Sakuji Tanaka's speech at the 2013 RYLA Preconvention

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Remarks delivered by 2012-13 Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka on 22 June 2013 at the RYLA Preconvention Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal

Remarks delivered by 2012-13 Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka on 22 June 2013 at the RYLA Preconvention Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal

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  • 1. Sakuji Tanaka, Rotary International President RYLA Preconvention—Lisbon Opening Plenary Remarks Page 1 of 3 Good Morning! I am happy to be in Lisbon, among so many of my fellow Rotarians. All of us are here today because we believe in Rotary. And because we believe in the power of RYLA—to change the lives of its participants, and to bring us closer to a brighter future, and a better world. I know that none of the good, that this program does, happens by itself. It is the result of your hard work and dedication. I appreciate all that you do, because I know that RYLA is important. Not just to its participants, or to Rotary. It is important to our global community, because it creates a new generation of leaders in service. 50 years ago, my adopted father died, and I became president of his paper business. I was 26 years old. I was very young, and ambitious. I was grateful for everything my adopted father had done for me. I wanted to make his company even greater than he had left it. A good way to motivate yourself is to tell others your goal. That way, they are watching you. They will see your success, or your failure. And so I told a newspaper that our company would go public in five years. At the time, this seemed almost impossible. I knew that our management would have to be much stronger. And I organized a three-day boot camp for the managers. I never ordered them to go. Instead I told them I was going, and invited them to join me. It was very intense, only two hours of sleep each night. On the first day, I didn’t get much out of the training. I was being critical of everything. I was thinking about what was happening back at the office. But on the second and third day, things began to change. We began to work together. We began to focus. The outside world disappeared. After the three days, the training was over, and we went back to our lives. But the experience stayed with us. The managers had become a team; everyone worked more easily together. I believe that those three days are what gave us the tools to meet our goal, and to become the #1 paper wholesaler in Japan.
  • 2. Sakuji Tanaka, Rotary International President RYLA Preconvention—Lisbon Opening Plenary Remarks Page 2 of 3 Some people might not believe that a few days of intense concentration and fellowship can change lives. But I know that they can. RYLA changes the lives of the young people involved. And RYLA changes the lives of the Rotarians who support it as well. RYLA is different all over the world. But one thing is the same. The people who leave RYLA are not the same people who arrived. Because even when RYLA is over, it does not end. The young people take what they have learned back to their communities. They leave inspired. They leave knowing they can make a difference. And they use their new leadership skills to motivate others. Maybe they start an Interact or Rotaract Club. For many, it is the first step in their Rotary journey. You, who have put the thought and effort into making RYLA possible, leave changed as well. You are energized, and more committed to service. You have learned from the participants, and they have learned from you. You both gain new perspective. And you can be proud, knowing you have introduced a new generation to Service Above Self. Rotary service can take many forms. With RYLA, you are not just giving your money, or even your time. You are giving of yourselves. You reach out your hand, to make a human connection. You set an example. You are saying, to each RYLA participant, “I care.” You are saying “Together, we can make a difference.” And together, today, you have a unique opportunity. You are here with RYLA leaders from all over the world. RYLA is different all over. It is different from country to country, from district to district. Here you have a chance to talk to each other. To gain another new perspective. To share your successes and your goals. This is an opportunity to ask questions, to tell stories, to consider how you can make RYLA even better. If there is one thing working with youth teaches us, it is that there is always something new to learn! It is up to you—to make RYLA, and Rotary, the best they can be. We cannot solve all of humanity’s problems. But that is not our goal. Our goal is simply
  • 3. Sakuji Tanaka, Rotary International President RYLA Preconvention—Lisbon Opening Plenary Remarks Page 3 of 3 to make the world better than it is today. We want to reach out; we want to do our part. That is why we are here, in Lisbon. We know that the only way to build a brighter future is by working for it together. And through RYLA, you are ensuring that this work will continue, for generations to come. Thank you.