I’ve always subscribed to the notion that you should under promise and over deliver.
It keeps the expectations to a minimum and offers opportunities for delight when you exceed them.
The 1.2 million people in 200 countries around the world who call themselves Rotarians don’t see it that way. More than 30 years ago, a few Rotarians decided it would be a good idea to eradicate polio. At the time, there were more than 350,000 reported cases worldwide and they thought it was time to end it.
Not “slow it,” or perhaps, “reduce it,” mind you. They decided it just had to go and that their work wouldn’t be done until there was not a single reported case of polio anywhere in the world.
Had I been sitting at the table, I might have encouraged the group to lower the expectations a bit. “How about we promise to reduce the reported cases of polio in...say...Nevada...30 percent?”
“Shut up, Ackerman. What, we’re going to do is wipe it off the planet!”
And then, they went out and basically did it.
Since the Rotary Polio Plus campaign was launched in 1985, Rotary has raised $1.7 billion to vaccinate 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. The number of reported cases dropped from 350,000 to just 22 cases in 2017.
How’s that for a project?
And, right in the middle of that commitment sat a lifelong resident of Wenatchee named Dr. Edward Cadman.
Dr. Cadman was born down the street from The World on Mission Street in 1918. As a young man, he worked as an “ice man” in a cold storage facility, raising enough money to eventually attend the University of Washington, where he graduated in 1941. He would go on to attend medical school at Columbia University in New York City.
After a stint in the Air Force, Dr. Cadman returned to Wenatchee and became a well-known orthopedic surgeon, retiring from the Wenatchee Valley Clinic in 1985.
During that time, he had joined the Rotary Club of Wenatchee (he was a member for four decades), which was formed in 1921. In fact, that club is one of the oldest in the country. Rotary was founded in 1905 in Chicago, followed by clubs in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Today, there are 34,282 clubs throughout the world.
Dr. Cadman rose through the Rotary ranks to become president of Rotary International in 1985. One of Wenatchee’s own had taken the reins of a worldwide organization that was one million strong.
He was introduced as president during a convention in Kansas City, where he delivered his keynote speech.
“In an era of endless change and instability, Dr. Cadman has lived his whole life in the same town in which he was born,” the speaker said in his introduction in front of several thousand convention attendees.
Once his family had been introduced, Dr. Cadman took the podium.
“In the construction of a bridge, or an arch, the keystone holds the forces of the structure together,” he began. “The keystone is the most important element. A Rotarian is like the keystone and the key. One key can open a door. A million keys can open a million doors to friendship and fellowship.”
He called his term the “Year of The Heartbeat.”
“The great heart of Rotary pulstates and throbs and beats around the world,” he told the packed convention, “in cities and towns and villages. It beats in different tongues and different dialects.”
He would be followed to the podium by then-Vice President of the United States George H. W. Bush.
Dr. Cadman died 17 years ago this month, but his legacy lives on. Rotary isn’t finished with polio yet and every dollar raised is matched by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.
I attended a Rotary meeting last week and learned that Rotary’s next project will be world peace.
That’s right. If Rotary can end polio, why can’t it end wars?
“We refuse to accept conflict as a way of life,” reads the Rotary mission statement. “Rotary projects provide training that fosters understanding and provides communities with the skills to resolve conflicts.”
The Rotary motto is “service above self” and there is evidence of that service throughout our community. The Rotary footprint is everywhere, generally in the form of a Rotary symbol: A gold wheel representing the collective strength of the organization.
There are several Rotary Clubs in the valley, including the Rotary Club of Wenatchee, East Wenatchee Rotary, Wenatchee Sunrise Rotary and Wenatchee Confluence Rotary. There are also clubs in Cashmere, Leavenworth, Chelan and Quincy.