Past Rotary Intl. president pays visit
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
A past president of Rotary International was in Tunkhannock Saturday to give the region’s Rotary members a pep talk.
Luis Giay, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, also thanked the more than 200 persons attending a Rotary Foundation Recognition Banquet at Shadowbrook Inn & Resort in Tunkhannock for their role in a giving enterprise that over the past generation has made strides in eradicating polio around the world.
Holding his thumb and index finger on his left hand so their tips were about a quarter-inch apart, Giay noted, “We are this close” to getting the job done.
He said that in the first 63 days of 2013, there were only 10 new cases of polio around the world.
That was a stark contrast to 1988 when there were an estimated 1,000 new cases a day.
That year an initial joint effort between the World Health Organization working with Rotary International’s backing of $120 million has made enormous strides.
To date the organization’s membership had raised $1.2 billion and donated countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries.
Giay, a Rotarian since 1961, served as Rotary International president in 1996-1997, and noted that while he was president, “what was most impressive, by far, was to see Rotarians at work showing service above self in every corner of the world.”
He shared a story about visiting Mother Theresa when a new orphanage was being built and was exposed to the nun’s care for some 42 lepers.
Someone asked why she had only 42, and weren’t there more in the world.
She said, “These are mine who I am able to care for. ‘Where are yours?’”
It was a profound lesson that everyone can do something – but there are limits – and we should never underestimate another’s generosity.
He noted that what he believes distinguishes Rotarians from common people is that they have the head (intelligence), heart and hands to do things in a big way, “and that’s why they’re changing our world every day.”
He added, “Thank you very much for doing your part.”
Following dinner, Giay was asked about fellow Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio who became Pope Francis last week.
Bergoglio became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, the year following Giay’s term as Rotary International president, and in 2001 was elevated to Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.
Did he know him?
“Absolutely,” Giay said. “He is very warm, humble, very clever and personable, and he’s an extraordinary messenger for the poor.”
He noted that they had travelled together in their home country in the past “by Metro or by bus, but never by car.”
And he acknowledged that Bergoglio had been made an Honorary Rotarian in 2006.