Posted by Doreen Higgins on Jul 09, 2017
At our club meeting this week several members who attended this convention Atlanta shared their experiences and observations. Members contributing were, Bill and Karen Jahn, Judy Fifer, Jim Eleczko, Lynn Gensamer, Tom Stanley, and our president, Toni Marwitz. All were amazed at the number and diversity of attendees, and at the level of enthusiasm they perceived in everyone. “It was a four day opportunity to meet people from all over the world,” said Bill Jahn, our immediate past president. More than 33,000 members from 174 countries gathered in Atlanta to renew friendships, find inspiration, and celebrate The Rotary Foundation’s 100 years of Doing Good in the World.
 
The number of different countries represented by the attendees surprised all our members, and various activities offered opportunities to meet and talk to them. The House of Friendship was particularly remarkable, offering information on a wide variety of topics and, seemingly, a booth for every disease known to man. There were small group sessions, giving members the chance to react personally with other people from backgrounds vastly different from their own.

Polio Plus was a major theme, and Bill Gates was a speaker at this convention. There were less than ten new cases of polio worldwide in the past year, and these new cases of the disease appear to be confined to Afghanistan and Pakistan. India and Nigeria have been declared polio free – three years without a new case must elapse before a country can be declared polio free – and it will cost a further $1.5 billion to rid the world of it altogether. Bill Gates has offered matching grants to Rotary contributions (and others) in order to finish this task. Other major subjects for speakers were slave labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. A presentation was given on the life of Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta, politician, civil rights activist, associate of Martin Luther King Jr., who has worked for the social, political, and economic advancement of oppressed people all over the world. The Mattenwa project in Haiti, an endeavor to which our club contributed substantial funds and hard work, was mentioned in one of the break-out sessions. It is a demonstration of a successful teaching project for young children in a difficult situation, and it seems that it has been the subject of study by MIT with a view to its use for Head Start.

Our current President, Toni Marwitz, met with convention goers interested in the GRSP. That is, the Georgia Rotary Student Program, which brings about 50 students from all over the world to Georgia colleges every year for one academic year, supported by the Rotary Clubs of Georgia. There is widespread interest in this program; many wanted to know about it, wanted to take part or recruit students to participate. Toni had interesting conversations with some who were past students in this program. They described how the experience had changed their perspectives on their lives and led them into activities which, otherwise, they would never have considered.

The convention was enjoyed and appreciated by all our attendees. We all look forward to next year’s international convention which will take place in Toronto, Canada.