Posted by Margaret Higgins on Jul 13, 2023
Dearest Rotary friends and family,
Welcome to 2023-2024 The Year of Sweetness and Light. 
I never, ever thought I’d be a Rotarian.  Seriously, it was probably the furthest thing from my mind. EVER. But here I am. President. Number 103.  And I am so deeply proud of the honour bestowed upon me. You might ask:  why did I never think I’d be a Rotarian? At one level, I thought it was out of my league: at the very least I imagined that Rotary was dignified, serious, traditional - and full of men in suits and ties. Would I fit in?
Enter Joan McNamara in 2005: she was totally unlike my description above. So she and Ace Bushnell are those you must hold most responsible for my being here now. Blame them. They enveigled me to join. BUT – Dot Kret has a lot to answer for, too. At my first meeting (to join or not to join, that was the question?) the incoming President, Roger Harwell, had a silver foil wrapped box as a makeshift hotline phone to Paul Harris: I whispered to Dot and she yelled out “Put it on speaker’. I was sold. There and then I knew I’d like Rotary. And, despite my prior misgivings, I have loved every minute of being in Rotary. I look forward to each Wednesday meeting and I remain forever grateful to Joan and to Ace for introducing me to Rotary.
Remember, Rotary is a service club. Over the years I have enjoyed doing service projects: one of my favoured memories is of being on top of the roof of a local non-profit, in mid-summer, coating the roof with white elastomeric.  Another memory is patrolling the car show, as a security guard (what were the organisers thinking?!). But all of it was Fun, with a capital F! And I have had an enjoyable time for many years spearheading the Awards committee.  Through these projects and tasks, I realised what it is to be a Rotarian. And note well: being a Rotarian is more than just joining the club: it’s getting engaged. Getting engaged in our signature fundraiser, the Tucson Classics Car Show. Through this endeavour, we have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to local non-profits. Without such an event we would never be able to give such a level of support.
Years ago another Rotarian predicted that one day I would be President. Of course, I laughed. Again, though, please let me say how honoured I am that you have placed your trust in me. I will not let you down.
 The presidents who have gone before me are the standard bearers for quality service. Most recently Bruce Jacobs, and before that Mark Irvin, Jennifer Hoffman, Bob Logan, and in no specific order: Marianne Freitas, Joni Condit, Mary Martin, Jon Wang and others too numerous to mention.  A really loud shout out goes to Bob Logan who introduced the idea of fun to the Presidency. On the back of his ‘Reign of Terror’ I have determined to be the opposite: all Sweetness and Light. Without a doubt I am standing on the backs of giants.
As a club we are recovering from the ravages of Covid. Not only did the epidemic affect individuals; it also affected entities like the Rotary Club of Tucson. Members could not gather during the time of Covid and some became fearful to reconnect after the restrictions were eased. This, combined with our club’s move downtown, means that we are facing an uphill battle to regain the level of our prior membership. And we need Members. Why? Not so that we can boast of how large a club we are, but because we want to do good in the world - and the more of us there are then the more good we can do. Size really does matter.
In which direction do we want our collective good to move? Guided this year by Gordon McInally, our Scottish Rotary International Leader, we are going to focus on mental health. Last year the Rotary International motto was ‘Imagine”; this year it is Gordon’s phrase “Create Hope”; and our local District Governor, Don Jorgensen, has added “People of Action”.
So, putting it all together we are going to Imagine that we Rotarians are Creating Hope by being People of Action. In other words, we are not just going to speak words; we are going to do things.
At the first Board of Directors meeting, I challenged each board member to give me one goal they all think that we as Rotary can strive for. I pledge to take these goals and fit them into the overarching goals of Rotary. For example - as people of action - we may state a goal of doing two service projects in a local non-profit dedicated to mental health. By so doing, we are Creating Hope, focusing on Mental Health and demonstrating that we are Rotarians of Action. I believe that we can tie our actions and our goals to the larger Rotary International suite of goals. In doing this, we can be guided by the recent Strategic Plan developed by our District Governor,Don Jorgensen, and his team.
The challenges we face are quite large (yes, I am a mistress of understatement): entities like ours are losing membership, and costs for all commodities including food are rising. We have bitten the bullet and made hard decisions such as cutting down the number of meetings, in order to prevent having to seek an increase in dues from members. While we have no doubt that this was the right thing to do, we must remain aware that nothing is set in concrete. If we find we need/want to increase our meetings we can do so. We also need to find ways to encourage members and retain them, in ongoing, sustainable ways. As said above: not members for membership sake, but members so that we can do more good in the world; so that we can Create Hope. We have challenges ahead of us.
In closing, I want to acknowledge the committees that are doing a sterling job: the Program Committee, a needed mix of newer and longer standing members, has taken on the herculean task of devising a strong series of speakers. Programs and membership go hand in hand, and I do believe that a strong program will assist in gaining and retaining members. And let’s face it: we learn a lot from speakers!
The Board members individually must also be thanked: Glenn Ewing (trusty Treasurer), Elizabeth Bollinger (stellar Secretary), Dan Kalm (Stern, or silly?, Sergeant at Arms), Mitch Pisik (leading membership magnificently), Alan Rogers (stunning us with his social skills), Jeanne Zetah (young at heart Youth Services), Diana Madaras (artistically guiding service projects), Nina Trasoff (Perfect for public relations), and David Lovitt (committed toour community services). Kurtis Dawson and Bruce Jacobs will be invaluable as our future and past presidents, respectively. With deepest praise and thanks I want to acknowledge Dorinna York, our most excellent Executive Director. Honestly, without Dorinna we’d be in a pickle.
With deepest sincerity, I look forward to this year of Creating Hope, and being with Rotarians of Action.
Margaret Higgins, PhD
President, RCOT 2023-2024