Feel like a number, I’m not a number; dammit I’m a …Rotarian

by John Borst, PP Rotary Club of Dryden, ON

In 1978, Bob Seeger, on his album “Stranger in Town” recorded the song “Feel like a Number”. The chorus went

Hey it’s me

And I feel like a number

Feel like a number

Feel like a stranger

A stranger in this land

I feel like a number

I’m not a number

I’m not a number

Dammit I’m a man

Dammit I’m a man

Well right now I want to scream Dammit I’m a Rotarian and I don’t want to be treated like I’m just a number!

Now, I know there are many American Rotarians who probably relate more to the lines:

“Feel like a stranger

A stranger in this land”,

as they debate the issue of a ban on the use of the Rotary logo related to gun shows and gun raffles by Clubs and Districts.

My beef, however, doesn’t have to do with that ban, but it does have to do with the ban on my use of the Rotary logo.

As you know, I started up a personal Rotary blog titled “Wethe4” when many Americans took exception to posts I was making at District 5550’s blog 5550Opinions.

Recently, I was told by an administrator at Rotary International that as a Rotarian I did not have the right to use the Rotary logo on my blog. As you can see from the banner above, I complied with RI’s request. He went on to say that only a blog belonging to a Club or District could use the logo. So I asked myself am I a Rotarian or just a number?

Regrettably, the issue is really much bigger and deeper than my use of the logo on a blog.

Back in 2012, as result of Rotary promoting the 25th anniversary of women being admitted to Rotary membership, I naively wrote a 5550Opinions piece on how great it would be to have a woman as president to celebrate that anniversary and posted it to Rotary’s discussion group at LinkedIn. The reaction was, to say the least, tumultuous and went on for months until I formed a committee with International representation to write a paper and submit it to the RI Board of Directors.

What we discovered, however, was that individual Rotarians or even groups of Rotarians, like we were, could not submit a research paper to the Board of Directors for consideration. Again, only a Club or District could do such a thing. It became pretty clear, individual Rotarians are just numbers and we have no standing with Rotary what so ever. That is other than donors!

The same is true when it comes to the governance of Rotary. Rotary likes to claim it is democratic but individual Rotarians have no direct vote. The vote rests with your club. This is true at both the District and International levels. Again all individual Rotarians are placed into the context of being simply nothing more than a number.

Perhaps the most democratic forum in Rotary is the Council on Legislation. In my experience, we have even less say in the choice of our CoL representative. In my District, the Representative is chosen by the Executive Committee and not even by the full board of Directors. And it is always a pass Governor. That simply is not how representative governance should work. As far as CoL is concerned we aren’t even a number and asking us to approve the nominee at the District Conference simply makes us complicit in the farce.

This is not right! Becoming dues paying members should give a Rotarian the right to use the logo on a blog aimed 100% at Rotarians. It should give a Rotarian the right to write correspondence or make a presentation to the District and/or RI Boards of Directors. And it should give Rotarians the right to vote directly for its President or Governor. And/or to have a say in choosing a representative for the Council on Legislation.

As Bob Seeger might have put it I feel like a number, I’m not a number, Dammit I’m a …Rotarian!