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Seven paths to peace

Where the Paths Begin

THIS IS A BOOK largely about Rotarians and the “paths” they are traveling toward world peace. Rotarians have no monopoly on the paths to peace – nor would they say there are only seven. There are other paths to peace than those discussed within these pages, but Rotarians in the more than 50 years of existence of Rotary clubs have developed through discussion and action several concrete statements about, and approaches to, peace.

Rotarians – more than a half million of them – belong to Rotary clubs in more than 100 lands and, although each club is an autonomous body, they have what might be loosely termed a world-wide “understanding” about certain things. In convention assembled, Rotarians have agreed that specific words express what they generally believe. The board of directors, representing all Rotarians, also has taken concerted action about Rotary aims on peace – often on the recommendation of committees or other Rotarians.

Rotary’s one object has four parts, or avenues:

To encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

First. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;

Second. High ethical standards in business and profession; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying by each Rotarian of his occupation as an opportunity to serve society;

Third. The application of the ideal of service by every Rotarian to his personal, business, and community life;

Fourth. The advancement of international understanding, good will, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service.

Paragraph four is called “the avenue of international service”, but paragraph one implements the genius of Rotary in international service. “The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service” pinpoints the essential – how? There, at the simple heart of Rotary, is the impulse that brought together Paul Harris and his friends in Chicago in 1905. Acquaintance is Rotary’s special gift for the advancement of understanding, good will, and peace – and the simple formula of Rotary’s success in overcoming the isolation of men from each other. Acquaintance relaxes tensions in business, creates the kindling spark of selfless contribution to the community, and becomes the basic solvent which Rotary offers for problems which separate and divide mankind.

If the foregoing seems elementary to the experienced Rotarian, it should be said that non-Rotarians also have an abiding interest in what Rotarians have done, and are doing, to create conditions in which peace can exist. Historically, Rotarians have shared their international insights and have not hesitated to be a leavening influence. This book is addressed to non-Rotarians, too.

Rotary International is an association of autonomous Rotary clubs, not a body which takes corporate action. It embraces no causes except the object of Rotary and specific policies and projects which implement that object.

Impelled by the vision of, and the frightening necessity for, peace based on world fellowship, Rotarians have explored the techniques of building understanding among men of differing nations, creeds, and colors. They have also developed, in co-operation with others, an Outline of Policy in international service which has been adopted by the board of directors of Rotary International. Since the purpose of this book is to develop seven facets of this Policy as they apply to the individual Rotarian, additional background is appropriate.

This policy is the product of painstaking research, the result of a questionnaire addressed to Rotarians throughout the world. Rotarians, distinguished by their interest in international service, were asked to examine their feelings and to describe their attitudes toward world affairs. The objective was to assemble a composite statement applicable to men of all nations concerning what it means to have the international outlook of a Rotarian.

Replies to the questionnaire reflected many, and differing, aspects of rich experience. Even to the internationally-minded, things do not look the same when seen from a village in the Andes , from the heart of an empire, or from a teeming city of Asia . Many hours were spent by committees of Rotary International in comparing and correlating a consensus that could be phrased in a brief but comprehensive statement.

The resulting statement reveals international service as an assertion of the sovereignty of the human spirit. This Policy connotes action. It is addressed to the articulate and the informed and the compassionate – not to the apathetic and unconcerned:

The Responsibility of the Individual Rotarian

Each Rotarian is expected to make his individual contribution to the achievement of the ideal inherent in the fourth avenue of service.

Each Rotarian is expected to so order his daily personal life and business and professional activities that he will be a loyal and serving citizen of his own country.

Each Rotarian wherever located, working as an individual, should help to create a well-informed public opinion. Such opinion will inevitably affect governmental policies concerned with the advancement of international understanding and good will toward all peoples …

This is only the beginning of the Outline of Policy in international service, but it clearly points to the individual Rotarian – wherever he may be. Then, there follows an analysis of the directions in which each Rotarian will exert his leadership. Seven paths, in effect, are commended by the experience of Rotarians from far and wide. The value of self-examination is aided by the companionship of many searching minds. There is no pretense of finality. The statement is intended as a springboard – a challenge to independent thinking.

Could you choose these paths as your own and follow them in the course of service they prescribe?

A decision of such personal importance cannot be undertaken lightly. Little is gained by one who reads through the statement, wags his head approvingly or rejects it out of hand or appraises it like the curate did his famous egg, as “good in parts”. Read in this casual manner, the statement can be easily dismissed.

Accordingly, the remainder of the statement on “The Responsibilities of the Individual Rotarian” is not quoted at this point. Instead, each of the following seven chapters deals with a part of it. Each chapter opens with the pertinent section. One by one, each of the seven paths is scrutinized in the context of prevailing conditions, problems, and opportunities for service to which it leads. The concluding chapter, entitled “Impact”, chronicles examples of the impact of Rotary – each example another direction-sign along the paths leading to peace among men.

If Rotarians and others are attracted to these paths in increasing numbers, it could make a vast difference in the vitality and impact of Rotary. More important, however, is the possibility that all humanity might somehow avert the calamity of war and the destruction of civilization itself. This is why Rotarians believe that if there is failure in the avenue of international service, there may be no need for concern about the other avenues of service.

The present dilemma of mankind can be compared to the situation in which the crew of the Kon-Tiki found itself on 7 August, 1947 . On that day the westward current, which had carried the balsa-log raft and its six-man crew 4,300 miles across the Pacific, thrust the tiny raft closer and closer to the threatening Raroia Reef. A north wind diverted the raft for a while, but the coral reefs still “lay in ambush”. Then the wind died away, and slowly, but inexorably, the raft drifted toward the coral wall. The rhythm of the sea changed, rising to an angry pitch which boiled and seethed to a foaming, writhing climax at the reef. The surf, first a dull drone, became as sharp as a drum roll, as the Kon-Tiki was dragged toward the reef.

Beyond the surf line the crew could see islands with palm trees behind a calm lagoon. But there could be no thoughts of idyllic islands as the raft plunged toward the reef. The crew had not the manpower to resist the tide.

If the raft disintegrated, the crew would surely be cut to death by the coral. If the raft held, they might live to swim the peaceful lagoon. If the tide perchance lifted the raft clear of the reef, they might live to tell the story.

The allegory is clear. Mankind has brought civilization a long and difficult distance, suddenly to find it threatened by total annihilation – hydrogen war. The drift toward war is unmistakable, whether it should come this year, next year, ten years form now, or whenever. The reefs are rugged and frightening. Is there a way around them – a course which is yet to be discovered? Are there sufficient hands to reverse the drift toward destruction?

Yes, there is a way, and this book is presented in the hope and belief that there are thousands of hands which up to now have not been lifted – but which now may be persuaded to row a new and firm course.