By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Most people know me as a journalist. But my most unusual title is: First Chinese female Rotarian in the world, thanks to a group of smart men who decided in 1986 that women should be a part of Rotary, despite opposition from their peers.
Today, I am still a Rotarian, a member of the Rotary Club of Seattle. With the two clubs (Seattle International District ID Rotary Club, 1986-91), I have been a proud member for 30 years, and I have no intention of retiring.
When the ID Rotary invited me to join, I was surprised. I didn’t hesitate for a second. All I knew was, it was a prestigious group and an honor. Then, I found out Rotary International’s policy was to exclude women. What, really? I recall my disbelief. Why? I was even more shocked that the club had no women in its entire 99-year existence. And I was not thrilled that its headquarters had to be forced by a lawsuit to change its discriminatory policy.
Now that I look back at what these men did, they were forward, innovative, and strategic thinkers, and blazing trails for equality. They had lined up pro bono attorneys to fight the case in court and savvy spokespersons to deal with the media. Their sophisticated campaign had created a movement for those who fought for equality in male social clubs. Bravo!
I’d like to thank all these men for opening doors to millions of women, and creating a lasting legacy not only for themselves, but for the entire global Rotary community, which has over 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members. If not for these men, it could be 100 or more years for women to get in. So thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage to challenge the status quo.
The first 15
Why me? I was one of the first 15 women to join Washington state Rotary through the ID Rotary Club.
The women were some of the most amazing and diverse group of people, including former Seattle City Councilmember Dolores Sibonga. At the time, I was only a few years into my publishing career. I guess I was in the right place at the right time. What a gift and privilege that these men had given me. The more I learn about the Rotary, the more I embrace its service aspect and 4-way test, the Rotary’s guiding principles and moral code for business and personal relationships.
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
What does it mean to be a Rotarian? Rotary International President John Germ said it means, “I am trustworthy, dependable and reliable. I give more than I take.”
What does Rotary do?
Its slogan is “Rotary serving humanity, service above self, connecting for good.” With the 4-way test in mind, each Rotary Club selects its own service projects to improve lives all over the world.
Our club took on a big project and joined a team that works with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio. It also provided huge capital and organized fundraising campaigns to build the Rotary Boys and Girls Club in the Central District, and the Wellspring Family Services on Rainier Avenue South. I was happy to raise $10,000 for Wellspring in 2008.
If you think working with Bill Gates is too intimidating, consider what author Arthur C. Brooks wrote in a New York Times column. “You can make the world better, by thinking small.” Each Rotary club also has small projects. “In the fundraising business, there’s an old axiom that “one is greater than one million,” Brooks wrote. “It is a reminder that when it comes to people in need, one million is a statistic, while one is a human story.”
So it is okay to “start with one, not one million,” in philanthropy, Brooks stated.
That’s exactly what I did with my Rotary service, focusing on one-on-one relationships, and not chairing big projects or meeting big shots.
There is no greater joy and satisfaction when the students I worked with, become the first in their family to go to college after overcoming tremendous adversity. I don’t get a standing ovation or a thank you. But deep in my heart, I witness the fruits of my involvement — changing lives and its long-lasting effect. Like Mother Teresa said, doing small things with great love is beautiful too.
Sunday, January 29
Rotary’s Broken Ceiling: Celebrating Those Who Broke It
Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S. Massachusetts St., Seattle
RSVP by January 19
To purchase tickets, visit http://goo.gl/xCaAY5
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first 15 women admitted to the Rotary:
The men who voted to admit women:
Jim St. Germain
B Douglas Williams