Paul P. Harris formed the world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905.
The Rotary motto is Service Above Self and, as it celebrated its centennial, Rotary continued to concern itself with truth, fairness, improved relations between peoples, and world peace.
During World War II, Rotary members increasingly became involved in promoting international understanding. A Rotary conference held in London in 1942 planted the seeds for the development of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and some 50 Rotary members served as delegates and consultants at the ounding of the United Nations.
Today, Rotary holds the highest consultative status with the United Nations that a nongovernmental organization can obtain. In this capacity, Rotary has a voice within the UN system allowing access to its people and resources worldwide.
Rotary is essentially a grassroots organization, with most of its service efforts being carried out at the club level. The district and international structure is designed to support the clubs.
Rotarians are members of Rotary clubs, which belong to the global association Rotary International (RI). Each club elects its own officers and enjoys considerable autonomy within the framework of Rotary’s constitution and bylaws.
Clubs are grouped into 529 RI districts, each led by a district governor, who is an officer of RI. The district administration, including assistant governors and various committees, guides and supports the clubs.
Rotary International Board
The 19-member RI Board of Directors, which includes the RI president and present-elect, meets quarterly to establish policies. Traditionally, the RI president, who is elected annually, develops a theme and emphasis for a year.