By Michel P. Jazzar, past governor of District 2452 (Lebanon)
I will always remember 14 May 1973 for two reasons. First, NASA launched Skylab. And second, a very instrumental meeting took place that would shape my future in Rotary.
On that day, I met with the late Dr. Wahib Nini, a past district governor, who talked to me about an idea he had to form a youth-centered Rotary club. He reminded me of how I’d spoken earlier to the Rotary Club of Tripoli (where my father was a member) at the age of 20 on the topic of youth inspiration.
Tripoli had a “Club des Jeunes” in 1969, which was the first of its kind in Lebanon. We would call it a diverse club today. Events were designed to appeal to youth, which in a conservative town like Tripoli was considered a “revolution” at the time.
Nini talked to me about wanting to form a similar type of club in Rotary. Rotary International had launched a program called Rotaract in 1968 (this was prior to Rotaract being elevated to a membership status on the same level as Rotary in 2020.) He said he wanted to form a “Rotaract Club of Tripoli” and wanted my support and involvement. I had a vague idea of what Rotaract was because my father had mentioned it a few times.
The next Sunday, 20 May, I met with Nini again and we compared our visions and strategy and decided to move forward. Also present were his son, the late Dr. Nicholas Nini, and Tony Hafez, who became president of the Rotaract Club and then of the Rotary Club of Beirut before passing away from COVID-19.
I moved to France in 1974 to study dentistry and was there when the Tripoli Rotaract Club chartered. But I joined the Rotaract Club of Bordeaux and served as its president in 1976-77. Moving back to Lebanon in 1980, I joined the Rotary Club of Tripoli and oversaw the youth committee. From there, I transferred to the Rotary Club of Zgharta-Zawié and then Kesrouan, before serving as Rotary representative to the UN and District 2452 governor in 2018-19. I remain a member of The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers.
On 14 May of this year, I was asked to moderate a session on The Rotary Foundation at the district conference held in Beirut. We were celebrating my 50 years of passion and loyal service to Rotary, counting from my role in launching the Tripoli Rotaract club and not the year I joined Rotary (1980).
What have I learned in 50 years of loyal service to Rotary? That developing a sense of belonging is as important as ever in Rotary. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do in making Rotary a welcoming and inclusive place for all.
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