I’m not a sentimental guy, but I have to think back to the time I was selected to be our Club’s next President. It was a great honor, but it also made me wonder how I could become the one President Rotarians would remember the most. What if I doubled the amount we raise for the Foundation? Reached one thousand members? If only Godzilla came out of Lake Mendota during my Rotary year and I fought him off, that would make my presidency unforgettable. Well, nowhere in my wildest thoughts did I think that I would have to deal with a once a century pandemic.
So I became the very best virtual president this Club has ever had. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, to be honest, but at least it had its perks [photo of Jorge in suit jacket, tie, sweatpants/shorts during Zoom].
Of course you must remember that even though things seemed to come to a standstill, they never really did. Our Rotary office staff got our Club up and running in short order; they even went to members’ homes to show them how to join our virtual meetings.
Brian Basken and Jason Beren gave their time, expertise, and even facilities to ensure we could live stream meetings. Granted, we told them they could invoice the Club for their services, but we never told them we’d pay the invoice. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for their year-long effort and tremendous contribution to the club.
At the same time, our Committee chairs made sure the work of the Club went on, and the Fellowship chairs made sure the fun of the Club went on. It wasn’t easy to do, and it was especially important at a time when lockdowns and uncertainty resulted in a great deal of stress for all of us. The Board was able to revise our Strategic Plan and put together four task forces whose work will help our club thrive in the long run.
And of course there’s all of you: Despite a once in a century pandemic our Club donated over $750K worth of community grants, programs, and scholarships. We continued to mentor Scholars whose life was turned upside down by COVID. We expected the pandemic to reduce our membership to 400, and 419 of you stayed on board, attended our meetings and participated in the life of the club. Rotary was there for the community when it was needed the most, and all of you refused to give up on Rotary when Rotary needed you the most.
And you still refuse to give up. You are our future. There’s still a lot of need in the community; need for basic services like food and shelter, need for education, need for reconciliation and unity. It is not going to happen unless we make it happen. So I call on you to reach out to other Rotarians and encourage them to come back to in-person meetings, keep building goodwill and better friendships right where we left off. Our work is not done. It has gone on for over a hundred years, and we stand on the shoulders of giants. Let us live up to their legacy for another hundred years or more.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. I bid you a fond farewell.