In 1963 I was eleven years old and a sixth grader at Liberty Elementary School in Marysville. That was the year I had my first male teacher. It was the year I began to follow current events. It was a memorable year for me.
It was also a memorable year for our nation. That was the year a young King verbalized his dream of racial equality while a stone-faced president, seated on a marble throne, looked on. Ironically, it was a president who had also protested prejudicial treatment of minorities (all the while witnessing a not-so-civil war) a century before.
It was the year a young pop musical group from Liverpool, England released a 45 rpm record whose lyrics expressed a desire to “hold our hand.”
In November of that year we found ourselves holding our breath as we clutched our collective hearts. The beautiful queen of Camelot, clad in a pink suit and clutching a spray of red roses, lost her young husband to a sniper's bullet in Dallas. (Curiously, the very day President Kennedy died the world lost two other influential writers to death; Aldous Huxley who called our attention to “A Brave New World” and C.S. Lewis who invited us into an imaginative world known as Narnia.)
And while Washington planned an unanticipated funeral procession, plans of another sort were being finalized in the other Washington. A group of businessmen in suburban Seattle began to draft a document that would be ratified a month later. It would formalize a desire to join hands in a common commitment to meet weekly as an organized fellowship of friends.
In the spirit of Rotary founder Paul Harris, the Rotary Club of Mercer Island was formed in December of 1963. As war raged in rice paddies of Southeast Asia, these Rotarians pledged to work for peace, health, education and unity throughout the world. A three-word slogan cemented their other-oriented mission. Service above self.
To date this circle of business colleagues has lived their mission in remarkable ways. With members from a variety of religious backgrounds, they have put feet to their faith’s values by sponsoring an annual half marathon that benefits colon cancer research, funding water projects in India, contributing wheelchairs to South America and taking giant steps toward eradicating polio in the developing world. In addition they have served the hungry in Greater Seattle through Rotary First Harvest food distribution. This local service club beautifully illustrates the benefits of ecumenical cooperation.
What began as a fledgling club fifty years ago is now one of the larger Rotary clubs in the Pacific Northwest. The Rotary Club of Mercer Island boasts more than 160 members. Next month the club will celebrate their 50th anniversary with a holiday gala.
For information about Rotary and the gala, go to www.mirotary.org/.