Excerpt by:

M. Kathleen Pratt

The Rotarian

January 2006

What is Rotary? Whether you're a new Rotarian or a seasoned veteran, you've probably asked yourself this question at some point.

Because January is Rotary Awareness Month, we took to the streets to see how regular folks would respond to the question. You'll find their answers, including several creative guesses, on page 49.

But here's another question: How do you respond when asked, "What is Rotary?" Do you welcome the chance to tell someone about your club and what it means to you to be a Rotarian? Or do you feel pressed to come up with a textbook definition?

If you think you need to brush up on your Rotary knowledge, there's no better time than the present. Because Rotary is coming off a centennial year, the organization's history and accomplishments are now chronicled as never before. Along with trusted old references like the ABCs of Rotary, there are newer volumes like A Century of Service: The Story of Rotary International and Conquering Polio, an illustrated history of the PolioPlus program. There's also the RI Web site, www.rotary.org, and the new Rotarian Video Magazine, launched in June of last year. And, of course, there's The Rotarian bringing you news and features every month. In this issue alone, you can learn what Rotarians are doing to combat hunger, follow the short-term and long-term responses to two of the biggest natural disasters of the past year, and read about dozens of the people and projects that make Rotary what it is.

Your answer to "What is Rotary?" need not be an encyclopedic recitation. In fact, some of the best responses come from personal experience. To one Rotarian, Rotary is the way he and his family learned about a culture thousands of miles away by welcoming a Youth Exchange student into their home for a semester. To another, it's a way to repay the community in which she's built a successful business. For yet another, it's the way he met like-minded friends and valuable professional contacts after moving to a new town.

Whether you turn to the textbook response or you decide to dig deep into your own experiences, if anyone ever approaches you on the street and asks, "What is Rotary?" make sure you're prepared. It's not hard: The right answer, of course, is that Rotary is all of these things - and more.

M. Kathleen Pratt is managing editor of The Rotarian. This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of The Rotarian.

This article is © 2005 Rotary International and is provided for the nonprofit use of Rotarians worldwide; commercial use is prohibited. The article may be quoted, excerpted, or used in its entirety, but the information should not be changed or modified in any way. Read more information in the RI copyright notice.