Posted on Jun 13, 2023
At the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, Australia last month, says Immediate Past District Governor Lorne Calder, with wife and fellow Rotarian Sue, “We cheered, clapped, danced, cried and laughed throughout the convention as we heard many personal stories of tragedy, disasters, strife that were turned around thanks to the encouragement or support of Rotary or Rotarians.”
Lorne adds, “As Canadian Rotarians we can be extremely proud of Jennifer Jones’s leadership and the impact that she has had as the President of Rotary International over the 2022/2023 Rotary year! It was a thrill for me and Sue, and fellow Canadians, as achievements in this Rotary year were recognized and Jennifer’s role in all that at the convention.”
PDG Lorne Calder’s account of his experience at the 2023 Rotary International Convention continues.
The opening ceremony included the parade of flags (always a favorite of Rotarians) with the Canadian and Australian flags being paraded last and with both anthems being sung. Ours was performed by the Canadian Tenors!!  The Canadian Tenors sang a number of songs after that making the opening ceremony even more special to all the Canadians in attendance. Hearing an opening address from Jennifer Jones and from one of the co-founders of Global Citizens (Hugh Evans) was very inspiring and left us wanting more. 
Jennifer’s focus on her own Rotary Family – as she walks the walk and talks the talk -- is remarkable, with her husband who will be a District Governor next year and niece, nephew, brother, sisters and father all belonging to Rotary. So have her Impact tours, visiting every province and territory in Canada last July and then tours in various oregions of the world.
Jennifer’s ability to be interviewed by, and to interview, world leaders and others will leave a significant change in how Rotary is viewed on the international stage. We have seen many Past RI presidents and future RI presidents go on a National Immunization Day event, but I cannot remember another RI President spending nine days on one.
This immunization event Rotary event was in Pakistan where she learned about the tactics, strategies, monitoring, government support and spending time with the front line vaccinator staff and going door to door in some of the most remote parts of Pakistan. That’s true leadership in our top priority of polio eradication. 
Despite three cases in Afghanistan and one case in Pakistan so far this year, this disease is being contained in less than 5% of Pakistan (7 of 127 states) and a small neighboring area in Afghanistan.
International Convention 2023 links
Rotary International Convention concludes with a message of hope.
Peace and climate change take center stage in Melbourne
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, child climate change activist, and Rotary Peace Fellows explore the intersection of environmental protection and peace
Speeches and reports, in three formats (more speeches on RI and info on RI convention site)
RI President Jennifer Jones
► watch 
RI General Secretary and CEO John Hewko
RI President-elect R. Gordon R. McInally
► watch 
Rotary has the support of both governments and even military support if necessary!  Our dream of a polio free world is very close!! 
Many of the keynote speakers at the Melbourne convention were people Jennifer had met on her worldwide impact tours to eight different destinations. Each was inspirational!
Before the convention even started, Sue and I attended the Polio walk from Federation square to the Melbourne Rotary Peace Park where we were welcomed by Jennifer Jones. On that occasion she suggested that Rotary continue to do great work but stay relevant and become
a “Movement”. More on this below as a convention takeaway.
The next day we attended a multi-District dinner (5040, 5050 and 5060). We made special note of five Rotarians from the Burnaby Metrotown Rotary Club and three from the Terrace Skeena Valley Rotary Club. Well done to them!  We were able to meet up with peers and others from these other Districts we have not seen since Governor Elect Training Seminar (GETS) in Toronto or President Elect Training Seminar (PETS).  A special thank you to District 5050 for its support of Ukraine through a Disaster Response Fund Grant for a firetruck or ambulance and to District 5060 for their support of the Multi-District disaster response fund grant for a rigid inflatable boat and diving suits.
We were assured that day two would be even better (Jennifer was not wrong). A a 10-year-old Poet Laureate (Nakeeyat Dramani Sam) from Ghana (presented her award winning poem and a personal poem for Jennifer Jones). A Nobel Peace Prize winner (Leymah Gbowee) and a group of women stopped the civil war in Liberia were also breathtaking. Then there was a singer songwriter (Gaby Moreno) from Guatemala who toured her country with Jennifer to learn about Rotary’s work to increase literacy there: with literacy rates having increased from 33% to 66% over the last 20 years. 
Before the presentations on day two, we attended the Philippines breakfast session at the Melbourne Cricket Centre with close to 400 people. RI past leaders, current leaders and future leaders were in attendance. It was announced at this breakfast that the Philippines will be hosting the 2028 Rotary International Conference in Manila. A big thank-you to our host Virie Fearnley, President of the Vancouver Mountainview Rotary Club, who made us feel welcome! Stephanie Urchick’s, Gordon McInally’s and Jennifer Jones’s welcoming remarks were a great way to start the day. 
John Hewko’s address highlighted some of the challenges facing us. Over the last five years we have seen the number of refugees worldwide jump from 25 million people to 100 million people! The devasting war in Ukraine has seen 134,000 individual homes and 18,000 multi story building destroyed with 1.3 million households impacted at an estimated cost of US$54 billion. The destruction of infrastructure (health care facilities, schools, bridges and roads) estimated at US$36 billion!!  Despite all of this, membership has grown in the Ukraine. John left us with the four pillars needed for Peace: 1.  creating high levels of human capital; 2. acceptance of the rights of others; 3. equitable distribution of resources; 4. good relations between neighbors. 
After the Poet Laureate, Noble Peace award winner and the singer song writer from Guatemala and much, much more we were all looking forward to day three and the closing ceremonies. Many of us headed back to the House of Friendship. The long walks from the Rod Laver arena to the Melbourne Civic Centre every day were great for my active minutes and steps on the fitbit!!  We finished the day with a dinner with Zone 28/32 attendees. 
Day three focused on The Rotary Foundation: updates on our Peace Fellowship universities, with a new one planned in Turkey; the results of the first Program of Scale in Mozambique on track to reduce malaria cases by 90%; the second Program of Scale for health care checks in Kenya; third program of scale, to reduce Cervical Cancer in Egypt, was announced. They were all inspiring.
An update on Rotary’s polio eradication efforts by the logistics person responsible for our efforts in Pakistan, was encouraging and hopeful.
A message from the World Health Organization, on  our commitment, persistence, and dedication, along with other foundations and governments, to eradicate our planet’s second viral disease was also rewarding!!  The other co-founder (Michael Sheldrick) of the Global Citizens acknowledged our humanitarian efforts and commitment to eradicate Polio and our pledge to raise $100 million at one of their Global Citizen events.
That presenter also shared a Rotary connection with a Polio survivor in Perth Australia who assisted and motivated him and a team to develop the Global Citizens organization with the ideology of Rotary’s humanitarian efforts. Video clips of many of these presentations are available on the RI website and encourage everyone to take the time to watch them. 
Many of us did attend some of the breakout sessions which added even more value for the RI Convention.
The closing ceremonies were also entertaining. Jennifer Jones’s family surprised   incoming RI President Gordon McInally’s family, who were all dressed in kilts, when they too were all dressed in kilts as they passed the leadership torch from one family to the next.
Gordon’s speech was excellent. Rotary will continue with its many programs, but the coming year will give special focus on World Peace and on Mental Health as we, in the theme for 2023-24, “Create Hope for the World”!  Jennifer’s closing remarks weaved in both of the themes elegantly with Imagine what’s next in our Hope for a better world. 
Sue and I attended many convention based luncheons and dinners that gave us the opportunity to meet many of the RI directors and District leadership from around the world.  When sharing our District’s operational differences I was glad to also share some of tour District 5040’s achievements, such as  the Write to Read program, Economic Impact of Rotary, Positive Peace Facilitations, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, working with the First Nations, Certificates of Appreciation, the high percentage of goal setting in Rotary Club Central-leading to a high perecentage of Rotary Citations and the Hoop-A-Thon FUNdraiser, growing from a Vancouver Sunrise project to the local area and now the whole District. Many of these leaders wanted to learn more. We should be very proud of our District and what it achieves!!
As this was the first Rotary international convention for fellow Rotarian Sue and I, but it certainly won’t be our last. In terms of previous conventions, we will have to leave the comparative analysis to others. We were simply wowed and inspired by the convention and agree with Jennifer’s approach to attract the Generation Z that we will need to show and prove to them that we are adaptive, flexible and a MOVEMENT with a strong focus on the 7 Areas of focus and that these areas address their concerns about family, caring for others and the environment.  We may need more cause-based clubs to appeal to the passions of younger potential members, or clubs to embrace more causes, and to possibly reduce the overall cost of Rotary where possible.
The 2024 Convention is in Singapore. 
The international conventions following Singapore are 2025 in Calgary, 2026 in Taipei, 2027 in Hawaii and 2028 now in the Philippines! 
Singapore is a possibility, but Calgary is a definite YES and Hawaii a strong possibility and my arm may be able to be twisted to go to Taipei (Dean Hsieh)!! 
For many years, I was a strong club Rotarian but truly became a Rotarian after PETS in 2007. Attending GETS made me want more and to become more involved at the District and Zone level but an RI Convention showed us how great Rotary is internationally and the strength we have by collaborating, sharing and solving worldwide problems. An RI convention should be on everyone’s Rotary bucket list!
Lorne Calder
Immediate Past District Governor and
Rotary District Foundation Chair
Rotary District 5040