It’s not without emotion that I’m going to present you these following brief introductive considerations about my year of service; a year which by chance is going to be the first Rotarian year of the new millennium. This gives me the opportunity for expressing some thoughts about our feeling as Rotarian in an increasing complex society.
I will have a start from the referring picture which Alfredo Sollazzo highlighted in his programme last year. It is a picture I substantially approve, in which he pointed out the brake of consolidated schemes and the searching for new balances in which technological progress and science, from one side, offer unpredictable scenarios of progress, from another side they seem to de-humanise Man and to take away from him his most truly features. Parallel to a technological progress which is apparently enabled to solve any problem and which promises wonderfulness, it has been diffusing a sense of uneasiness which often turn into bad feeling toward a world which seems to be destined to deny itself values, which have ruled it, in the more or less general assumption, and which today seem to be not automatically accepted or even acceptable.
This is not the place neither the moment to face such interesting theme and verify presuppositions and consequences; it is a fact that those values, even if dressed up with new forms and, sometimes, with apparent new spirit, continue to rule man’s life and his social organisation.
Besides, in spite of a massification and apparent homologation, gets stronger the need for developing single identities which by overcoming formal equalisations are able to affirm the singularity of human being with his dignity.
In this picture of lights and shade yet to define does the Rotary have a role? It is still possible to talk about the Rotarian ideal or is it something which slowly looses itself in the fogs of the past leaving moves and rituals without significance and substance?
If Rotary means true friendship in serving; if Rotary means to operate in the correct way towards civil and cultural progress of humanity (but of neighbours too!), if Rotary means commitment both in the public and the private to affirm those values of solidarity, correctness and friendship, which today society is in desperate searching for, then if all of this is true, we can affirm that never before such in this period the world needs Rotary, never before such today it needs Rotarians.
If crisis is, then, it is not in the idea but in the difficulty of carrying on the role which is in the Rotarian, in a reality which, with globalisation even in the service sector, present a multitude of organisation aimed to same objectives; it is then necessary to affirm the peculiarity of being Rotarian and in the meanwhile to let it be visible: visibility not as a self-pleasure or self-exaltation, but as a mean, I would say didactic, for diffusing a feeling and an acting toward a re-affirmation of values only apparently obscured.
Then, in order to trace the programme, I will have a start from this point itself: it is at the base of starting up a web site for the club, (Mr. Paolo Perulli activated it some years ago but it didn’t have a continuation) which is on the way to be defined due to the commitment of IT commission whose chairman is Mr. Alberto Carbonara and it is formed by Mr. Antonio Morfini and Mr. Antonio Siciliano, with the help of Mr. Luigi Laterza. The site is sponsored by Bid.it company from Barletta and it is designed to self-implement itself throughout the years and to become a formidable tools for working (besides being an Rotarian information tool: our friend Mr. Galantucci collected a big amount of news about Rotarian activities which will be put on-line for being used by any associate).
It has to be said that it will give us the opportunity for publishing on-line even our glorious Bulletin, which will obviously be followed by its traditional paper edition with its most significance news translated in English. Once again we can’t deny our thankfulness and admiration toward the work of Mr. Alfonso Forte, whose activity joins the commitment of good journalism with friendly Rotarian feeling.
Going back to the referring overall picture, the Club is asked to give its contribution to the greater system of activities promoted by Rotary International aiming its action both in the local and in the international side.
First we will follow the example of the ones preceding us in offering the best possible help: Rotary foundation and Polioplus campaign, which have reached their difficult conclusive stages, have to collect the whole adhesion of all Rotarians; it is the edge of the Rotary, which stands alone as a pride for all of us. In this commitment the Club has always distinguished itself; we have done it with deep convincement and we will continue doing it with deep feeling, faithful in the history and tradition of this club.
In the programmes of C.D. and mine exists the will for an opening of the club toward the outside, in order to ease, even with twinning, the joining processes both cultural and economic with other European towns: it appears as interesting a privileged relation with the town of Moscow, which, as you know, in the name of Saint Nicholas, Bari has joined important contacts with. These could result in important cultural, social and economic events for our town.
I definitely know restriction of time for an idea to be projected and make operative; for this reason, one of my firs official act as President has been to send an e-mail to Rotary Moscow President (our Club’s correspondent in Moscow), in which I activated our first contacts to get to the mentioned results.
In the meanwhile we also feel the necessity for a reinforced commitment of the Club in a world in which differences are increasing, and with them also big tragedies of poor people wars together with lack of resources and culture. We are convinced that real vault-key for a progressive improving of life quality on the planet, is in helping most weak people in walking first steps toward freedom from most urgent needs of surviving and alphabetisation in respect of their history and culture and it means in their ambient and within their culture.
From this the service “Let’s adopt one, ten, …children” which the Club is activating in partnership with ONLUS association “Azioneaiuto”, which we want to remote adopt children with, ensuring them our aid (L.40.000 per month!) till their teenage is over (from a minimum of three up to ten years old children).
Obviously it’s not possible to engage the Club for such a long period so that it is requested that an equal number of associates carry on the burden starting from the second year. In this way, we will have started a multi-year action of the club, even if it will count on its resources only in the first year; besides, as our children will all belong to the same village, Pebane village in Mozambico, this continuity in the relationship will ensure further Presidents the possibility for offering new services, developing the initial one in a more efficient way. (eve adopting the whole village…).
It is also clear to everybody the deep significance, both “political” and symbolic, connected to turning of such private and personal act as adoption is, even if remote, in an operation ruled and wanted by a Rotary Club, as a sign and indication of a path and a will which overcomes the direct result already important itself.
Anyway a Club has got to take care also of its territory. I’m not that original in admitting that I’m convinced next years to be very important for the South (I would say crucial) and that evident are the signals of an inverting tendency of a culture which has been crystallised for such a long time in waiting external helps and in the continuous moaning by whom he sees the opportunity for changing but pretends other to activate it.
Our Bari, our wonderful Bari, declared lost or even more never existed except for few historical moments, goes back on the stage, gives signals toward taking back its leadership, discovers in its citizens the knowledge of the potential of its territory and of the institution ruling it, discovers the will for getting back its past and its future.
In this moment and in this age our Club has got to consciously operate on the two levels which are its features: the culture one, in a vaster sense, and the service one intended as aimed to give direct help and tangible toward most helpless people. Due to shortage of available resources and to greater visibility and fastness of results, in recent times it has been theorised, not without reasons, a sort of preference in directly helping the social.
Without negating this, I am convinced that a Rotary which renounce to have a specific cultural role would result in a lack in one of main pillars of its existence: the generous act is a practice belonging to all good-will people while the generous act in a picture of a programme of social and cultural lease is more complex and requests commitment of men and women capable of having and transmitting the richness of their cultural belonging or, in a better way, of letting others to develop their own in a self-way.
In the evolution process and social lease, of true progress, culture results in assault troop, the one which brakes the taboos, the one which is able to overcome the obvious and the immediately tangible, the one able to understand phenomenon, historically understanding them, and projecting them in the future, the one able to give back self-consciousness and self-possibility for being and releasing themselves.
An example is underneath our eyes!
The new way to live the town, particularly the old town, is, for sure, the result of a strong concentration of big resources invested, but they would be not sufficient to justify the speed which transformation has resulted with if we were not considering that this offer has been made in a cultural changed town.
This has happened because in 70’s and ’80s University, Cultural Association, Rotary have developed a progressive action for recovering diffusion of historic facts, traditions, studies, which has turned off the usual sad way for considering ourselves and our town, dragging and unlocking a cultural ground which for long time had been left in wilderness and without feeding.
We, even without originality which anyway is not our scope, intend to follow this path giving the important cultural and professional contribution which our Club is endowed with. We know the difficulty of this challenge and the need for new reinforcements. We would turn our attention toward young people as we are convinced they will determine the final take off of our Land or this take off will never be. We want give them the chance for choosing, for understanding the reality surrounding them, for being prepared to a future which will not be easy and will and which will need will, determination and preparation even stronger than the ones we needed in our youth.
We want to fight in order to let them give here their contribution of ideas, of research, of innovation, of enthusiasm, of capability of throwing their heart over the obstacle.
We will then activate seminars and meetings for orientation and updating of young people (in collaboration with University and Polytechnic), we will give grants or graduation prizes. We will always be among young ones and supporting them.
This year among graduation prizes, to traditional ones, another great grant has been added. This has been entitled by our friend Ninì Vignola, as an old Rotarian, and in that “old” there is no sort of age reference but only the respect for the consolidated and proved Rotarian fidelity, to the memory of his father ing. Vincenzo, also a Rotarian and associate of this Club, in the recurrence of 20th anniversary of his death.
I think he couldn’t give honour in a better way to his father and we will use this resource he gave us giving best diffusion to the bid, at its best, knowing that, in the memory of an “old” Rotarian engineer, a young engineer will be helped in walking his first steps toward his professional growth.
And, again for young people, exchange of young ones and taking part to RYLA; but about this I will not mention anything, as you know my Rotarian history and my direct commitment, now since a lot of years, in the RYLA, so that any word more would be an repetition. In the same way we will follow along the path already traced with success with initiative toward alphabetisation, as Lucignolo, for which I thank friend F. Grasso for his commitment and his enthusiasm, which I am sure will not be negated in this year of my service too.
We will keep giving maximum attention to Rotaract and its activities, supporting and helping them where necessary.
We are, finally, intentioned to activate a Club prize entitled to “Young (un)known of Puglia”, aimed to prizing young people which in the fields of music, singing, dance, art, even if unknown, will be able to show capabilities and qualities which will let hope in a brighter future.
With our friend Salomone, president of commission for new generations, and with C.D. we are preparing the Act, but the idea is well defined.
They will be brief performances of young artists indicated from the Associates of this Club, contained in ten-fifteen minutes, inserted in our usual nights and the whole Club will vote to determine the winner of the prize. At the end of the Rotarian year, in a dedicated night there will be his/her proclamation.
Obviously we will not forget cultural patrimony which we will try to know in a better way, giving our contribution for their restoration and valorisation even with services to accord with other city Clubs in order to give best possible strength to the action.
Our presence here itself, in an almost completely restored castle, is emblematically representative of one of the features of the year we are going to live together: from this night each of us knows that in Sannicandro di Bari there is a wonderful castle, and knows it is a great resource for the whole Land; each of us knows that can and have to ask which the future will be of this castle and what he can do to let its valorisation easier.
Each of us, from today, knows that here operates ” la Compagnia delle Formiche”, a theatre group of young people which we heard some suggestive note from: let’s follow them with sympathy, let’s criticise them if you want; let’s help them in their research; Rotary means this as well.
And again our attention will be in renewing our collaboration with Inner Wheel, with the intention of exalting the role the wives of Rotarians have always got in the Rotary and in our Club particularly, helping it to get to that style of elegance and sobriety which is one of its many features.
Last but not the least, I feel the need for facing the life of the Club from its inner point of view.
Apart from some happy irony, we are sometimes target of, I can easily admit it has been given to me a wealthy Club which gives fusion to experience and values of tradition with renewed will of operating in friendship, the whish to “serve and not to serve of” – as briefly but very directly the famous phrase of our Governor Andrea Ranieri says – to operate in the social and in the culture.
In recent years the work of the ones preceding me in this role, and here I thank Alfredo Sollazzo again, which experience I will use, has lead to admission in the Club of new forces, which have helped the Club in getting more operative.
Best attention will be given to the more delicate moment, the admission of new Rotarians, locating or better “knowing” men and women which, for personal history and moral and professional qualities, will appear as worthy in belonging to the Rotary or, even better, they already live in the Rotarian ideal without having its attribution.
This is the reason for the Directive Council and me we wanted to constitute a particular Commission, the “Task Force for internal Action”, which is demanded the commitment to analyse possible improvements to realise in the phase of admission and the first period of entrance of new Rotarians.
Particular attention will be kept in organising nights and in choosing guests: in continuation with the past we will join the interest of themes to debate with easiness and sobriety of relations always trying to join the Associates.
Regarding this last aspect I have to say that, as I could already see, I generally got the impression , with satisfaction, of a general will for taking part both of each associate and the commissions; these strongly worked (to all of them goes my thanking thought and grant that any proposal will be accurately evaluated).
W will follow on, as much as possible, with our antemeridian meetings, always trying to develop our common feeling throughout a Rotarian Information not blocked in his official aspect, but direct, more involving, capable of activating even forces temporarily sleeping, valorising the role of the secretary, which will be charged with the commitment of organising brief meeting for information and updating to be held in our usual meetings.
We will organise study visits, guided visits to exhibitions, we will try to be present in cultural activity of our town.
And then… then we will also organise some nights in the sign of happiness; some ideas is already taking place… but I will not anticipate anything… leave me with the sweet pleasure of making you feel curious or even surprised!
For sure it will not be easy to find resources to carry on such great programme: economic resources for which I already asked for an effort to all sponsors, to whom are intended to support distance adoption of the children, to all of you; human resources, which, I am sure, will not be negated to me as much as, I have to say, they haven’t been negated in these months of intense preparation. And here I have to mention my C.D., which has already given its important contribution for definition of the programme. Member of board as Lucio Armenio, Carlo Di Benedetta e Gianni Martelli, il prefetto Elvio Carrieri with his very active Mariella, the rigorous treasurer Bruno Ghidini, the always available and efficient secretary Luigi Galantucci, vice-president and incoming President Sergio Papa.
And our thought goes to our friend Nino Contento, vice-president of C.D., prematurely dead. Paolo Giocoli Nacci in his intense speech of commemoration said I would have felt his lack; it is true, dear Paolo, and great is the sadness for this lack for the town of Bari, for this Club, for me.
I was saying: we will find, anyway, these resources; or at least I hope it!
If it will not be sufficient, we will try, though preserving our traditions, to avoid any waste of money, with more essentiality, pondering expenses. For sure, during these years, we have gone from frequent “dinners with ladies” to “half-dinner with ladies”, to “pre-dinner reinforced”; I hope not to inaugurate, in my year, the age of “portable breakfast with ladies”!
I’m obviously joking, but a smile a bit of irony is needed as much as the whole work of us should be loaded with humility, which is not to be intended as lack of consciousness in our action neither as unwilling, but as a knowledge of our own limitations, willing of carrying on our commitment with easiness, without expecting any particular prize except for the personal one for coherently living our Rotarian ideal in the friendship and operability.
Rotary is not made by super-man and super-women, it is made by men and women which, though in the limitation of human being, firmly follow with coherent and determined laic faith the dream, the utopia if you prefer, of a righter world, a world which is tomorrow less bad than today, a world were inequality and poorness will reduce themselves, a world in which the more you have the more you are willing to give to less lucky, in the respect of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of each.
This is the Rotarian pride, that pride sometimes obscured by quotidian acts and apparent lack of direct results, that pride which we have to newly show without fears of appearing out of time.
I’m happy and proud to belong to Rotary; I’m proud to belong to the oldest Club in the district with the load of prestige, of dignity and consideration which it has been able to conquest due to the action of so many friends of high cultural professional and human level in the 68 years of its operative existence.
But it is not possible to live in memories; past cannot be sterile image to self-pleasure with, it has to be reason for a more operative present; only a renewed commitment in the actuality can let it be living and leading force for the future. And this can be only with our active participation.
I’m not asking you sterile frequency neither passive fidelity; I’m asking you to be available in being involved in the operative friendship which has got to rule our being Rotarians.
We will not change the world; surely nothing of macroscopic will manifest our passage, but if we will have been able to innovate the world of that “e”, that infinitively little of my analysis studies, that infinitively value which represent the difference between immobility and aiming to a scope, well in that case, even this year will not be passed in vain and others, more clever than me, will last in this commitment for a better world.
This is the best wish I can do to you all, this is the wish I do to me: will the 2001-2002 be a year filled with friendship and common work.
Hurray Rotary Club Bari.
Giambattista De Tommasi