Having adopted the eradication of polio as their top priority in 1985, Rotary clubs around the world have participated in a public-private partnership, which has been responsible for the reduction of about 350,000 polio cases a year in the 1980s to five confirmed last year.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative brought together the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund along with Rotary to complete the task.
Atlanta is to be the site from June 10-14 of a giant celebration of this medical success bringing together 37,500 Rotarians and their guests from 174 countries and territories.
While many Rotarians from the U.S. will be attending the numbers of overseas Rotarians shouldn’t be discounted. There are 2,000 coming from Japan.
India, the Philippines, Canada, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Nepal and Brazil are each also sending at least 470 Rotarians.
More than 45,000 room nights have been reserved across town, and local universities are making student housing available for those seeking more affordable rates. The city and state are to benefit at least $57 million from direct spending, and $1 million from state and local taxes.
Most of the action is to take place at the Georgia World Congress Center, which will benefit from $1 million in rental use and food delivery.
How has this happened?
To find out, Global Atlanta met with Robert Hall, principal of HRH Recruiting, Executive and Professional Search, who is on the organizing committee, and Jim Munson, vice president of sales for the Compass Relocation Group, who is helping to coordinate the activities of the international visitors.
“Rotary combines the power of one with the results of many,” Mr. Hall said, explaining that the 206 Rotary chapters throughout Georgia wanted to host the 2017 event, which is celebrating the birth of the Rotary Foundation in Atlanta 100 years ago.
At the 1917 Rotary Convention then Rotary President Arch Klumph proposed creating an endowment “for the purpose of doing good in the world.”
From an initial contribution of $26.50, the foundation’s assets have grown to $1 billion, not to mention the more than $3 billon that have been spent on projects and scholarships for a long list of philanthropic and humanitarian causes ranging from clean water to growing local economies.
Just because the foundation has been a success, however, didn’t mean that Atlanta would be chosen. To be able to claim the prize, the Rotarians had to come up with at least $1 million in cash.
Mr. Hall told Global Atlanta that to show their commitment, each of the state’s 10,500 Rotarians has donated for the past seven years $25 to raise over $1 million. With this kind of commitment “from boots on the ground,” to quote Mr. Hall, they were able to get some of Georgia’s top corporations to sponsor with Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., Cox Enterprises Inc., the Chick-fil-A Foundation, and Home Depot Inc. leading the way and with 21 others following. To see the full list of sponsors click here.
Mr. Hall and Mr. Munson stressed that the convention wasn’t just about the money, though they did both seem somewhat surprised by the momentum of the fund raising.
The convention’s success also would require, they said, the participation of inspirational speakers and programs addressing Mr. Klumph’s original purpose “of doing good in the world.”
So invitations went out to Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Rajashree Birla, chair of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Development; U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee; Gary Hangen, CEO of the International Justice Mission; Jack Nicklaus, philanthropist and golf icon and James Quincy, president and CEO of Coca-Cola.
They and a host of others (click here to see a list of speakers) all accepted. Aside from the headliners will be numerous other community leaders addressing a long list of humanitarian conerns.
Inside the World Congress Center there is to be a “Friendship House” providing a venue for networking and for participating exhibitors to man booths. Outside the center a Habitat House is to be assembled.