Don’t Miss Rotary’s Float in the Rose Bowl Parade!

Rotary's float this year was a crowd pleaser

Rotary’s float this year was a crowd pleaser

The Rotary International float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade is undoubtedly the largest public relations project of the Rotary clubs of the United States and Canada. The famous Pasadena, California parade is seen on New Year’s Day by an estimated 300 million people via worldwide television.The annual Rotary float is not a project of Rotary International. Rather, funds for the construction of the Rotary parade entry are voluntarily given by Rotarians, clubs, and districts in the United States and Canada. The cost of designing, constructing and flower-covering a Rose Parade float is well over $100,000. Approximately 93% of the money raised goes to the cost of building, decorating, and entering the float in the parade. The balance of the funds raised pays for business, banking, insurance, and other miscellaneous costs related to the float and hosting the RI president while attending the parade and other related activities. None of the money raised is spent on professional staff.

2011 Rotary Float Rose Bowl Parade

2011 Rotary Float Rose Bowl Parade

A multi-district Rotary committee in southern California coordinates the planning and execution of the Rotary float. Hundreds of Rotarians voluntarily travel to Pasadena each year to help put flowers on the Rotary float. The theme of this year’s float will be “All the Places We Go”, emphasizing Rotary’s worldwide reach to provide services and to promote peace. It will feature a globe and gears that move. It will also have cherry blossoms and origami to make the float’s design conform with President Tanaka’s theme for 2012-2013 – Peace through Service.


Today’s Youth Focused on Giving Back

I recently had the opportunity to meet a very special young woman.  She reminded me there is truly hope for the world.

That’s Hillary – third from the right, receiving an academic scholarship from the Fairfax Rotary Club.

First a little background.  My Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Fairfax, is extremely dedicated to the financially disadvantaged youth in our community and we fulfill this commitment in many ways. We recently recognized five outstanding seniors by awarding acedemic scholarships and community service awards.  A fellow Rotarian in my club, Verne Tuininga is Chairman of the Scholarships & Fellowships Program.  He said that by assisting financially challenged but academically successful and highly motivated students, we can benefit the student, their family and our community as a whole with an educational opportunity that previously may not have been available to them.  Our scholarship program is one of our great examples of our mission of “Service Above Self.”

That’s how I met Hillary Essis.

Hillary is from the Ivory Coast.  She told us that while living there, she was drawn to its rich fabrics, extensive collection of traditional gold jewelry, and all around celebration of fashion.  She also told us that she and many of her fellow countrymen lived in unsafe conditions but strived to make a better life for themselves.  Hillary and her family eventually moved to the United States where her dad took a job as a professor at NYU.  There, Hillary developed a love of fashion amongst the fashion houses in Manhattan.  Says Hillary, “New York City, being a fashion capital, was a breeding ground for my growing passion for all things fashion.”  Knowing her vision was to eventually give back to the women in her native country, Hillary has recently gratuated from Fairfax High School will now be embarking on her journey to college.  She’ll be a freshman at VCU this fall and plans to pursue a double major in fashion merchandising and business.

This amazing young women plans to pay her dues.  Her dream is to be a fashion buyer for a major fashion company and then open fashion houses where women can work with designers to create their own garments and ready-to-wear items.  Once she has gathered all this experience, her vision is to help artisans of her native Ivory Coast open fashion houses where they can have a safe place to work while making goods that will be sold in the United States.

Good luck, Hillary, and best wishes as you make a difference in peoples’ lives.  We salute you!

Summitted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary PR Chair

May You Live in Interesting Times

My friend Darity Wesley recently sent me some words of wisdom.  She said living in revolutionary times is not easy.  The Chinese have a blessing that also serves as a curse: “May you live in interesting times!”  Revolutions demand that we renounce those ideas and conceptions which keep us from moving forward. One of the most difficult things for us to do as members of the human species is to let go of old beliefs and perceptions.  History has shown that we are often willing to live unhappy, limited lives—or even die—rather than to change our beliefs, to see things in a new way, to release the old in favor of the new.

In parts of the world where peace initiatives keep breaking down over and over again, it is the rehashing of past grievances (whether religious or ethnic) that continuously stirs the fire of revenge.  Once revenge is accomplished, the opposing group wants the same thing and the strife goes on.  The only possible solution is to renounce vengeance.  It is only through forgiveness that we can find peace and freedom.

By releasing past injustices, past prejudices, and past hurts we can move forward.  Gandhi said that if everyone practiced the eye-for-an-eye morality, soon “the whole world would be blind.”  Perhaps it is natural to want to do to others what they have done to us, but it is not good enough.  It is not the way of spiritual advancement.  It was certainly not the way of Jesus.

It was his way to love the enemy, turn the other cheek, go the second mile.  He could renounce “natural” feelings in favor of spiritual ones.  Two thousand years ago he told us how to break the chain of recurrent strife and showed us the perfect example in the way he dealt with his own life.  He held out the promise of a perfect world.

Almost a century ago, another spiritual leader was envisioning a “new heaven and a new earth.”  Charles Fillmore wrote in the “Renunciation” chapter of The Twelve Powers of Man, “The earth is slowly regaining its equilibrium and will in due season be restored to its pristine golden age.”

But what is standing in the way of this miracle coming to pass?  Could it be us?

All our positive and determined efforts to make our lives and the world better may not  succeed unless we make the preliminary move of renunciation, of formally and voluntarily giving up whatever old ideas we are holding and starting with a clean slate.  I think Darity is on to something, do you?

Posted by Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Club PR Chair