Rotary has had a unique role in the United Nations starting even before the UN was founded. Each year the United Nations invites more than a thousand Rotarians, members of associated groups such as Rotaract and Interact, and students participating in Rotary international Youth Exchange to come to UN headquarters in New York for panel discussions with Rotary leadership, UN ambassadors, and heads of international nongovernmental organizations. Also each year since 2009 the RadioRotary team has been there to interview some of the participants. This is the first set of interviews from 2015.
Rotary District 7210 Past District Governor Bill Bassett (Walkill East Rotary Club) describes the history and current success of the effort, started by Rotary in 1979, to completely eradicate the terrible disease poliomyelitis, commonly called polio. Polio has a long history as a human disease that often causes lifetime paralysis or even death. In the early 1980s a thousand persons per day contracted it and it was endemic in 125 nations. As a result of a partnership led by Rotary, but including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF, the number of cases has been reduced to about 150 per year and it is endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This effort has been aided by hundreds of millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put forth as matching challenges for The Rotary Foundation, currently a two-for-one match to every Rotary dollar up to $35 million per year.
RadioRotary co-hosts interview incoming District Governor Penny Byron (Rotary Year 2014-15), who describes her work with District 7210, which includes 62 clubs at various locations in the eight Mid-Hudson counties that make up the District—Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Ulster. District 7210 actually extends beyond the Mid-Hudson, however, for one of the 62 clubs is the E-Club, the first in Rotary International; its members can be located anywhere in the world and several are international members, although most live here in the Hudson Valley but attend meetings online. Another distinction for the District is that one of its past District Governors, Knut Johnsen, occupies Rotary’s seat at the United Nations. RadioRotary itself is a third unique asset of the District. Ms. Byron, whose home club is Patterson, began her journey toward District Governor in 4H, then moved on to Rotary where she has been active at both the Club and District levels.
Each year on Rotary UN Day, which celebrates the role Rotary had in founding the UN and their continuing relationship, RadioRotary conducts onsite interviews with Rotarians and others attending the event. In this program, the interviews included deal with water purification and desalination, developing a new generation of leaders around the world, the Rotary youth exchange program, and dealing with technological obsolescence. The final interview in the series is with Rotary International President for Rotary year 2013-14 Ron Burton, whose motto—“Engage Rotary, Change Lives”—sums up how Rotarians and the United Nations work together.