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What Is Rotary

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who come together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad.


Solving real problems takes real commitment and vision. For more than 110 years, Rotary members have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects. From literacy and peace to water and health, we are always working to better our world, and we stay committed to the end.

The purpose of our fellowship is to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and to help build goodwill and peace in the world.

Object Of Rotary: Service Above Self

The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster:

Fellowship as an opportunity for service

High ethical standards in business and professional life.

The ideal of service in each Rotarian's personal, work and community life.

The advancement of international understanding and goodwill worldwide.  

The Four Way Test:

Of the things we think say or do
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Avenues of Service:

Rotarians channel our commitment to service through five Avenues of Service, which are the foundation of our club's activity.

Club Service 
focuses on making our club strong. A thriving club is anchored by strong relationships and active membership development.

Vocational Service 
calls every Rotarian to contribute their expertise to the problems and needs of society.

Community Service 
finds ways to improve the quality of life for people in our community and to serve the public interest.

International Service 
supports global peace and understanding by sponsoring international projects.

Youth Service 
empowers youth and young professionals through leadership development programs.

History of Rotary

Rotary was founded in Chicago in February 1905 after a young and lonely attorney, Paul P. Harris, invited three other businessmen---a coal dealer, a mining engineer and a merchant tailor---to meet with him to discuss an idea. Harris hoped to form a group of businessmen with a mission to share camaraderie and to enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances. Their discussions led to formation of a men's club with membership limited to one representative from each business and profession that would meet weekly in turn at each member's place of business.

This rotation of meetings was designed to acquaint members with one another's vocations and thus the name "Rotary" was adopted. The original foursome included American, German, Swedish and Irish ancestry, professing Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths, giving their organization an "international" and ecumenical flavor from the start. 

The second Rotary Club was formed in San Francisco in 1908. Rotary became truly international when clubs were chartered in 1911 in Winnipeg Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. The first Rotary Club in a non-English speaking country was organized in 1916 at Havana, Cuba.

Rotary Forerunner to Service Clubs 

The Rotary concept spread rapidly during the 1920s and 1930s and was the forerunner of other great service clubs. Kiwanis International was formed in 1915; Lions International in 1917; and Optimist International in 1919. Rotary International (RI) holds an annual convention in cities around the world, usually in June. All Rotarians are welcome to attend Rotary International conventions.

Rotary Motto: Service Above Self 

The first motto of Rotary, in 1911, was "He Profits Most Who Serves Best." Through the years, there have been other mottoes, but in 1989, Rotary International established "Service Above Self" as the principal motto.

Please visit Rotary International to learn more about the very real impact of Rotary worldwide.