President Peter's Inaugral speech

First Club meeting of the new Rotary year - 2016-2017.

Presidential Theme 2017-2017

Fellow Rotarians and Guests

A big moment. It only seems yesterday that PP Alistair approached me at work to suggest that I be your President in three years’ time. I can honestly say that it did come as a complete surprise. There was nothing unusual in seeing him as Alistair had been a regular visitor to the print-shop during his year as President with a constant need to print off photographs of himself.

It’s a proud day for me, it really is - this is a great Rotary Club and I follow in the footsteps of many fine Past Presidents. I intend to do my best and would like to thank Immediate PP David and those before him for their hard work and the encouragement that they have shown to me - it’s appreciated. To be fair everyone has been encouraging which is perhaps a message in itself – watch out!

When I joined Rotary some years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be standing here today as your President, to be honest I didn’t really know anything about Rotary at that time, and I thank PP Derek Shaw and Brian Cram for encouraging me to join this Club and the great organisation that Rotary is.

The big thing about Rotary for me, and that was probably when the proverbial penny dropped, was seeing the strap line “It’s time to give something back”. It’s a powerful phrase or at least it is for me.

Life has been good to me – very good. I started life on a council estate in Liverpool in the early 40’s, we moved around a bit and I joined the Army at 15 along with kids far worse off that we were. For many of them, not for me I hasten to add, it was a choice of Approved School or the Army – not sure which was worse, or for that matter what on earth had I done wrong to get mixed up with that lot! We did have one thing in common though, we’d all passed the entrance exam, so at least there was hint of a brain in there somewhere. However, the Apprentice College in Harrogate on the Yorkshire moors was a tough training ground and after three long years you wouldn’t have recognised any of us from the brats that arrived there on Day 1. We were fit, very well trained and ready to hit the ground running and committed for the next 22 years –  this at just 18 years old!

Some things never change - I’m still that enthusiastic kid, certainly not so fit and I arrive here today having hit the ground running too, and ready for anything – let’s hope some of it rubs off on the others!

I thank the Past Presidents for the confidence they have placed in nominating me to be your leader for the forthcoming year.  I certainly look forward to serving our Club to the best of my ability.

Whist some Past Presidents have said that to go through your year and only offend 3 - 4 club members is an achievement - some might say that I’m already ahead of the game... well I can think of at least one!

Unlike my immediate predecessors I gave my Vocational just a short while ago so there’s no way I can call on any of that to help me through the next fifteen minutes or so. Truth be told I probably could relate a few more stories from my past but some things are perhaps best kept where they are, or at least not made too public. I should perhaps repeat one thing from my Vocational and that was that I have one of those rare Neurological Disease's called Myasthenia Gravis, or MG for short. There are about 30 or so of us in every 100,000 of the population. Like Rotary, it claims not to be selective, it's neither contagious nor especially obvious when the medication works. When it doesn't work various muscles don't work at all well and that happened to me the other week at Club Assembly. Perhaps today will go better, if not then this will be a short address and perhaps all the better for it!

So, back being your President,. I’m a fairly simple soul and some might say, therefore well suited to be your President... and of course admirably suited to an earlier career in the Army where most things we encountered were either black or white: right or wrong, good or bad. This, to a simple soul like me, has many advantages, with perhaps the main one being that decisions are far more easily made - put another way I don’t procrastinate.

Simple as we soldiers might be the fact remains that we soon realise that not to plan can be fatal. To be able to plan effectively you need to know things, in fact you need to know and question everything and most of all you need to know where you are going to and when you need to be there. I spent a couple of years at the Military College in Shrivenham and much of that time we trained as Systems Analysts and Programmer’s. Flow Charts were our bread and butter and as some of you know I do like my Flow-Charts.

I like to think that I solve problems, not create new ones. I firmly believe in objectives and targets and will encourage my team to have as much discussion as it takes to reach a conclusion - before we move forward. However, you won’t be surprised to learn that once we have a plan and start moving - the talking stops - there’s little point in arriving at the station after the train has left!

If only for that reason the numbers attending club council meetings will be reduced this year and the format for reporting to it will be improved a little - actually, in some cases quite a lot!

Whilst my time in Rotary has been fairly short I’ve embraced it to the full and seen more than my fair share of the inner workings, certainly in our District and to a lesser extent at Rotary GB&I.

Probably the most notable thing in Rotary is the passion that some people bring to it, perhaps not always well directed or for that matter, for the general good. However, be that as it may, this is an organisation with an incredible mix of people and the ability to make great things happen, right across the world. The reason is simple: over 1.2Million members in 33,000 Rotary Clubs in over 200 Countries and every single one of them wanting to make a difference to their community.

Service above self.

Truth be told with those figures and the spread it has - some might say it seriously underperforms.

I exaggerate of course, not all of those 1.2M want to make a difference, some already have of course, others realise that it is perhaps too ambitious a calling for them. The rest are content to simply come along and enjoy the company that their club offers. I certainly don’t have any problem with that, it’s one of the strengths of this Club, we do value our lunchtime meetings. But, this section of the club mustn't be too relaxed - if someone wants something from you I’m sure they only have to ask… and this year I’m sure they will - I will encourage them to do so!

Rotary for all that is a declining organisation it is haemorrhaging members at an alarming rate in some places, especially in parts of the UK. Even our own District is losing in the region of 5-10% per annum.  Having seen a fair number of the Clubs in our District and observed the clamber from Rotary GB&I and District to change the way we work I am firmly of the view that such change is not something that should be enforced or subject to a top-down management approach. The traditional, large lunch-time club that runs like clockwork, to a bell even, is dead they say. Really? No it’s not, and no, we’re not alone in knowing this to be the case. The reason is simple, we and indeed all the larger Clubs are well organised and always have been. We do change of course, but very slowly and more akin to evolving with the times. I’m sure that if any of the founding members were able to attend they would see great differences, quite what they would make of us is another matter but I’m sure they would enjoy the Fellowship, same as we do. We are a well-structured club, and generally each of us know what is expected of us for the coming year. That, I see as my role for this year together with the rest of the club officers and assisted by Council we will steer this club on a well-trodden path, in fact with a bit of good wind we will get it back on course should it have ever missed a beat.

I mentioned Membership earlier and as ever we do need to be mindful that we require on average around 10 new members every year just to stand still. Whether by accident or design we do seem to remain fairly steady with our near 100 Rotarians albeit the last few years have proven difficult to find the required numbers of Committee Chairs and Club Officers

One of the RI challenges this year is for every town to have a vibrant Rotary Club. That’s not a bad aim at all and as it happens we have that vibrant Rotary Club, certainly here in Dundee.

It’s not that simple though, certainly not the case that we can just carry on regardless - we have a few challenges ahead of us. First let me start by saying that I too know that the Dundee Club is one of the best in our District, if not the whole of Rotary GB&I, it surely is! But let’s not be too complacent here. It wasn’t us that made it what it is. The reason we are so well thought of, is down to the hard work, over many years, of the many Rotarians that have passed through our doors, sadly many of them not with us anymore. It was through their hard work and dedication that we are where we are today. We surely owe it to them to carry on the proud traditions of this fine Rotary club?

We work hard, in fact very hard, at raising money for good causes. I’m not so sure we have worked as hard in distributing that money. The thought that the club simply hand over a cheque to a deserving charity is plainly wrong and yet this is often the impression we get when monies are requested at Council.

The aim with anything that the Club does should be based on the core principle that we add value to anything that we get involved in… What does that mean?  Simple, we take the time to understand the needs of the people that approach us for donations, we measure them, we satisfy ourselves that if we do give them money it will be well used – it will add value. There again it might be that we’re in danger of throwing good money after bad. Perhaps an input of good advice would be worth far more than any amount of money – we have some very talented people in the club, we will use them more.

In many ways, good practice is far easier to demonstrate for an International project. Just about everywhere in the world is poorer than we are so it follows that just as long as the money doesn’t end up in a Swiss bank account then it must do good? We also have the reassurance that as we generally team up with another Rotary Club then everything must be well? In fact it is, very well. There are more than a few clubs in our own District that run well managed International Projects, well documented, regular follow up’s and in many cases hands-on too. We have been involved with the Kandy Club in Sri-Lanka to good effect more recently and I am confident that with some of our newer members we have the necessary contacts to enable us to build on that International work. What I am not keen on is for the club to seen as a regular source of income for just one or two causes, no matter how good they are. The Rotary Club of Dundee is not just a simple money raising vehicle for specific projects – we are capable of much more than that!

Surely there is a better way of working with the money that is donated to us by the public? Over the past few years the club officers have been working away in the background looking hard at the Committee structure and more importantly the way they work, or not, as the case may be.

The Committees are the unsung heroes of our club, it is they that do the majority of the work, oil the wheels and generally make us what we are as a club: be that having fun together, raising funds, involving the club in youth projects, international projects the list is endless really. It does take hard work and effort though and not just by a couple of people, it takes the whole team, the whole committee need to pull together and jointly take us where we need to be, if we are to be the pillar of our community. This year I intend to focus on the work of your Committee’s. I expect every member of a committee to add value to their team, for that to happen it means they must be involved, take responsibility and that requires leadership – that is the role of the Committee Chair!

Nothing more, nothing less. We have more than enough members in our club to be selective when allocating posts on committees, it also means that we have enough members to be able to share the load. I appreciate that we are all volunteers, but being a Rotarian, especially of the Rotary Club of Dundee, brings responsibly as well! All of us when elected to be a member made many promises, your sponsor also outlined to the club the area of expertise that you brought to the club. When you are placed on a Committee you bring that experience and you are expected to use it. To do that means you must be there to support the Chair. If you can’t be there then you should apologise, anything less is simply not good enough!

When a new member joins our club we obviously make them welcome but after that it seems that nothing else much happens and they are left to fend for themselves. For some that is not a problem, they will push themselves forward - but that’s not for everyone. Rotary claims to develop people and help shape leaders, not only do I think this to be important to the individual it is also important for the club and indeed Rotary. We need to be aware of succession and plan for the future of the club. To this end the Membership Committee has a much broader remit than previous. I have created a new sub-committee this year Learning and Development which will operate under the careful watch of Past District Governor Gus McDonald. There is also to be an induction process for all new Rotarians that will see them attend each club committee and events together with a District Council meeting perhaps, at least once before they are formally allocated to a suitable committee.

We’re all going to work hard, at being a Rotarian, this year, but hopefully that also means we will play hard. I do hope that you are ready to join me and your team this year when each and every one of us will get the chance to put something back into our community!

As you will hear when District Governor Roddy visits us early next month – it is what YOU do that counts! Think about it…

What do you do for the Rotary Club of Dundee?

The Dundee Club will be that Vibrant Rotary Club!

To be honest it is and always was, this is just my take on things and even I can accept that I am prone to exaggeration at times but, there again what you see is what you get. There's nothing complicated about me and the door is always open – talk to me share your thoughts. I look forward to working for you and with you.

Thank you

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