World leader visits Cleveland Rotary
by Chance Wright
Sep 27, 2012 | 2749 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Rotary President Laura Giaccaglia introduced special guests District Governor Marty Petrusek and International President Sakuji Tanaka at Wednesday's meeting. Tanaka joined via satellite from Japan.
Cleveland Rotary President Laura Giaccaglia introduced special guests District Governor Marty Petrusek and International President Sakuji Tanaka at Wednesday's meeting. Tanaka joined via satellite from Japan.
Sakuji Tanaka and Marty Petrusek know first hand how important Rotary International's message of "service above self" is to their countrymen in Japan, the United States and around the world.

Tanaka, Rotary International president, and Petrusek, Rotary International district governor, were the special guest speakers at Wednesday's weekly Cleveland Rotary Club meeting held at the Cleveland Country Club.

Petrusak took the podium and introduced Tanaka, who joined the meeting from Japan via Skype, a computer program owned by Microsoft that allows people to communicate with by voice, video and instant messaging over the Internet.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service, Extension Center for Technology Outreach, set up the Skype feed and television equipment used to communicate with the Cleveland Rotary audience.

This is the first time in the history of Rotary that the Rotary International president has addressed a single club via satellite.

"Sakuji Tanaka was the president of Tanaka Company Ltd., a wholesale firm that went public in 1995 and later merged with other leading wholesalers in Japan," Petrusak said. "He serves as vice president of the Yashio City Chamber of Commerce and has chaired the National Household Papers Distribution Association of Japan for eight years.

"A past trustee of The Rotary Foundation, Tanaka chaired the 2009 Birmingham Convention Committee, and his other services to Rotary include RI director, regional Rotary Foundation coordinator, district governor, and member of the Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force, the Permanent Fund Committee for Japan, and the Future Vision Committee," continued Petrusak.

At the end of Petrusak's introduction and after being treated to a recital of the traditional Rotary song in his native Japanese language by a five-member choir from Delta State University, Tanaka was invited to speak and answer questions from the audience.

After sending greetings to Mississippi from Japan in broken English, Tanka spoke on polio eradication, world peace and how the Rotary Club International is helping in those efforts.

He then began answering questions from the audience in his native Japanese language with an interpreter by his side.

"We were interested to know what is was like to grow up in Japan after World War II," asked Mary Parker Janoush, a senior at Cleveland High School and member of the Cleveland Rotary Interact Students Program.

"After World War II we had a very poor period in Japan where everybody was poor," said Tanaka. "I was about 15-years-old at the time and every Sunday I walked with my mother about 12-miles into the city to sell vegetables for income. It was during that time that I learned from my mother to be trustworthy and honest."

"How is Rotary involved economically in helping third and fourth world countries," Rotarian Keith Fulcher asked.

"As many of you already know the eradication of polio is our main priority," answered Tanaka. "We have representatives from Rotarians around the world who are working to meet the need of their own communities.

"Rotary tries to help in these areas of the world by improving sanitation, education and providing clean water, along with other things to help prevent diseases as well as economic development," Tanaka continued.

After taking a few more questions from the audience, Tanaka was invited to give a final word of encouragement.

"In the world today changes happen very rapidly," said Tanaka. "You are leaders in this changing world and I believe that you are the people that are most adaptable in this changing world.

"Grownups have lots to learn from young people," he continued. "I would like to encourage each of you to continue your hard work in developing youth and I hope that other Rotarians around the world will take you as a model in developing the youth in their areas.

"Thank you and remember world peace," he concluded.

The Rotary Club started in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905, by Paul Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth.

The Rotary name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.

By July 1925, Rotary had grown to more than 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members. Today Rotary boasts more than 1.2 million members worldwide.