Rotary/Rotaract: Igniting The Passion In You

By Gabriel Gardiner

Passion.  Not carnal desire, but passion.  Few people have it and those that do exude of the intangible glow, the infectious ability to instill confidence into the people around them and to create sustainable followings.  The “skill” to engage, inspire, and provide our fellow classmates, colleagues, and neighbors with a sense of purpose can all be traced back to an individual passion.  Either it is passion or the quickly fleeting tang of a snake oil salesman.

Passion, sprit, dedication, these attributes are embodied in the Special Forces Commando patrolling high in the Hindu Kush, the United States Presidential nominee months into the campaign trail, that of Carl Lewis on the Olympic field.  Closer to our ivory towers, it is Milton Friedman lecturing theory for the benefit of tomorrow’s central bankers or addressing policy towards Congress.  Passion goes hand in hand with success. Surely great heights are unattainable without some form of passion.

However, the vast majority of us lack a passion, or more accurately, lack the molten ember in the gut to find our passion.  To practice it, cultivate it, and incrementally develop it into maturity.  We whimper at the sound of our morning alarm, complain of our job, and poke fun at the funny sounding immigrant who will be our boss in ten years. 

Those of us who have yet to make the Mann Booker short list or missed the invitation to play the pitch for Arsenal can use a little help.  Even those who have climbed the greasy pole of the corporate world or exploited an entrepreneurial loophole would be foolish and inaccurate to say they need not the help of friends.  We can all benefit from a cabinet of advisors to call upon for reference, the sage advice of seasoned professionals, a support group who can provide encouragement and sound judgment during the growing pains of uncertainty.

Where is this El Dorado found?  More accurately, where can we find this assembly of mentors to help us grow as students, professionals, and humans?  Rotary is an international service organization, which has clubs that can be found in local communities throughout the world.  The college affiliate Rotaract can be found here on the campus of Penn State New Kensington.

Rotary/Rotaract is a service organization that will enable you to hit your marks, achieve your goals and fulfill your ambitions, all while getting involved and giving back to your local, national and international communities.  This international network of professionals is a great avenue for the fresh graduate to gain contacts towards building a meaningful career.  Equally, this association strengthens the foundation of individuals in more developed stages of a profession.  Perhaps we are content in the world that we created and want to give back to the community that raised us?

When joining a club, a team or any enterprise, it is critical that we enjoy the activity.  It is important that we have a clear purpose in participation.  With the worldwide reach of Rotary/Rotaract, it is hard not to find something of interest.  Rotary/Rotaract provides abundant opportunities to hone in on your personal and professional traits towards becoming an effective leader.

The following three questions are universal in the quest to identify, develop and obtain quantifiable results in any enterprise, from world-class athletic clubs and multinationals to world-class service organizations.  These three questions are what researchers Jamie Anderson and Jörg Reckhenrich of Antwerp Management School and Martin Kupp of the European School of Management and Technology have identified as “leadership projection.”  Snake oil salesmen might call it charisma.  Those who can accurately articulate these demands have a rather unique insight to any relationship.

Who am I?  As Bill Gates said, “Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.”  Within Rotary/Rotaract your personal story can be found and shaped within this apolitical, secular association of professionals.

Who are we?  The group narrative is the same at every Rotary/Rotaract event that I have attended: the type of person who is a Rotarian is sincere, honest, dependable and quick witted. I have held deeper conversations, more enlightening and thought provoking dialogue with Rotarians than I have encountered in most other environments, including the hallways of any ivory tower.  Such individuals see a value in this organization, and it shows.

The final question: Where are we going? The collective mission of Rotary International is broad, deep and multifaceted.  The polycentric enterprise appeals to many and there defines the international success of Rotary/Rotaract in that it is changing the world.  This organization is resilient—it transforms and reinvents itself with the constant of time.

Some people may dismiss Rotary as an “old persons club.”  Yes, the demographic is an older crowd, but what these naive naysayers overlook is the wealth of knowledge that is to be gained from people who have experienced more life than any aspiring “rock star,” living in their parents basement with a part-time gig in the pizza delivery trade.

A Rotarian’s talent for quick lateral thinking has the tendency to leave one dumbfounded.  In ancientGreeceand modernAfghanistan, older folks are treated with immense respect, for these are the individuals who stood the test of time.  Those who died young are not the James Deans of the world, but those unable to grasp the primal, often harsh elements reality.

Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be learned from history should attend a local Rotary Club meeting.  Furthermore, you may catch glimpses of the future all in the same gathering.  In a world where business is more and more conducted on an international level, our ability to work with people unlike ourselves will become an increasingly paramount portion to an ever-evolving skill set.

Formed by different experiences that span the globe, Rotary offers a distinctive medium for its members to expand their understanding of our world.  Here on our campus, Rotary/Rotaract has helped in creating a dialogue between professionals and students through the introduction of a “Speakers Series.”  Rotary Club of New Kensington has organized a service trip to assist in the needs of St. Joseph’s Indian School, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Badlands of South Dakota.

Rotary Club of Lower Burrell hosts numerous fundraiser events throughout the year, with proceeds going towards scholarships, charities and institutions such asPennState.  Our local Rotary District 7300, a collection of individual clubs, is part of numerous international service projects such as the eradication of polio and innovative methods to bringing potable water to some of the most marginalized people on our Earth.  Youth and professional development programs are other avenues for us to become active participants in Rotary/Rotaract.

It all comes down to the individual in making the initial step.  Potent evidence to the way in which one person can alter history is found everywhere.  Rosa Parks to Steve Jobs, it takes the initiative and passion of one person.  Another person, maybe unknown to us, is Mohamed Bouazizi, an unassuming, unemployed street vender who became a catalyst for change by literally lighting himself on fire, igniting the current Arab Spring.  I am not asking you to become a martyr for Rotary International, just remember that Rotary may provide the needed encouraging to your personal fire.  A fire for the greater good!

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