Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka, of Japan, has arrived in Oklahoma to participate in the club's annual statewide banquet Friday.
He was met at the airport Thursday by Ron Burton, of Norman, who will take over Rotary's highest office July 1.
“It's very unusual that you would ever have the president of Rotary International and the president-elect in the same community unless it was an international event like a convention,” Burton said. He has been a Rotarian since 1979 and is a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Norman.
The theme of the banquet is “Let's Celebrate Your Giving,” honoring the service and support given to the Rotary Foundation. Tanaka will speak at the banquet and several Rotary Foundation supporters will be honored.
When he takes office on July 1, Burton will be the second Oklahoman to serve as Rotary International president: Everett W. Hill, who owned an ice and cold storage company based in Shawnee, was Rotary International president for 1924 and 1925.
Oklahoma City's Rotary Club, which is the parent club to many of the smaller clubs statewide, is the third largest in the world with more than 580 members, and was the 29th club established worldwide. Today there are more than 34,000 individual Rotary Clubs with 1.2 million members.
“I think we all have an obligation to give back to our communities for the opportunities we've had,” Burton said, explaining his commitment to Rotary. “I call it the rent I pay for the space I occupy.”
Tanaka's current presidential theme is “Peace through Service.”
"Though I have made peace the emphasis of my presidency, Rotary members have long been committed to peace by addressing the underlying causes of conflict and violence, such as hunger, poverty, disease and illiteracy," Tanaka said in an email interview. "As a member of the first generation to grow up in Japan after World War II, I understand the importance of peace and its connection to our well-being."
“In Rotary, we do not divide our work by nation, culture, or language. It does not matter what is printed in your passport. What matters is that you believe in service above self,” Tanaka wrote in his February message to Rotarians.
Tanaka and Burton share a passion for increasing awareness and membership for Rotary International, Burton said, as well as completing the organization's international mission to eradicate polio.
Rotarians around the world subscribe to a standard of ethics originally penned by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor as a business philosophy. Taylor, who lived in Oklahoma in the early 1920s, later moved to Chicago, where he became first the president of the Rotary Club of Chicago and, in 1954-55, was the 50th anniversary president of Rotary International.
The philosophy, called the Four Way Test, is: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
“If you can answer all four questions yes, it's the right thing to do,” Burton said.
"Rotary members use their expertise, compassion and power to accomplish incredible things," Tanaka said. "From local food pantries to clean water and maternal health, Rotary clubs engage in local and international service projects in thousands of communities all over the world. Our track record of success is demonstrated by the millions of people who have achieved and sustained a better quality of life through Rotary."
Burton's presidential theme will be “Engage Rotary, Change Lives.”
“I'm trying to get Rotarians to get serious about doing rotary work in their local communities and the international community and going out and asking people to become members and support our foundation so we can do even greater work in the world,” Burton said.