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by Paul Kiser

For 364 Days a year, thousands of Rotary Clubs around the world are involved in programs and projects to help the local, regional, national, and international communities, but on one day, EVERY Rotary Club is asked to do a community service project.  This year that day will be April 24, 2010.

Throughout Rotary we know this day as Rotarians at Work Day, but I like to think of it as Donald M. Carter Day.  Who was Donald M. Carter?

If you do a Google search for him you will find a few articles that mention his name. You might find out that he was a patent attorney and that he was involved in attempting to obtain a patent on the Rotary cog icon, but that would hardly justify naming a day after him.  If fact, to most Rotarians, Donald M. Carter is no one special….unless they know the early history of Rotary.

When Rotary was formed in 1905, Rotarians in the inaugural club established two reasons as the ‘purpose’ of Rotary.  They were as follows:

  1. The promotion of the business interests of its members
  2. The promotion of good fellowship and other desiderata ordinarily incident to social clubs.

In 1905, Rotary was a networking club that promoted business within the membership. The organization was established for the sole benefit of the members.

In April of 1906, a patent attorney named Donald M. Carter was approached by Frederick Tweed, a new Rotarian, and encouraged to join.  Carter was interested and asked about the objectives of the club.  When told of the two stated purposes of Rotary and shown the newly created Club Constitution, he declined and said that a club should have a higher ideal, some ‘civic’ purpose.  Tweed then suggested that Carter join and propose the new purpose to the club.

At this moment Carter could have just said ‘no’.  He could have thanked Tweed and sent him off with a handshake.  Rotary might have remained a business networking club existing solely for the benefit of the members…but Carter didn’t say ‘no’ to Tweed, or ‘no’ to his desire for a higher ideal for the organization.

The next month Donald M. Carter became a member of Rotary and later that year he composed the third purpose of Rotary:

3.  The advancement of the best interests of Chicago and the spreading of the spirit of civic pride and loyalty among its citizens.

The third purpose was adopted in 1907 and Rotary ceased to become an inward focused group of business men.  It became a group of people who promoted service and pride in the larger community outside of business and Rotary.

So on April 24, 2010, let’s give a nod and a smile to Donald M. Carter who gave Rotary a challenge to be more than a pursuit of the personal interests of the members, and instilled the value of community service and civic pride into every member.

Thanks Donald.  I glad you were a Rotarian!

A Century of Service by David C. Forward

(Special thanks to David C. Forward and his book, A Century of Service:  The story of Rotary International.  Book is available at www.shop.rotary.org)

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