ROTARY INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT KALYAN BANERJEE OF INDIA ADDRESSES COLUMBUS ROTARIANS
What a day at Rotary today. As my old broadcast journalism friend Phil Scoggins – I brought him to Columbus from Albany when I hired him as Sports Director for WRBL back in the early 1970s – said the top story for our area today was happening as he spoke. He gave a short newscast at the beginning of the Rotary Club of Columbus meeting. That was something I did for many years until I passed the baton to Phil.
The President of Rotary International, Kalyan Banerjee of Calcutta, India, chose the Columbus club for his visit to the state of Georgia. He did that because the Rotary Club of Columbus is the largest 100% Paul Harris Fellow Club in the world. That means that every one of the clubs more than 300 members is a Paul Harris Fellow. Rotarians who give $1000 to the Rotary Foundation become Paul Harris Fellows.
The Rotary Foundation is a major contributor to eradicating polio in the world. President Banerjee told of how India, his country, went from being an endemic polio country to a country virtually free of the disease. It went from 40 cases in 2010 to 1 case last year.
Polio is not the only beneficiary of the Rotary Foundation. President Banerjee told the story of a 12-year-old girl in Nigeria who couldn’t see. Her sight was restored by Indian Doctors who operated an Eye Camp sponsored by the Rotary Foundation. Banerjee said nothing we do is more important than things like that.
He also told of how such efforts can bring countries together. He reported on a meeting in India of the last 4 countries that still have polio problems, with one of the those countries being Pakistan. Pakistan, an enemy of India for a long time, was represented at that meeting as the countries came together to fight polio.
As a gift to President Banerjee, the Columbus area Rotary Clubs gave $99,200 in his name toward the refurbishing of one of the cabins that can be used for recuperating patients at Warm Springs in connection with the polio museum. Club President Jimmy Elder said he was sure that the $800 to raise it to $100,000 would be donated before the day was over.
I have been a Rotarian since 1972. I can’t recall a bigger Rotary day than this one. The Columbus club is one of the largest in the world, the largest one that President Banerjee has visited. And, no doubt, it has one of the biggest hearts in the service club world, which makes me extremely honored to be a member.