Rotary International President Dong Kurn Lee stressed that a diverse Rotary is a strong Rotary during a visit to the Rotary Club of Chicago on 1 July.

As part of a long-standing tradition for RI presidents, Lee addressed members of the Chicago club, the birthplace of Rotary, as one of his first official acts. He stressed the need to bring in new leadership to take over for the old as part of the 2008-09 RI theme, Make Dreams Real.

"Every Rotarian that we bring into our clubs helps to Make Dreams Real," Lee said, to a packed second-floor room in the elegant Union League Club in downtown Chicago. "Every single one is another pair of hands, and another mind, and another heart to do Rotary's work."

Lee called on every district to increase membership by 10 percent and to add two clubs during this Rotary year.

"If we do not bring in younger members, we will miss out on a great deal of energy and expertise," he added. "And we will not be training a new generation of members to become club presidents, district governors, and senior RI leaders in the years to come."

Lee said  the membership of a healthy Rotary club is made up of men and women of different ages, vocations, professions, skills, and talents. A club that is not diversified is less able to conduct ambitious projects and has a narrower range of resources.

As part of the push for growth, Lee asked Rotarians to be creative in promoting membership and to expand their quest for new members. 

"There are many qualified professionals who may simply be overlooked because their professions are not typical for Rotary members," he said.

At the International Assembly in January, Lee unveiled the 2008-09 theme and service emphases, urging  Rotarians to become involved in clean water, literacy, and health and hunger projects aimed at reducing child mortality. He also encouraged them to contribute to Rotary's US$100 Million Challenge to eradicate polio.

"We will Make Dreams Real by giving children hope and a chance at a future," Lee said.

Chicago club member Ruth Ann Watkins said it is fitting for the new RI president to begin his year at the club. 

"Rotary started here. It carries historical significance and continues our focus on the future," Watkins said.

Club president Arol Augsburger, who was inducted during the meeting, said Lee's remarks hit all the right notes. He also praised Lee's theme choice: "We reach a much broader audience, and it broadens our sphere of influence to promote diversity."