Rotary President Elect Barry Rassin and his wife Esther are introduced to the Rotary International assembly in San Diego on January 14.
BEFORE hundreds of assembled international Rotarians in San Diego, California, the Bahamas' Barry Rassin, who appeared on stage with his wife, Esther, was presented as the president-elect of Rotary International, 2018-19.
Me Rassin will represent over 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide when he takes office in July 2018. His chosen theme for his tenure is 'Be the Inspiration.' His logo is redolent with Bahamian overtones of ocean and sun. He laid out his vision for the future of the organisation recently, calling on leaders to work for a sustainable future and to inspire Rotarians and the community at large.
"I want you to inspire in your clubs, your Rotarians, that desire for something greater. The drive to do more, to be more, to create something that will live beyond each of us."
Mr Rassin stressed the power of Rotary's new vision statement, "Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change -- across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves." This describes the Rotary that leaders must help build, he said.
Mr Rassin said one source of inspiration has been Rotary's work to eradicate polio. He described the incredible progress made over the past three decades. In 1988, an estimated 350,000 people were paralysed by the poliovirus; just 20 cases were reported in 2017 as of December 27.
"We are at an incredibly exciting time for polio eradication," he said, "a point at which each new case of polio could very well be the last."
He emphasised that even when that last case of polio is recorded, the work won't be finished.
"Polio won't be over, until the certifying commission says it's over--when not one poliovirus has been found, in a river, in a sewer, or in a paralysed child, for at least three years," he said. "Until then, we have to keep doing everything we're doing now." He urged continued dedication to immunisation and disease surveillance programmes.
Rotary has focused heavily on sustainability in its humanitarian work in recent years. Now, Mr Rassin said, Rotarians must acknowledge some hard realities about pollution, environmental degradation, and climate change. He noted that 80 per cent of his own country is within one metre of sea level. With sea levels projected to rise two metres by 2100, he said: "My country is going to be gone in 50 years, along with most of the islands in the Caribbean and coastal cities and low-lying areas all over the world.
"We want the good we do to last. We want to make the world a better place. Not just here, not just for us, but everywhere, for everyone, for generations."
Mr Rassin will bring increased focus on the Bahamas as he travels the world for Rotary International.