Seventy-five years ago, today, the Parkville Rotary Club was founded. I want to first point out that Dave Napoli, Homer Williams, Kent Mayfield, Steve Bleish, Dave Overman, Bob Stone, and Tony Tognascioli have been members for more than half of those years.  Bill Quitmeier, Don Breckon and Scott McRuer have been members for nearly half of our history.  I am certain you all join me in thanking them for their loyalty and service to our Club.
Let’s look back with pride. Approximately nine months before the Club was founded, WWII had ended.  The war had been disastrous, with husbands and sons and some daughters sent overseas to fight.  Many of them did not return alive.  Many families were grieving, and those who did return alive had to face a rapidly changing world.  People returned having to find jobs, and being frustrated by the confines of what they had left, after the greatest adventure of their lives. Our founding fathers were in the midst of a world of instability and uncertainty. 

Yet despite this turmoil, the Parkville Mayor, the Park College President, the local banker and other business leaders decided to form the Parkville Rotary Club. It would have been easy for them to say “now is not the right time”, or “we are too small a group”, or “we don’t have time”.  But they realized that this was the beginning of a new post war era, and that the future of Parkville in this new era was theirs to determine.  It was for them a time for unbridled optimism.  It was a time to make things happen rather than wonder what was happening.
Motivated by the concept of “Service Above Self”, they organized themselves to do together what they could not possibly have done alone. And all of us in the Northland and many around the world are beneficiaries. 

We are honored to be part of this legacy.  We are also heirs to this legacy and we must be challenged by it as well.

Despite their optimism and energy and focus, our Founding Fathers could not have imagined what this little Club and those who joined it over the years has accomplished. With volunteer hours, leadership skills, and money, we, and all those Club members who preceded us, have helped organize the local fire department, and has helped build parks and playgrounds and fitness trails.   We have helped Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H Clubs, high school bands and other school groups. 
We have supported numerous camps for the disadvantaged and handicapped. We have contributed to Harvesters, individual food pantries, and the Northland school children hunger relief program.  We have prepared and distributed kits for the homeless. 
We have helped in several beautification projects, provided benches and a clock in the town triangle.  We have placed flags in front of homes and businesses on four national holidays.
We have sent high school students to leadership camps, and provided college scholarships.  We have supported college preparation academies, and a Park University Model UN Group.  We have sponsored both a high school Interact Club and a university Rotaract Club.
We have supported the Kansas City chapter of the American Red Cross and other nonprofit groups too numerous to mention.  We have supported Drug Prevention projects.
We have provided drug free New Year’s Eve activities, distributed fire alarms, staffed road races for charities, and rang bells for the Salvation Army’s numerous emergency relief projects. 
We have sent money around the nation and around the world to help during earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tidal waves and floods.  We have supported a school lunch program in Uganda for three years during a famine, and have created water wells in the Congo.  We have provided permanent clean water supplies in Mexico, have also helped build schools and provide desks, computers and other essentials.  We have helped provide health care in developing countries and as needed during national emergencies.  And this Club has contributed approximately $300,000 to Rotary International’s program to completely eliminate Polio from the face of the earth.

We have welcomed visiting Friendship teams from all continents except Antarctica, and have sent delegations to many countries, and have supported numerous other peace-making activities. We have spun off three new Rotary Clubs.
We have raised funds to support these projects in many, many ways, but perhaps most impressively, we assess ourselves a charity contribution each month and have a charity budget of $25 to $30,000 each of the last several years.

Of great significance, we have been leaders throughout Rotary International in admitting women into our Club and we have quickly advanced them into leadership roles, and in enrolling most of our members in the Paul Harris Fellowship.
Consider the similarities between then and now.  We too, are emerging from a war, this time against a Pandemic called Covid 19.  We too, are grieving.  We too, as a nation are facing joblessness, and a sense of uncertainty about the future.  We too, are restless, and ready to move on.  We too, are wondering what the future will be like.
But more than fighting a war against a pandemic, we as a nation have also been at war amongst ourselves, sometimes waged between ultra-conservatives and ultra-liberal’s, sometimes between Republicans and Democrats, sometimes between Caucasians and African Americans, sometimes between Caucasian’s and Latinos, and currently between Caucasians and Asian Americans.  

We have even witnessed American citizens storm the Capitol Building to disrupt Congressional proceedings.
 We have been battling over how much government we want, and over discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, and sexual orientation.
We have also been at war in the traditional sense in various parts of the world, against other nations and their ethnic and religious sub groups.  We too, like our Founding Fathers, are in the midst of an unstable and volatile world.
Yet, these factors are not reasons to be discouraged.  I believe we are emerging from most of these wars and are finding we have more in common than those differences that divide us. I believe the world after the pandemic will be a better world than before, because of what we have learned. I believe we as a Club can help make it an even better world.
When our Founding Fathers were emerging from a war, they pledged to find common ground.  They pledged not to be paralyzed by inertia, but instead, to characterize themselves as action oriented. 
I would also like to look forward with optimism, and would like to suggest six action opportunities, knowing that our Club members can identify many more.
One, I believe there are enormous opportunities to address peace building here at home? What can we do to improve relationships between races, religions and other groups that are still at odds? I submit that we must emphasize the Four Way Test in everything we do, especially “Is it fair to all concerned?” and “Will it build good will and better friendships?” More importantly, I suggest we must find ways to get this message more widely known in our community, and of course practiced. If this were to happen, many of the battles we are fighting among ourselves would go away, or at least be solvable.
Two, I believe our biggest challenge and therefore our biggest opportunity is to make creative and effective use of developing technology.  I think about things going viral, about Go Fund Me pages raising big money for worthy causes in just a few days and I wonder if these present opportunities for our Club.  I think of Facebook.  I look at my wife’s Face Book page occasionally and I see all kind of commercials and causes, but not once have I seen anything about Rotary.  Think about Instagram, and all the newer technologies that our kids and grandkids use that many of us elders don’t yet understand, like tweet or twitter or their successors. I wonder how these can be utilized by our Club.
Our Club is and should be proud of our use of email, our website and Facebook page, and of course our ability to use Zoom during the pandemic, but I submit that we have not leveraged social media to get our message out, or to grow our Club or our programs.  In the words of Aladdin, “There is a whole new world out there.”  I fear our Club and most clubs have not yet entered it.
I wonder what would happen if our Club assembled a taskforce that would address how we can better use Facebook and other social media to achieve our goals. I wonder what would happen if at each Board meeting a standing agenda item was to brainstorm how we can better accomplish the goals of our Club through better use of social media.  I wonder if the Rotaract Club might be of assistance in designing a Facebook campaign. I wonder if a graduate student intern could be recruited to develop a social media campaign for the Club. I wonder what would happen if we focused the efforts of the five youngest members of the Club on this task.  I wonder if our successful business men and women should be brought together to share how they use social media in their business and to brainstorm how it could be used in our club.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if we developed a first-class social media campaign around the Four Way Test it would spread to our District and throughout RI.  We were leaders in R.I. on the issue of admitting women into the Club and around the Paul Harris Fellows program. Perhaps this is an opportunity where we could again be leaders in Rotary International.
Three, I wonder what would happen if we found a way to invite all Rotaractors to any of our meetings, and found ways to make them feel more welcomed, and a vital part of Rotary.  These Rotaractors of today are one of the most viable groups for Rotary membership in the next decade, if not here, then elsewhere.
Four, I am so pleased with the relatively new Corporate memberships.  I wonder if we need to focus more on how we can meet their needs and how we can work together more effectively.
I wonder what kinds of relationships can be developed with the Park University’s Business School that are now all together in a new building.  They are committed to Innovation and Entrepreneurism.  Perhaps we should place more emphasis on that as well.
Five, I wonder if our Club need a different meeting format, or location, or schedule. Perhaps we need a blended online and in person meeting schedule, as they are doing in schools. I wonder if we can find ways to make Rotary more affordable for younger people? 
Six, Rotary International has just added a new area of emphasis, The Environment.  I wonder if we should think more about environmental improvements needed in the Parkville are.  I wonder if we need to partially fund some agencies doing environmental impact work.
In this era of rapid change, I suggest that we must be less bound to traditions, and more open to changing the Parkville Rotary Club so that it meets the needs of people who have not yet joined. We must emphasize growing our club, not because bigger is better but because more people working together can do better for others.
Rotary today is not the same as it was in 1946, nor should it be. The world is not the same as it was 75 years ago. One example comes to mind quickly.  Seventy-five years ago, women were not in the Club.  About 30 years ago, visionary people made that change, and the Clubs have benefited.  I shudder to think about what our Rotary Club would be like to day without the women members.  I wonder if we need to focus on how to attract more female members.  I know we need to focus on increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of our Club. There is an article about this in the current issue of the Rotarian.  I wonder what would happen if each one of us committed to spending at least fifteen minutes reading each issue of the Rotarian.
Our Club should not be the same in the next decade.  With the world changing so rapidly, if we don’t change with it, we fall behind.  I submit that we must do some in depth thinking and planning about what is needed for the decade we are entering.
Now, I want to emphasize that I am not saying change everything, nor do I believe in change for the sake of change.  However, I do not believe that old adage “If it is not broken, don’t fix it”.
Instead, I subscribe to the concept that everything we do can be done better.  But perhaps more relevant to this post war mentality is the Einstein adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. 
Yes, we as a Club have done and are doing great things.  But I recall a few short years ago then our membership was approaching 75 members.  The last I checked we were about 50 members.  We are down about 25%.  And our attendance at Zoom meetings during the pandemic year is down to about a dozen members.  I wonder what can be done to optimize our Zoom meetings.  I see Zoom church meetings that are visual, and emotionally appealing.  I wonder if the Board ought to be focusing on what are “Best Practices”, and which ones should be incorporated into our Zoom meetings.
It is natural to emerge from a war with lethargy and fatigue.  I wonder how we can energize and expand the club?  What changes need to be made? What will make us a vital and vibrant Club that is a major force in shaping our community and that will attract new members.   
Now is the time to think about who will be needed in our Club in the next five to ten years, and how best do we attract them. Now is the time to be thinking about what in the Northland most needs out attention.  Now is the time to think about what can we do for our Club and the Community, not what can the Club do for us. I wonder what would happen if every member of the Club spent a few minutes thinking about what they could do for the Club that they are not doing now.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by saying we have a great Club and have accomplished great things, some of which I listed earlier.  We are arguably the oldest, and best-known service Club in the Northland, and certainly the largest by far of any service club in Parkville and still one of the largest in the Northland.  We have a glorious reputation and a proud heritage.  We should look back with pride. 
But now is not the time to rest on our laurels.  It is instead the time to reignite our passion for “Service above Self” and to show the world our commitment to being fair to all concerned and building good will and better friendships. But we must also look forward with optimism and a new level of energy and passion for meeting the needs of our community.
I submit that the best way to celebrate this 75th anniversary is to use it as a springboard to thrust us into the future with new energy.  While at my age, I won’t be around to see many more years, I am optimistic that this club will get bigger and better, and that our future will be filled with as many accomplishments as has the last 75 years.