The Rotary Club of Duarte welcomed an historic Rotarian home on Wednesday morning, as Dr. Sylvia Whitlock, District Governor of Rotary District D5300, paid a visit to the club.
Whitlock is not just any Rotarian or just any District Governor and the Duarte club is not just any club, either to her or other Rotarians. In 1987 Whitlock was one of the first women permitted to join Rotary International after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor the Duarte club after a lengthy legal battle. The club had been kicked out of the Rotary International organization in 1978 for allowing Whitlock and other women to join the ranks of the then officially all-male organization.
As a result of the Supreme Court victory, the Duarte Club was re-instated, Rotary International changed its by-laws, Whitlock and other women joined the ranks of Duarte and other Rotary clubs, and the Duarte club proudly seized the nickname "the Mouse that Roared." "This club is known world wide," Whitlock told the crowd.
Wednesday's breakfast meeting at the Duarte Denny's was very much a homecoming reunion and a guidepost to the future. Many long-departed members and former members attended, and there was much discussion during social moments of the club's "ex-Rotary days" and "ex-Rotary president," references to the time when the club continued to meet and strive to the goals of Rotarians, though officially excommunicated from the group.
Whitlock siezed the moment for all it was worth, directing the assembled guests and Rotarians to strive for "Peace through Service," the 2012-13 Rotary motto. In her speech, she reflected on her upbringing as a child under her grandmother's guidance in Kingston, Jamaica. She described how, though living in poverty, her grandmother had given her a powerful example by finding ways to give to those poorer than they were. "Give from the bounty you were given," she implored, a distinct Jamaican lilt adding color to her words.
The best way to make a difference in the world, Whitlock advised, is to "act as though you make a difference." In that positive thought, will come positive impact."
As the District Governor, Whitlock oversees some 60 Rotary clubs from the San Gabriel Valley to Easter Nevada. Despite having moved on in her responsibilities, Whitlock knew the Club's activities and teased members about old sli[p-ups and memorable moments.
Whitlock described various travels of the world in support of Rotary's mission, most notably to India where the organization is pressing forward efforts to complete inoculations against polio, and wipe that crippling disease from the world forever. During Wednesday's meeting, she distributed a variety of special pins to recognize Rotarians for their dedication and service, including member John Guyer who has been a member of the organization for more than 60 years.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, yours truly was honored to be officially presented my own Rotary pin by the trailblazing Whitlock.