lesli Massad, and fellow club members Dennis Shockley, Mary Jane Calvey, and Jeanean Yanish Jones gathered with 11,000 Rotarians from around the world this past June in Houston, Texas. I’ve returned inspired by what has been accomplished and excited for the possibilities ahead. From general sessions featuring outstanding speakers, the House of Friendship highlighting projects around the world, and breakout sessions to host committee evening events and running into Rotary friends from around the world, there are countless ways to engage at an RI Convention as you’ll see in some of the comments below.
My wish for all of you is that you one day find a way to make it to a convention somewhere in the world and if you do, count me in!
To learn more about the 2022-23 Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, Australia, and plan your convention, visit HERE.
President Wes Milbourn:
“It was great to experience my first International Rotary Convention with 11,000 other Rotarians from around the world. I didn’t have a chance at meeting them all, however, after visiting with a few clubs, it makes you really appreciate how great our “Club 29” is as compared to those around the nation and the world. That was my biggest takeaway… knowing we have great momentum to do even greater projects in serving our community.”
President-elect Lesli Massad:
“Having been a Rotarian for several years, I felt I had a pretty good grasp of Rotary’s global impact. After all, our club has participated in numerous international grants and initiatives with other clubs across the globe. However, it wasn’t until my experience at the convention that I truly understood the vastness of that impact. I have always been grateful to be a member of Rotary, particularly Club 29, and that gratitude was underscored because of what I learned and witnessed at the convention.
There are 1.4 million Rotarians worldwide, each doing their part in their communities and across the globe to make the world a better place. And although our club is but one cog in the wheel of 46,000+ other clubs (many of which are in countries I never heard of), the importance of what we do locally and globally is significant, recognized, and appreciated. We are an integral part of a far-reaching, international brotherhood/sisterhood of change-makers.
The mission of Rotary inspires me and brings to mind a favorite quote by Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Attending the convention affirmed that the opportunities for each of us and our club are endless.”
“This was my second RI Convention. I attended the one in Atlanta in 2017. Houston had some amazing speakers that told about the many programs and projects in which Rotary is involved. You really do experience the feeling that you belong to something much greater than yourself. I enjoyed the House of Friendship the most. It’s a large exhibition hall where Rotary organizations set up booths to exhibit their projects and interests. I spent a lot of time at the US-Russia Intercountry Committee booth meeting Americans I interact with on the internet, (no Russians came this year for obvious reasons). Also, I visited the Malaria Partners large booth. When they saw my name tag they thanked me for our club’s commitment to the effort and also thanked Clayton Taylor for his lead. All and all, the convention was an uplifting celebration of Rotary.”
Mary Jane Calvey:
Regarding Host Committee events: “The campus of Rice University and all the surrounding museums was a great setting for an evening’s entertainment by the Rotary International Host Organizing Committee, featuring “ A Night at the Museum”. On the bus ride there I learned what a Rice Dryer does and why that industry is so important to the food industry. At the museum, an array of enticing food and drink was complemented by the rocks and minerals gallery as well as a collection of fabulous jewels. After a strenuous day of RI convention meetings and speeches, this was a highlight for me and something I would not have done on my own.”
Jeanean Yanish Jones:
“For my first International Convention, it was wonderful to see Rotary around the world in person! I was especially moved by the standing ovation for our friends in Ukraine. The Rotary mission was exemplified in and out of the sessions. It was amazing to see Rotary provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders in so many ways!”