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Rotary stars shine bright in Los Angeles
Rotarian Don Craighead, of the Rotaract Committee, pins a fun meter button on Rotaractor McKenley Andrews.
Photo by Alyce Henson/Rotary Images
Hollywood’s glamour added to the excitement of the 99th Rotary International Convention, which began today in Los Angeles. The annual event brings Rotarians, Rotaractors , and Rotary Foundation alumni from around the world.
About 18,000 attendees -- from as far as Afghanistan, Brazil, Germany, and Zambia --converged on L.A. for this convention, which runs from 15 to 18 June.
At the official opening of the exhibition area, the House of Friendship, on Saturday morning, RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson welcomed all to L.A. “The world is here to see Rotary, and the Los Angeles Rotarians are playing host to the world,” he said. “It’s a fantastic experience for them -- and a great honor for me.”
This convention marks the official launch of Rotary’s drive to raise $100 million to match a challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with all funds raised going toward polio eradication. The president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, Tadataka Yamada, will address Monday’s plenary session.
Speaking at Tuesday’s plenary session are Rotary’s partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – and global experts on health – UNICEF Executive Director Anne Veneman, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding, and World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan. Wednesday’s session features Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, and William Asiko, president of the Coca-Cola Foundation Africa.
Another convention star is literacy. Looking to set a Guinness World Record, Rotary’s Wide World of Books project aims to collect 250,000 books to distribute to students in kindergarten through third grade in Los Angeles public schools.
But even as they share ideas, network, and get projects off the ground, Rotarians are enjoying the convention’s fun and fellowship.
“We’re making more friends already,” said first-timer Jose Silva, of the Rotary Club of Daytona Beach West, Florida, USA, who is attending the convention with his wife, Diana. “That’s what it’s all about – ideas, together with relationships. You’re bringing people and ideas together, and things happen. It’s exciting.”
Silva, a former Ambassadorial Scholar , attended the Rotary Alumni Celebration on Friday and Saturday. Also in town for preconvention events were Rotaractors , RYLArians , and Youth Exchange officers.
At the heart of every convention is the House of Friendship, where Rotarians meet and find information on Rotary fellowships, action groups, and projects. A popular booth this year features a ShelterBox tent and all the items found in one of the group’s disaster relief boxes.
On Saturday night at the California Experience, Rotarians mingled over hors d’oeuvres and danced to the strains of a swing band before heading into the NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE to hear Natalie Cole perform. The mood was festive as the official start of the convention neared.
“The convention is like an annual reunion,” said Brian McLeran, governor of District 5150. “People who have never been to one are missing the best part of Rotary. It’s the celebration of the year.”
Visit www.rotary.org for news and features throughout the convention.