Posted by Ron Goodenow, Rotary Club of Westborough on Jul 14, 2017

The International Convention Shows It All

The famous Harvard sociologist David Riesman, referring primarily to higher education, said that there are ‘cosmopolitans’ and ‘locals’. Cosmopolitans, many of whom work in large universities, love research, publishing, working with colleagues in other institutions, attending conferences and all that. Locals, more likely found in small colleges, love departmental affairs, and focus on committees, students and classrooms.Often these polar opposites don’t get along. My experience in Rotary suggests some of this is the same for us. There are Rotarians who love working in inter-club, international projects and zone or district affairs. There are others who love primarily the weekly club meeting, local service projects and fellowship. Unlike colleges I have experienced Rotarians respect and appreciate the philosophies of fellow members. This said, there are many of us who simply do not know what a more cosmopolitan Rotary life would be.

With that in mind I am going to be periodically sharing not only my views, but those of other Rotarians on how Rotarians can expand their horizons and become more ‘cosmopolitan’ adding to the enjoyment and effectiveness of being a Rotarian. A conversation with fellow Westborough Rotarian and District Governor Elect Steve Sager sent me along this path as he described, with great enthusiasm, his attendance at the recent RI International Convention in Atlanta. My motives are to promote not only more knowledge, relationships, and participation with such world class Rotary collaborators like Bill Gates, but the wonderful opportunities posed by the 2018 convention in Toronto….just up the road.

On the basis of our conversation I learned that Atlanta was Steve’s first RI convention, and though he knew it would be big, not like the first RI one in 1910, which attracted a grand total of 60, and probably not like the 2004 one in Osaka which attracted c.44,000 Rotarians, though Atlanta came close to Osaka, with approximately 38,000 attending, including 50+ from District 7910. Steve was far from alone, and had some friendly shoulders to lean on.

What Steve discovered was that he had a huge number of shoulders to lean on. To exchange ideas with. To trade business cards with. To think about visiting during international travel. Or hosting here. The one thing I learned is that this was no business-oriented trade show, and I’ve been to many. Steve was palpably excited about the human aspects, the fun of meeting people from all over the world, many of whom had ideas to discuss.

Ok, the convention was a great human experience, but once friends are made and logistics understood it is so much more. Steve was excited by the House of Friendship, where the Rotary world comes together, and where best practices, ideas, and project successes are promoted and shared. The House had booths on projects, fellowships and Action groups. Staff was available in its Resource Center to discuss programs and services in detail. And, of course, there were booths where Steve could find a new Rotary tie, shirt or banner to bring back to Westborough. All complemented by Southern food and music.

Steve loved the speakers, who discussed and described corporate responsibility, philanthropy, and the polio campaign. He was thrilled to hear in person internationally known ones like Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission, Senator Bob Corker, Bill Gates , Ashton Kutcher, Co-founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, RI President John F. Germ and many other internationally distinguished Rotarians.

Steve was happy to be present when over 1 billion dollars was pledged to fight polio, with Rotary’s pledge amounting to $150 over the next three years. Other commitments were $450 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $154.7 million from Pakistan, $134.6 million from Nigeria, and significant contributions from Canada, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, the European Commission, UNECEF USA and other sources..”Its one thing to have the fulfilling experiences of district and club polio events and fund raising on a Purple Pinky Day, but imagine being present when hundreds of millions of dollars are contributed,” Steve told me.”We’re down to perhaps five cases of polio in the world. These enormous contributions may not only reduce the number to zero, but protect us from the unexpected introduction of polio to the US and other countries by an airline passenger. “

When I asked Steve for the most exciting idea he came back with, he described a RYLA Plus program in Western states, a one day event for special needs students. Given the success of Westborough High School’s S.T.A.R.S . program this initiative would be a perfect fit locally….a great example of what can be learned in an event such as a RI Convention.


Rotary is more than you and your club. It’s you and your Rotary world. See you at district events and in Toronto. – Steve Sager, Governor Elect, District 7910. Member, Rotary Club of Westborough


Bottom line, have a great cosmpolitan experience with over 20,000 Rotarians and bring it back to your local club for application in town or schools. You can be a cosmopolitan and local all at once! It’s already  time to plan attending the next RI Convention which will take place from 24th  June to 27th  June 2018 at the Toronto Hilton. There’s now  a great web site to guide you through content and registation:

If you have questions or want to share your own experiences we can write up drop a note to so I can follow up. You can contact Steve at