Chilliwack audience hears of the enduring relevance of Rotary

Wilf Wilkinson says Rotary has an important role to play in a more peaceful and productive world.

Wilf Wilkinson

Wilf Wilkinson

At a time when the world is plagued by conflict and corruption, the first steps toward a more peaceful and civil society can begin with a simple handshake, says Wilf Wilkinson, one of the highest-ranking Rotary International officials to ever visit Chilliwack.

Wilkinson was guest speaker at a special lunch Friday, where he shared his passion for an association he has served since 1962.

He said the greatest gift its members can give the world is their friendship to each other.

Wilkinson has seen what the power of that friendship can do, both at home and around the world. He’s volunteered in India seven times as part of the Health, Hunger and Humanity Program. He’s been to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Nambia, and he’s delivered polio vaccinations to the children of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

He said the pillars that Rotary was built on are as strong today as they were when Paul Harris first envisioned a cadre of like-minded individuals more than a century ago, who vowed to put “service above self.”

Rotary remains one of the largest service clubs in the world, with more than 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide.

But there’s an appetite for more – and for a simple reason, he said.

“The world needs more Rotarians, because the world wants peace.”

His conviction that Rotary can help deliver that peace came early in his association with the organization.

He was at a conference in Toronto when he happened to hear a presentation by future Noble Peace Prize winner Lester B. Pearson.

“We will never have peace until we know each other,” he remembers the former prime minister telling the audience.

“And we will never know each other until we meet.”

That fellowship is what Rotary brings. In meetings and events around the globe, strangers are becoming friends by taking that first step of simply meeting one another.

Motives for joining Rotary may vary, he admitted. Some may see it as a way to improve business, or leverage contacts.

But those who are most successful are the ones who remember Rotary’s other founding precept: “One profits most who serves best.”

And those profits are not the ones tallied on a spreadsheet, the retired accountant said with a smile. They’re measured by the strength of our communities, and our relationships to each other – here and around the world.