RI President-elect Dong Kurn Lee announces the 2008-09 RI theme, Make Dreams Real, to incoming district governors at the 2008 International Assembly.

Rotary International President-elect Dong Kurn Lee addressed incoming district governors today at the 2008 International Assembly, urging them to use their resources to help curb child mortality. Lee said he was in disbelief when he learned that 30,000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable diseases such as pneumonia, measles, and malaria.

"Once I understood the issues behind that terrible number, I knew what I needed to do," Lee said. He told the incoming governors that Rotary will keep the service emphases of recent years -- water, health and hunger, and literacy -- but asked them to focus their efforts in each of these areas on children.

"In 2008-09, I will ask you all to Make Dreams Real for the world's children," he said. "This will be our theme, and my challenge to all of you."

"Children are killed by illnesses that become deadly in combination with poor sanitation and malnutrition," Lee said. In addition, families stricken by extreme poverty are trapped in a cycle that only leads to more unnecessary deaths. "It's a cycle that is not interrupted because there is no access to education."

He challenged the audience to do their part to give children "hope and a chance at a future" by reducing the rate of child mortality in the world.

"We will bring clean water to their communities and create sanitation projects that keep children healthy," Lee said.

As the incoming governors begin preparing for the year ahead with the training and inspiration they receive at the International Assembly, Lee reminded them of Rotary's power and encouraged them to use their resources efficiently to maximize the good done around the world.

Governor-elect Geoffrey Mathis, of District 9930 in New Zealand, thinks the upcoming RI theme allows Rotary to dream big. "Make Dreams Real will be an easy theme to sell around the world. We all like challenges; Lee has allowed us to put our dreams to practice."

Rotarians can improve children's health, Lee said, even in small ways, such as delivering mosquito nets, rehydration salts, vitamins, and vaccines. "So much more can be done with just a little more: a trained birth attendant, a simple clinic, a school feeding program, a visiting nurse," he continued. "These are simple and direct ways to save children's lives."

In 2008-09, Rotarians will be asked to open their eyes to the needs of children in communities near and far, Lee said.

"Children die not because nobody can help them, but because too often, nobody does. But you and I, here in this room, are Rotarians, and helping is what we do best," he said, adding that "our job is to Make Dreams Real for children. If every one of us does this, at the end of our year, we will all have achieved something wonderful."