President David's Valedictory Speech
When the idea first arose in late 2010 that I might run for President-Elect of this club, I sought the advice of several past Presidents:
- Past President Andy Cook said, “That’s a great idea! The club needs people like you!”
- Past President Don Marx said, “The president of the club needs to be an ambassador, representing the club around the country and around the world. You would be great at it!” (About a year and a half later, during the week of Centennial celebrations including the gala, of which David was in charge, Don’s wife Joanne ran into David and said, “Are you feeling stressed?” David answered, “Yes, I am!” Joanne then said, “Get used to it!”)
- Past President Monica Boner said, quite surprised, “Do you really want it?!”
- Past President Doris Margolis, one of my great supporters and a constant source of encouragement, replied with the same words that Monica did, albeit somewhat more gently. She then said, “You have to make decisions when two different Rotarians, both your friends, have an opposing point of view. You will please one, but you will hurt the other.”
- Past President Jim Freeman said, “Some Presidents try to do everything. You should try to do only one or two things”—advice which I promptly forgot!
So I agreed to run and was elected. At the time, my older daughter was happy building her career and seemed to have no thought of children. My younger daughter seemed to be in a happy, stable relationship. I was active in several club activities but had no major committee responsibilities other than serving on the Board of Directors. And I had steadily divested myself of managerial activities in other organizations.But then, of course, LIFE is what happens in spite of all your plans.
- I was appointed to chair the Centennial Committee and, in spite of lots of help, I was extremely busy with that at the same time I was supposed to be preparing for my year as president.
- In the second month of my presidency, my older daughter had a baby and I was torn between Rotary responsibilities and wanting to spend time with my grandson.
- Also in the second month of my presidency, my younger daughter, who had recently broken up with her boyfriend and moved in with me, suffered a major mental crisis and needed to be hospitalized. I was left having to take on not only the arrangements for her care but also her adult responsibilities: paying bills, looking for medical insurance, and the like.
- I also got her dog for about five months. There’s nothing so humbling as having to plan one’s life (and Rotary responsibilities) around the needs of a dog!
- Finally, this spring, I was called to full-time duty on a Grand Jury for five weeks, 40 hours a week. I would come home at 5:30, eat supper, and then work until 11 p.m. or 12 midnight reading and answering Rotary email and dealing with all kinds of matters.
- Keep the club’s existing activities operating and thriving. That has happened, mainly because of all the people whom I have just recognized. In particular, I am very happy that the International Service Committee, which languished for several years, now has dedicated leadership which established procedures, kept records, managed its budget successfully, and supported a number of important projects overseas.
- Balance the budget. We have done that, even without the $5,000 I thought I needed from a fundraiser. In fact, I am leaving the club with a tidy surplus! This is due less to my efforts and more to our success in attracting new members, whose dues have swelled our coffers.
- Grow the club’s Foundation. That has happened, but it’s due entirely to Monica Boner, the Foundation President; to Don Marx, who ran the most successful campaign for contributions in our club’s history; and to Sheldon Ray, who successfully managed the funds.
- Grow the club’s membership. We ended the last Rotary year at 156 members. This year, I am happy to announce that we will end the year with about 170 members, which was my goal. This is the first year in many that our club has grown rather than shrunk. In fact, the net increase of 14 new members is an increase of almost 10%. If we manage to match that in [President-Elect] Shaun’s year and in [Vice-President-Elect] Jennifer’s year, we will surpass 200 members, our long-term goal, in the next two Rotary years! The increase is, of course, due mainly to the efforts of Abe Helal and to all of you who sponsored new members during the past year.
- Resurrect a major annual fundraiser. This didn’t happen. It’s not the fault of Laurie Husak, Peggy Schoen, and Clara Montanez, who tried. But it was simply impossible to get a critical mass of people together to work on a fundraiser. I still think our club should try to do this. Most other clubs do. Not only would it provide a cushion in the budget, allowing us to hold the line on dues and meals and to do more than we do at present, but it would also build an esprit de corps among our members. The opposite point of view is that we can continue to rely on the generosity of our members in contributing to our foundation and then rely on the foundation to finance all of our service activities. Opinions are mixed, but the general conclusion is that if we do decide to have a major fundraiser, we need a new model.
- Prepare a three-year plan. This also didn’t happen. But Quentin Wodon and Howard Davis have laid the groundwork for the preparation of a three-year plan, should the club decide to pursue the idea.
- Have a Friendship Exchange with the Rotary Club of Edinburgh, Scotland (our final centennial celebration). This happened, and was a great success! We also have a Cooperation Agreement in place which should result in joint efforts on international projects for some years into the future.
- Do a Peace Project in East Africa. This hasn’t happened yet. But preliminary work has been done, and once I am no longer president, I will be able to focus on the idea, and we’ll see what transpires!
It has often been frustrating to be president of this club, and I admit that I’m tired. On the other hand, it is a wonderful job! The president gets the best seat in the house! He or she gets to participate in every club activity and committee. He or she gets to meet all the new members, who are wonderful people. He or she gets to draw on all his or her knowledge and experience to try to make a difference in the community and the world.
In the great order of things, the list of Presidents of the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., is likely to be forgotten before that of the Pharaohs of Egypt or the sovereigns of England. But I am humbled and honored to have my name as the 100th President on that list. It has been an honor and a delight to have been your president this past year.
[Editor's Note: David was given a prolonged standing ovation. He will be missed!]