LISBON: Inspirational, Motivational and Vastly Entertaining

For attendees of the 104th Annual Convention of Rotary International, our host the City of Lisbon and Rotary's 2013 Lisbon Convention Committee laid out a sumptuous feast - a rich mix of inspiring plenary sessions, informative breakout sessions, energizing Friendship House encounters, network building breakfast meetings, friendship building receptions, and wonderful host committee events that showcased the sights and culture of the ancient city of Lisbon. The menu was so diverse as to defy synopsis. So many options, so little time! But something for every palate.


Que espetáculo!

Amid the pageantry of the opening Plenary Session, it was awe inspiring to vizualize Rotary's reach and influence as the flags of the nations where Rotary Clubs are present were carried into the hall and placed side-by-side in a spectacular display. Rounds of cheers went up as attendees saw their own flags introduced, but the biggest cheers were reserved for flags of Bhutan and Maldives, countries new to Rotary during the last year, and for the flag of host country Portugal, the last to be carried in.



Photos courtesy of Rotary International.


Como inspiradora!

RI 2012-2013 President Sakuji Tanaka and Kyoko
Photo courtesy of Rotary International

From the welcoming address given by then President Sakuji Tanaka during the first Plenary, to then President Elect Ron Burton's remarks in the last, there was much upon which to reflect, from which to draw inspiration, and by which to be motivated to "Engage Rotary: Change Lives."

It was heartening to hear again about the strides that have been made in Rotary's campaign against polio and a bit daunting to hear that, while we are "this close" to eradicating the scourge, the next little bit will cost US$5.5 billion. Speeches by "This Close" campaign ambassadors Jane Goodall and Archie Panjabi, and Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary's partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, inspired confidence that we will succeed. The Gates Foundation announced that it will provide a 2-to-1 match up to US$35 million per year for every dollar committed by Rotary through 2018 and Nigerian Rotarian Sir Emeka Offor announced his gift of US$1 million to the cause.


Others inspired us by telling us about Rotary's effectiveness in promoting Peace Through Service. 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee spoke about the community building benefits of social activism, and Emannuel Jal told the story of his journey from child soldier to soldier for peace.


Left: Emmanuel Jal | Right: Leymah Gbowee 
Photos courtesy of Rotary International.

Céline Cousteau reminded us of the power of storytelling to inspire people and encouraged us to spread the Rotary story far and wide by using Rotary Showcase. (

Jane Goodall administered a healthy dose of optimism seeing Reasons for Hope in the young, eager and energetic youth of today, the potential of human intellect, the resilience of our ecosystems, and our human determination to persevere in the face of any and all challenges.

In the final Plenary Session, Centennial Clubs and Interact's 50th Anniversary were acknowledged and applauded. The Outstanding Club Peace Project award for 2013 went to German RC Villigen-Schwenningen for commissioning and promoting the Rotary Peace Song, the charming refrain from which is this:

Piece by piece to peace - Rotary will make a step each day to achieve - free hearts and free souls for all humankind - and peace for all the generations following behind.

In presenting the award, RI 2012-2013 President Tanaka said the song "… shares a simple but profound message: Each day, through Rotary, we have the power to make a more peaceful world for future generations."

Here is a video of the presentation:
Rotary Peace Song - Best rotarian peace project worldwide: 7:52 min

Performed by Marco & die Elfenbande, the song is available for download download at iTunes and Amazon, with 40 percent of the proceeds going to support RC Villigen-Schwennigen's community projects (such a cool fundraiser!).


Como motivacional!

While the Plenary Sessions served up huge portions of motivation, they were not the only places whipping up enthusiasm. Breakout sessions provided bite-sized motivation, if you will – a veritable hors d'oeuvres tray of focused forums including, to name but a very few, how to increase member engagement in individual clubs, how to manage effective international projects, how to use technology to strengthen Rotary. Topics ran the gamut from examining the nuts-and-bolts of club management to envisioning the future of Rotary in 2050.

House of Friendship, too, served tasty tapas of inspiration and motivation. Nearly 70 Rotary projects were on display, and among them was our own D-5240 e-Club One World Rotary booth. For me, the House of Friendship has always been the most inspiring part of the three RI Conventions I've attended because it is where you come face-to-face with Rotarians-at-Work. It is amazing to see the ingenuity, determination, and success of Rotarians from around the world.

Those of us who worked at our booth had the happy opportunity to meet Rotarians from every corner of the globe, all interested to know how this e-club thing works, amazed at how many members we already have and where they all are in the world. Many visitors returned several times, having come up with yet another question about the club. As you have seen in the program sidebar, we have added several new members as a result of our having the booth in Lisbon. And we have made valuable connections with many other clubs. There was enormous interest in using our club meetings for make-ups.


Left: The Rotary Peace Centers booth in Lisbon. Photo courtesy of Rotary International.
Right: PDG Wade Nomura and Mike Weaver at e-Club One World Booth. Photo courtesy of Susan Weaver


Como divertido!

Fado singer Raquel Tavares
Photo courtesy Rotary International

Convention organizers, like all good chefs, served up delectable palate cleansers and tasty deserts with every Plenary Session. We were treated to the enchanting fado singer, Raquel Tavares, the classical crossover quartet Il Divo, the Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, traditional Portuguese music group Tuna Academica, and musical prodigy Fernando Varela. Other events included an International Opera Contest, a Fado night at Campo Pequeno, cruises on the Tagus River, and hospitality nights galore. And then there was Lisbon, with all her charms.


Lisbon skyline and Tagus River 
Photos courtesy of Susan Weaver.


Em conclusão

Though a bit of let down might have been expected when the convention drew to a close, there was none. The Lisbon Peace Declaration, the Concert for Peace and the parting sentiments at the final Plenary Session seemed to set the stage for our next meeting in Sydney.

RI 2013-2014 President Ron Burton and Jetta.
Photo courtesy Rotary International

RI 2013-2014 President Ron Burton charged us all not only to increase Rotary's world-wide membership in the coming Rotary year, but to make sure that current members fully engaged. He asked us all to celebrate the great potential of the organization and its power to change lives – not only those of the people Rotary programs serve, but those of the Rotarians who serve as well.

Also energizing was President Burton's description of Future Vision as a new way of thinking about Rotary Service – to think big, to plan for the long-term sustainability of projects after Rotary withdraws as well as for the viability of Rotary as an organization. He asks that we all get involved, stay inspired, and to "remember every day just what a gift we have in Rotary."

Earlier Rotary Foundation 2013-2014 Trustee Chairman D.K. Lee had also told us that Future Vision is "a big but positive change," and that "we can do more together than we can do alone," as he announced that the goal for the Annual Fund has been set at US$120 million. In so doing, he noted that the Permanent Fund and the Annual Fund are what make Rotary more than just an association of local clubs. They allow us to share resources and work together at a much higher level than would otherwise be possible. They give us "the freedom to be ambitious in service." Outgoing 2012-2013 RF Trustee Chairman Wilfrid Wilkinson also made the point earlier in the conference that pooling resources has unleashed enormous potential to do good that allows every Rotarian in the world "to be a part of and feel a part of all of Rotary's service.

Finally, we were all invited to convene again next year in Sydney to relive our Rotary year and refresh our Rotary spirit. Make the trip if you can. It will be well worth your while!




Take a virtual Trip of the Lisbon Convention

Resources from the 2013 Lisbon Rotary International Conference are available here:

Website Sponsors