President Bhichai at WVRC on 23 January 2003


Yes, it was a historic occasion - and played just that way. Prexy TED called us to order at Riviera Country Club, and the Pledge was led by PP STEVE SCHERER. MYRON TAYLOR gave the Invocation, and I quote some of it - We confess that we live in a culture that is increasingly deaf to your words and blind to your presence. Yet, we thank you that we can still believe that there is "Mind behind the Universe, Purpose running through it, Meaning in it, and Destiny ahead of it''…We come together this evening as Rotarians, a people of good will, seeking truth and justice and peace. While we do not always achieve these ideals, we realize that sincerely seeking them is still a necessity.

Prexy TED then began with introductions of honored guests. He noted that Director Luis Felipe Valenzuela had planned to attend, but his daughter became ill. Present at the Head Table were past Rotary International Director Sam Greene, from Westlake Village, plus our own MYRON TAYLOR and his wife, Sarah. TED then introduced PDG ANDY ANDERSON and his wife, Pat, and PDG BILL GOODWYN and his wife, Judi - BILL is serving as Aide to President Bhichai during his visit with us.

Also present were PDG Len Wasserstein from Beverly Hills, PDG John Nugent, from Westchester, and PDG Carol Wylie, from Dominguez-Carson. Our present District Governor, Rick Mendoza, is in India on a polio corrective surgery mission, while his successor, incoming DG John Colville from Paramount, was able to attend. We had two Ambassadorial Scholars present - outgoing Erin Rattazzi, who will be attending the University of Capetown, and was the guest of our own LENORE MULRYAN, plus incoming Masahiko Tanaka, from Japan, who is studying architecture at USC and was hosted by the Santa Monica Club. Our Special Guest was Chancellor Albert Carnesale of UCLA and his wife, Robin, who were hosted by PP JIM COLLINS and his wife, Carol. Many local Rotary Clubs were represented, including Santa Monica, Century City, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, West LA-Brentwood, Westchester, Wilshire, Inglewood, Sherman Oaks, Culver City, Dominguez-Carson, Palos Verdes, Lawndale, Paramount, and Alhambra, so it was not only a historic event, but a real gala!

Prexy TED briefly outlined some of the history of Westwood Village Rotary, noting that we were founded in 1929, and will soon be celebrating our 75th Anniversary. We are proud of our close association with UCLA, and have undertaken projects all over the world - in India, Africa, Asia, Central and South America. 18 years ago, while BILL GOODWYN was District Governor, the now-annual Paul Harris Celebration was begun,
raising over 2 ˝ million dollars for Rotary international outreach - but this is the FIRST time Westwood Village has had the honor of hosting the President of Rotary International!

Following an excellent dinner (and a housekeeping note here - we ordered 202 dinners, and served 201 - some kind of a record for accuracy, certainly), the formal program began. PDG ANDY ANDERSON introduced one of the winners of our recent District 5280 Music Competition, Dennis Leung. He is 17 years old, and a pre-med student at USC (not a music major, note). Dennis played the Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt, which was also his selection in the competition - and he was, quite simply, fabulous! The applause was thunderous, and sustained - and Dennis is another example of the talent Rotary attracts, and continues to develop.

Prexy TED noted that PP STEVE DAY was fortunate to come on next - Dennis woke everyone up! STEVE is Chairman of our Rotary Foundation, which he nicely pointed out, was thrust upon him by our late departed PP DOUG DESCH. STEVE has the honor of presenting Paul Harris Fellowships, and tonight we recognized Chancellor Albert Carnesale of UCLA. PP JIM COLLINS spoke briefly of Dr. Carnesale's career achievements, noting that his field of nuclear engineering has made him a frequent government consultant in this very important arena of world politics. Previous to coming to UCLA, he served as Provost at Harvard, and became Chancellor at UCLA in 1997. Since that time, Chancellor Carnesale has initiated a program entitled UCLA in LA, which fosters a partnership between UCLA and local schools, enabling many at-risk youngsters to be better prepared to attend college, plus helping their teachers in their professional development. For his many contributions, both in higher education and as an international advisor in these critical times, Chancellor Carnesale was named a Paul Harris Fellow. PP JIM concluded by bragging about the fact that we were smart enough to hire Al Carnesale, while Dr. Carnesale was smart enough to marry his wife, Robin.
President Bhichai then came forward to present the Paul Harris Medallion to Dr. Carnesale. It should be noted that his Paul Harris Certificate was signed by - who else - but President Bhicahi Rattakul!

But after so many highlights, the real feature of the evening was the address by our honored guest, Rotary International President Bhichai. In introducing him, Prexy TED outlined his long political career, serving as a member of Thailand's Parliament for nine terms, plus being leader of the Democratic Party. He has served as foreign minister, deputy prime minister, speaker of the House, President of Parliament, and leader of many Thai delegations to the UN. He is particularly proud of serving as Chairman of Thailand's Anti-Corruption, Anti-Drugs and National Audit commissions. In Rotary, he was District Governor, RI Director, Chairman of the Executive Committee; and of course, it's Chairman. Note that his slogan for his year is "Sow the Seeds of Love", which appeared on the 5280 Banner hung over the podium - and the logo and slogan were very nicely copied on our individual dinner tickets, thanks to PETER MORE.

We of course stood when he came to the podium, much to his embarrassment - and if anyone in Rotary deserved a standing greeting, it was he. President Bhichai began by pointing out that his invitation to speak at WVRC didn't reach him for a month - it first went to Bangkok, then to Singapore, and finally, to Evanston. (There are bureaucracies everywhere, apparently). He noted that Past Director Sam Green and he have the same birthday - Sept 16th - but by Asian tradition, he wanted to honor Sam by placing him senior to himself! When he was in LA for the Tournament of Roses, it was suggested that he should attend the Parade - which meant getting up at 0430. He said "Why should I?" and thus managed a full night's sleep. His aide, however, did attend - and "He came back exhausted".

Earlier in his term, he met with the Presidents of Kiwanis, Lions, and Optimists, and found that we all have the same problem of declining membership. However, he pointed out that Rotary is in better shape than the others, and he attributes this to our better sense of mission - we are doing so much internationally that is important, and that keeps us ahead. Rotary has no new major programs this year - because we already have so many good ones (Editorial - is there a message here for WVRC? Just asking…). However, one of his two major focuses is on Membership Development and Retention. He cautioned us not to seek members at any cost, but to admit only quality prospects, which we are certainly doing at WVRC.

His other focus is on our Polio Plus Program. Rotary started our drive to eradicate Polio in 1979, with a grant of $750,000 to the Philippines. Then, during the period 1985-88, our Polio Plus program raised a total of $246 MILLION - and we have now pledged to our partners in this vital effort a total Rotary contribution of $500 million. To reach this goal we must raise the final $80 million by June 2003 - and with just five months to go, we are still $50 million short. Historically, in 1985, there were 400,000 NEW CASES in 126 countries around the world. Today there are only FIVE countries where polio exists -but while the number of cases was down to 1500, there was an increase of 500 cases over 2000! The reason for this increase is that some of the last remaining pockets of polio are very difficult to isolate and treat with vaccine.

I now need a paragraph for an Editorial, please: RON WANGLIN was President when Rotary international announced the Polio Plus Program. We jumped aboard, under the dedicated leadership of PP HOWIE HENKES, and pledged $100K - which we said we would raise in 100 days! Kickoff was 8 Sept 1987, and we wound it up on 20 December that same year. Several members gave more than the requested $1000, and thus the total we provided was $120K. In most cases, these pledges were collected over a couple of years, on a quarterly basis. I'm now strongly suggesting that we consider a similar effort, to begin collections right away, and thus have pledges in hand before this June 30th. Those of us who are were members in 1987 and are still aboard should certainly consider pledging again - and my suggested amount is $1000, as before. Two final thoughts, and I'll then dismount from my high horse. This money is needed in five months - and our pledges won't all be collected by then. Is there some way we can borrow from our Endowment, so we can deliver the cash to R.I. by their deadline? And my final thought -
This is the most important and far-reaching program ever undertaken by Rotary, and we are so very close to completing the job. I urge all of you to, literally, prayerfully consider
if you can join with your fellow members in closing the door on polio FOREVER.
We CAN do this - please come aboard. And thank you for listening. YOE.

Back to President Bhichai's presentation - He is looking forward to his visits on Friday to Aiden's Place, and seeing the Parkinson's PLLUS Project at the Westside WMCA. He feels strongly that both these projects exemplify the very best of Rotary - that is, projects that are started from the bottom up, where each club decides what THEY wish to start and support. He made an impressive statement about the R.I. President's budget, which was set at about $700K for his year. In the first six months of his year, he has only spent $200K - he is mindful that this is not 'his' money, but ours, and he works hard at saving wherever he can. In a visit with President Hinkley of the Mormon Church, they offered to donate $50K to the Polio program, from the church ITSELF. Since the goal from the Rotary Clubs of Utah was $100K, this goal was then raised to $130K, and he pointed out that this represents the best of his bottoms-up approach.

President Bhichai concluded by reading a poem, which he discovered after announcing his own theme of Sow the Seeds of Love. Here it is - "And God Said No" by Claudia Minden Weiss: I asked God to take away my Pride, and God said No. He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up. I asked God to make my handicapped child whole, and God said No. He said her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience, and God said No. He said patience is a byproduct of tribulation, it isn't granted, it's earned. I asked God to give me happiness, and God said No. He said he gives blessings, happiness is up to me. I asked God to spare me pain, and God said No. He said suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me. I asked God to make my spirit grow, and God said No. He said I must grow on my own, but he will prune me to make me fruitful. I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me, and God said, "Ah, finally you have the idea"

YOE, Ernie Wolfe