GS Hewko's address to the Brazilian National Congress

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RI General Secretary John Hewko's address to the Brazilian National Congress on 27 February 2012.

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GS Hewko's address to the Brazilian National Congress

  1. 1. John Hewko, RISGAddress to Brazilian National Congress27 February 2012Page 1 of 4Honorable Senator Valdir Raupp, Honorable Senators, District Governors,Rotarians, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen …Good morning!Its great to be here in Brasilia, and especially to be here at the BrazilianNational Congress, celebrating Rotary Day here in Brazil. I can’t think of abetter way to mark the month of Rotary International’s 107th birthday thanwith this acknowledgment of the amazing work of Brazilian Rotarians. AndI was very glad to have the chance to come back to Brazil, where I workedas a lawyer back in the 1980s. It’s always a pleasure to be in this beautifulcountry, and as you see I’ve been hard at work brushing up my Portuguesein order to honor my hosts.We’ve got both Rotarians and non-Rotarians—and I hope also some futureRotarians—in the room here today, and so what I’d like to do for the nextfew minutes is to provide you with some background on Rotary for thosewho aren’t as familiar with our organization, and then update you all onwhat’s going on with Rotary lately, from my own perspective as the generalsecretary and CEO of RI.Well, Rotary has been active in Brazil since 1923, and in that time Brazil hassupplied Rotary with no fewer than three international presidents. At presentthere are 2,376 Rotary clubs in Brazil, with 56,702 members. And while it’sgreat to have those kinds of numbers, what’s more important is what’sbehind the numbers: the Rotarians themselves, and the kind of work thatthey’re doing.In Brazil, they’re providing jobs training to high schoolers, and gettingnutritious food and after-school care to school children. They’re helping newmothers take better care of their babies, and training a corps of literacyteachers thousands strong. All over Brazil, Rotarians are active, they’reinvolved, and they’re making their towns and cities better places to live.Because that’s what Rotarians do, not just here in Brazil but all over theworld—in every one of the more than 200 countries and geographical areaswhere Rotary has a presence.
  2. 2. John Hewko, RISGAddress to Brazilian National Congress27 February 2012Page 2 of 4And I must say, the more I travel around the Rotary world and the more I getto know Rotary, the more I am in awe of our organization—the more I amsimply in awe of all that Rotary does. The majority of Rotary’s work is donelocally, through local service projects—and these are the projects that arequietly and effectively making an absolutely tremendous difference in thelives of individuals and communities, all around the world, every day.Those local projects cover a tremendous range of areas, from water andsanitation, to health, to education and literacy. Globally, we also have onepriority goal as an organization, and this, of course, is the total eradication ofpolio. That’s been our corporate priority now for well over two decades, andit will remain our priority until the world is certified polio-free—and that’s agoal that is now looking closer than it ever has before.The biggest news in polio eradication is that last month we marked one yearof no new cases of polio in India. India was for many years considered themost difficult country in which to conquer polio; not just its sheer size, butalso the problems of poverty, sanitation, a mobile population and a very highbirthrate, combined to form a formidable epidemiological challenge. We’vebeen saying for years that if we could eliminate polio in India, we could do itanywhere—and now, that refrain has gone from a challenge, to a rallyingcry.With this great step forward we’ve redoubled our efforts not only from apublic health perspective, but also from a public relations perspective. Wewant the world to know that polio is nothing short of a global public healthcrisis. Polio is close to gone, but it’s not gone, and this moment, this point intime, is the most crucial point of the journey yet.This is why we’ve launched a global End Polio Now illumination project, inwhich every year, on the week surrounding Rotary’s anniversary, we’vebeen illuminating iconic landmarks around the world with the End PolioNow logo. We’ve projected End Polio Now onto the Sydney Opera House,the Tower Bridge in London, the Roman Coliseum, and Egypt’s Pyramid ofKhafre. Here in Brazil, this year, we saw End Polio Now on the side of thehistoric Sitio Arqueológico de São Miguel das Missões in Rio Grande doSul, and the neo-classical Palácio Garibaldi in the city of Curitiba.
  3. 3. John Hewko, RISGAddress to Brazilian National Congress27 February 2012Page 3 of 4Rotarians worldwide have participated in polio eradication in every waypossible, from serving on advisory boards at the highest level to hikingthrough the remotest regions, on a race to vaccinate every last child. Andthey’ve contributed more than US$1 billion to polio eradication, including$11.2 million raised right here in Brazil.Brazil itself is polio-free largely due to the efforts of Rotarians, who workedtirelessly with government and public health entities here to help eradicatepolio from the Americas, which have been certified polio free since 1994.I’m proud to say that even though Brazil itself has not seen a case of poliosince 1989, Brazilian Rotarians continue to work to achieve a world inwhich all children are free from the shadow of polio. This is becauseRotarians know that no child is safe until polio has been eradicatedeverywhere. The polio free countries of Russia and China have bothsuffered outbreaks of polio in the past two years. Like Brazil, these are large,economically powerful countries with strong health systems, and yet thepolio virus found a way in. We’re at a point where we can either go fullspeed ahead, and reach the end—or, if we were to slacken our efforts, we’dvery shortly find ourselves back where things were decades ago. And that’snot something anyone wants to see happen.The contributions that Brazil made in the polio eradication efforts in theAmericas were essential to its success. Its technical leadership and expertisewere absolutely vital, and more recently Brazil has provided valuabletechnical support in countries, such as Angola, which are still struggling withpolio.I hope that in the months ahead, Brazil, as a country which quickly conqueredpolio and which is among the best in the world at immunizing its people, willstep forward to apply this leadership and expertise to capitalize on the historicopportunity before us to save countless children from the suffering inflicted bythis terrible disease. Rotarians welcome the opportunity to work with thegovernment of Brazil to promote polio eradication as a global priority. Thiswill ensure Brazil’s own polio-free future, and will establish Brazil firmly inthe ranks of governments whose caring and foresight extend far beyond theirown countries’ borders.Rotary is an organization with an incredible history and there is no question
  4. 4. John Hewko, RISGAddress to Brazilian National Congress27 February 2012Page 4 of 4that its best years are yet to come. I am confident that day by day, year byyear, we will see the Rotary flame burn ever brighter—so that workingtogether we can continue to make the world, and Brazil a better place for ourfamilies, for our communities and countries, and for future generations tocome.Thank you very much.

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