Question: What was the intended meaning of
“He Profits Most Who Serves Best”? *
He Profits Most Who Serves Best was modified by the 2004 Rotary International Council on Legislation, to its current wording, “They Profit Most Who Serve Best.”
Would you like to earn more money? If so, study about Arthur Frederick “Fred” Sheldon. If you take the time to understand what he wrote and why, you will discover a very important lesson in business which most Rotarians misunderstood.
It is not what many people think…. I wish you a good learning experience, Jack M. B. Selway
Sheldon whose occupation was running a business school, took out the ad on the right in The Rotarian in 1917.
(courtesy of Wolfgang Ziegler)
Read RGHF Senior Historian Basil Lewis’ essay
1921 Sheldon photo from Doug Rudman
This February 1976 article in The Rotarian tells the story of Arthur Frederick Sheldon who joined Rotary Club of Chicago in 1908. He became responsible for our vocational service, but is best known for our motto when he coined the phrase, “He profits most who serves best.” Sheldon saw the law of ethics as “natural laws.” He also made a list of 800 classifications for membership. A 1921 speech of Sheldon’s was printed by RI for distribution to schools and other institutions and he was an honorary member of several clubs. (copy of his speech)
Read a summary of Sheldon’s 45 minute speech to the 1921 convention in Edinburgh where he clearly defines his philosophy of “Service” and his “motto” for Rotary. Some of that speech is also here.
1920 Wheel Because a modern council on legislation chose only “Service above Self” as Rotary’s official motto, and left “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” it might be helpful to understand that these two mottos were entirely separate in meaning and were not intended to be duplicative. We have posted what Paul Harris wrote regarding Sheldon’s meaning (wheel and slogan circa 1920 RI)
Read about the 1911 Platform, including the Motto
Also read 1913 RI President Glenn Mead’s article: “Service Begins at Home”
Read RI President Sakuji Tanaka’s theme “Peace Through Service.”
From “This Rotarian Age” which Paul Harris published in 1935, he wrote four pages about Arthur “Fred” Sheldon’s observations of business and how “service” or lack of it affected success. It was “service that created profit” decided Sheldon. By reading all of what Harris wrote and comparing that with the material out of context in the previous articles, one can reason that the impression that this motto was also meant to mean something similar to “Service Above Self” was a logical conclusion. But you’ll also read that Sheldon was the creator of the classification system and believed in the value of business and profit for for the betterment of the community.
Because a modern council on legislation chose only “Service above Self” as Rotary’s official motto, and left “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” it might be helpful to understand that these two mottos were entirely separate in meaning and were not intended to be duplicative. We have posted what Paul Harris wrote regarding Sheldon’s meaning (wheel and slogan circa 1920 RI)