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Organization aside, Rotary is businesspeople with a common interest. There are no secrets, rituals or restrictions to membership because of religion, race or nationality. The willingness to understand people and to help others is the common denominator of Rotarians.
Each club consists of businesspeople from different professions active in the community. The classification idea was adopted to make Rotary a cross-section of business and professional life in the community free from the domination of special interests.
This mix of fosters an understanding and appreciation of the viewpoints of others. Friendships grow readily in this climate. Rotary is a people-to-people business. Fellowship among members in local, national and international clubs is part of that business.
In 1905 Paul Harris, a new attorney in town, and three other Chicago businessmen met to discuss an idea. It was a simple one – to broaden acquaintances and perhaps obtain more business. It was decided that meetings should be held on a regular basis. Because meetings were held in the offices of members on a rotating basis, the name "Rotary” was adopted.
Rotary today is different from the original plan to promote mutual business patronage among its members. It was soon recognized that the social welfare of the community is an important ingredient in the business equation.
As James Maloney, a Canadian Rotarian, wrote, "A Rotary Club cannot exist apart from the people in its community who need and use the businesses and professional services of its members. Therefore, while one of the Club’s primary objectives is the benefit which members find in their association with each other, the Club must also seek to benefit the community in which it is located.”
It is the policy of Rotary to lend its help and cooperation to worthy enterprises through the participation of its members as individuals. Although Rotary is not a charitable institution, financial aid raised from within the membership is frequently given to benefit civic and international needs. The commitment to service and ethical business practices with customers, fellow citizens and community is what unites Rotarians and Rotary Clubs throughout the world.
The interaction of Rotarians from different lands, Rotary sponsored student exchange programs and group study exchange programs are examples of Rotary’s efforts to foster better international understanding.
To encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of fair enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:
Rotary’s four-way test can be applied to all that we do or say.