Hello Idea, I am Joyce. Very pleased to see you, and it’s an honor to have this interview with you. Thanks for your time. Among the Rotarians I know in Taiwan, you are the most senior one. Therefore, I have some deeper questions for you in the belief that you are the best one, not one of the best, to answer them.
Why have you been so in love with the Rotary Club that you have been a Rotarian for almost 50 years? Have you no elsewhere to go?
At the age of 13, I was selected and invited to join the Scout Troop of the Junior Chamber International. Having the honor to be the Senior Patrol Leader, I had the chance to begin my social club experiences. Since the age of 18, I joined the Junior Chamber, Kiwanis, Distinguished Citizens Society one after another. I not only explored the service clubs, but deeply enjoyed the pleasure from the service activities as well.
At 27, I was invited to join the Rotary Club of Taichung; at 38, I was the President of the Rotary Club of Taichung Tatun. After joining the Rotary Club, I quit other social clubs right away as before, and concentrated on learning, making friends, and serving the community as a Rotarian. Almost 50 years of being a Rotarian, I think it has been quite beneficial to me, and I have been very thankful to all the activities of the Rotary Club.
Since you have been a Rotary member for almost 50 years, I guess you must have been very satisfied with the status quo of the Rotary Club. Am I right? Or, is there anything you feel the Rotary Club should consider to change in the future?
Back then, when I was invited to join the Rotary Club, only two new members were accepted by ballot after strict review every year. Members must accept the Four-Way Test: Honesty, Fairness, Friendship, and Mutual benefit. Also, the rules of the Rotary Club should be strictly followed by each member. For instance, being absent from three regular meetings, one will lose their membership right away. I have been following all the rules in the past decades, and still enjoy doing it very much.
Thanks to all the opportunities that I have had to learn from so many good people in the Rotary Club, I think being a Rotarian has been one of the best things in my life. Nowadays, the Rotary Club has become even more open to everything, so members from younger generations can learn from us and I can learn from them as well. It’s great that generations of all ages can get along, respect and learn from one another, and serve the community altogether.
It has been 90 years since the Rotary Club entered Taiwan. Many of the things are very different from the days when Paul Harris founded the first club. If he could speak out against the way the Rotary Club is in Taiwan, what do you think he would/might say?
When founding the first club, Paul Harris stressed on “Vocational service” first, “Goodwill and friendships” second, and “Serving the community” third. However, he also emphasized that the Rotary Club had to “Keep up with the time” and “Adapt to local conditions.” I think he would be pleased and thankful to see that we are doing just fine, and hope that we will carry on our ways. After all, Rotarians are elites from all parts of the community, and we always learn from each other, work together, and have faith to find the way out.
Since the global pandemic last year, the Rotary regular meetings and service activities have been impacted in significant ways, mostly cancelled. In the post-pandemic world, what do you foresee Taiwan’s Rotary Club can do to respond to and get through the pandemic? Or, what inspiration do you get about the prospect of the future of Taiwan’s Rotary Club?
In my opinion, the Rotary Club will become more flexible and adapt to the pandemic in more new ways. The use of websites, the Internet, AI technology, etc. will become even more popular. Instead of in-person events, virtual events will be taken into more consideration, not only to overcome the pandemic time but also to break more boundaries between people, geography, and time zones. Therefore, the Rotary Club will perhaps enter a new era. We can unite more people and get to meet more younger leaders. Together, we can initiate new focuses for our Rotary services. Rotarians will become more open-minded, have more wisdom, and acquire higher spirits when spreading the good knowledge, good will, and good deeds of the Rotary Club. A good opportunity is here!
Over the first century of the Rotary Club, the world has had two World Wars, and the superpower has shifted from the UK to the US. The Rotary Club, as an export of the US values, has established a strong network all over the world, and has become a part of the universal values. However, in the early 21st century, we are living in a world that has a superpower and a quasi-superpower. What impacts do you expect it will have on the Rotary Club’s future development? Or, do you consider it as a new opportunity for the Rotary Club?
Now, it’s time for Rotarians to look forward to a brighter future, for we are facing a fast-changing world. We must stick together and inspire each other with courage, confidence, and trust, so as to face the future with hope, and make the Rotary Club grow bigger and stronger.
Be bold to explore new areas such as climate, ecology, environment, technology, medicine, arts, education, social work, world peace, etc. Where there’s a need, there’s a Rotarian!
We are facing clouds and storms, and I believe that opportunity comes with crisis. Before long, there will be a rainbow in the sky. Remember that ROTARY stands for Reciprocity, Optimism, Tenacity, Ambition, Reliability, and You.
Paul Harris brought up the concept: “Vocational service will bring Rotarians together. He profits most who serves best.” The original intention of his concept has never changed over the past century, and the light of the Rotary Club has been shining brightly and naturally thereafter; WILL STILL be shining hereafter.
Further impressed was I with Idea, a Rotarian for almost 50 years, during this interview. In consideration of his profound understanding of the Rotary club, Joyce had some sharp questions for him, and his responses were so excellently balanced that a senior Rotarian’s wisdom was thoroughly revealed.
After the interview was finished, Joyce once expressed his disappointment a bit to Idea about how he avoided the core of the questions rather than give direct answers. His response to my disappointment was not satisfied, yet understood and acceptable. Something inconvenient is to say!
Nothing convenient to say doesn’t mean nothing to say. I know it. Idea knows it better. 50 years, half a century, can one be too old to speak up? Certainly not! Still, Idea is bold to look forward to the Rotary’s future, which is exactly what makes him so admiring to me.
Idea is always being nice and kind to people and their deeds. I agree with his concept of “Example is better than precept,” and will try my best to learn from him his “open-mindedness and big picture thinking.” However, what he doesn’t say, I’ll try my best to say out loud.
First, why is it a common view for the public that it’s a game of the rich to join the four major social clubs? As a Rotarian, can you accept that? He goes away who can’t accept that, which very well explains the big problem of member loss and recruitment for the Rotary Club, or he feels nothing and plays on who stays. Or else he feels helpless and hopeless who wants to change.
Often, we hear a Rotarian’s complaint about the public’s attitudes: they have no problem with Rotarians’ donation, but they do when they hear some bad things about Rotarians. It’s not fair!
Well, I should say it is fair. It delivers a very clear message that the public has no problem with our money doesn’t mean they totally agree with what we do as a Rotarian. People are OK with your money, but they are not OK with you (your behavior)! Did you, as a Rotarian, ever consider why?
As the head of the four major clubs, the Rotary Club is not necessarily responsible for the way it is, but should be responsible for the way it will lead it to be. To change the way the public sees us and feels about what we do is definitely the job on our side without doubt!
Clubs are run by people, so let’s talk about people, good and bad. To learn from Idea’s concept of “Example is better than precept,” we only talk about Rotarians (not members of other clubs). The Rotary Club has simple rules for the Rotarians. It’s the Four-Way Test that we Rotarians are so familiar with. However, what is the true meaning of it? The answer you will get is probably still “the Four-Way Test” if you ask any Rotarian.
Many of the Rotarians may know the first test so well that they forget the other three. “It doesn’t matter, does it? As long as we have fun with good food and good drink…that’s the top of all,” said many Rotarians.
Indeed, provided that Paul Harris really said, “Adapt to local conditions,” do you think he would agree to some of the ways we do the Rotary Club in Taiwan? I can tell you that I don’t if you do.
It’s a stage after another from vocational service to fairness and friendship, and to community service. Members have to understand and support each other’s profession, know and care for each other’s family members through informal meetings, and feel so united and like-minded with each as to serve the community together eventually. It fits so well to our Chinese traditional ideas about the ideal that “we can take care of ourselves and then of the world.”
It might be like this in the early days. However, I’m afraid it’s not the way it was anymore. We don’t really know each other very well among our members. Not to mention their family members. In such a scenario, how can one really believe that we are able to serve the community together? Community service is probably like a donation contest in many clubs now. “Should it not be like this? But,…it has been like this, for everybody has done it this way…don’t know since when?”
Now, it’s like when the donation is done, the service is done. Is it REALLY? It has ended up like the more you donate, the more you can say about the way you want YOUR club to be. Over time, bad money has driven out good NATURALLY!
The president is the boss! Once a member becomes the president, OMG, he can do whatever he loves to do. The Board of Directors is all his people, and no one’s gonna be the bad guy to say NO to the president. I’m afraid this has already been the case in many clubs. It’s just regular!
Many Rotarians are business owners. Can you do that all by yourself in your company without getting any NOs from your members of the Board of Directors? Can you treat them as rubber stamps?
Indeed, I can agree with the concept of “Adapt to local conditions.” However, I think it means minor adaptation instead of major one. Paul Harris is a lawyer, and do you really think he is OK with running things breaking the rules? As the president, I have your unconditional support, and you will have mine when you become one. All for one, one for all?! REALLY?
Based on the Four-Way Test, a Rotarian can have all support from any other member, but definitely not when the rules are broken.
After 90 years of local development in Taiwan, the Rotary Club is not a new-born like the old days any more. It’s OK that it has some problems because we can fix it together. Very well said by Idea that “Centennial Rotary Club has never changed its original intention.” As long as we hold on to our original intention of being a Rotarian, we will never forget Paul Harris’ original intention, which will lead us to every answer to every question we may have in the future.
But, whom can we trust with the original intention? Of course, it’s every Rotarian whose heart is with the Rotary Club.
With this special interview with Idea, I look forward to seeing more Rotarians whose hearts are with the Rotary Club are willing to step out for its future, marching for its first centennial locally, and second one globally! Heart with Rotary! Heart with YOU Rotarians!