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Inaugural Speech of President Banit Caasi

Together for Mankind: Our Common Journey To A Fulfilled Vision

By UrbanoCaasi Jr., cuap, csp

Changemaker President, RY 2011- 2012

Rotary Club of Manila

  Thank you for your kind introduction, Past District Governor Frankie Roman. And, thank you, again, for having nominated me for this most challenging, and honorable position of President of this Rotary Club, the first in Asia. Our Guest of Honor and Inducting Officer, The Honorable Reynato S. Puno, Chief Justice (Retired) of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and to all Masons, the Most Worshipful Past Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons in the Grand Jurisdiction of the Philippines; The Honorable Jejomar Binay, Vice President of the Philippines and the best Mayor of  the City of Makati; The Honorable Alfredo Lim, Mayor of the City of Manila, a dedicated member and benefactor of this Club; Past Rotary International Director Rafael Hechanova, a pillar of Rotary; District Governor Ernie Choa and his lovely Lady, the officers of Rotary International District 3810, and my fellow Changemaker Presidents - and not the least, my loving wife, Ting. I wish you all a pleasant evening! To this special occasion, our Club’s 92nd Induction and Inaugural Night, I welcome all of you, our friends and guests from other civic or service associations, from the business and government sectors,  my fellow Rotarians, my colleagues, acquaintances and specially the rest  of my family who are seated around that there table. Let me first introduce my daughter Betty Ann C. Martinez and her three siblings – Luigi, Bea and Nicholo, and Leny Feliciano the then constant companion of my son Bernie, who was Past President of the RC of Santa Mesa Manila. Again, to one and all, welcome! The Manila Rotary Club has been around for almost a century and is known to be the oldest and then the largest in Asia. That explains why those who served in its high offices before me were among the most esteemed civic and business leaders in the country up until today. Considering their professional expertise and long years of immersion in civic leadership their track record is definitely a tough act to follow. That is true in the case of my immediate predecessor, brother Rotarian Gert Gust, who has spent the best years of his life leading us in a journey to the fulfillment of our common vision. May I therefore, express my deep appreciation and thanks to him for his leadership and all his brilliant contributions to our common pursuits. Unfortunately, he cannot be here tonight due to a lingering illness. He is now at home after being confined at the Makati Medical Center, and my hope is that he will recover speedily and be up and about the soonest time possible.  
  1. In Praise of Our Great Leaders
  In fact, our club has been blessed with more than a handful of good leaders, prominent members and a long array of professional competencies in every area of civic endeavors. This is not to mention the logistical and financial resources that come from the hands of our generous members. In its pioneering years the Rotary Club of Manila pursued such major projects as the establishment of the Community Chest which for many decades provided funding for legitimate community projects. The Club has many other humanitarian projects, which we have written in our Souvenir Program for tonight’s affair. We aim to pursue more of the same and God-willing initiate new programs that are similarly envisioned to help other needy communities around us. It is for the same reason that I deem it important for our club to begin thinking about establishing its permanent home. Over the last many years our club has been renting space in Ermita, Manila for our office. Only recently we built our office on a lot of the City of Manila, courtesy of our very own Mayor Alfredo Lim. Hence, in behalf of our Club let me extend to him our thanks and appreciation for it. I believe it is about time we build our physical plant on our own lot and give our club the symbol of dignity and personality it deserves. If we start now, we still have ample time to do it and have our own building blessed and inaugurated during our forthcoming centenary in 2019. Eight years from now, the Rotary Club of Manila will be 100 years old.  It is not too early to plan for the observance of its centennial anniversary in 2019, which could possibly bring to the Philippines the Rotary International Convention.  Our Centenary Committee chaired by Past District Governor Vince Carlos has been studying that possibility. Let’s all give him the support he needs to realize this dream.  
  1. Recognizing Filipino Genius at Its Best
Of course, we are not just concerned with civic and charity projects. We are also into giving honor and due recognition to servant leaders in our country who excel in their respective areas of professional engagements.  Only recently, for example, our club through its Journalism Awards Committee chaired by Rtn Past President Rod Reyes, proudly gave honor and awards to a group of multi-media practitioners for their great contributions to the field of broadcast and literary journalism, highlighting freedom of speech and the press in our country. It was our way of bestowing appreciation and due recognition to outstanding individuals who have proven themselves worthy of emulation by many others in that same area of endeavor. In like manner for employees in the private sector worthy to be role models in their respective areas of work, we have (The Outstanding Workers and Employees of the Republic) or Tower Awards, and to help develop our country’s tourism and travel industry our Tourism Awards. This year I would like to take the lead in instituting a new flagship project—the National Award on the Most Beneficial Scientific Invention or Discovery, which addresses in substantial ways the legitimate and urgent needs of our time. I believe the practitioners of scientific research/ in this country are under obligation to come up with clear proposals or inventions that may lead to the solution of our most pressing problems, say, in environment, energy,  food production  and technology, and others.  One of the very first acts of my administration is the creation of a search committee  that would formulate  the criteria/ for screening and judging  the deserving awardee.  I  invite you  to look  at our backdrop  at the back  of  the headtable as we unveil  our logo for the Scientific Inventions and Discoveries Awards or SIDA to launch the Project !!  (The curtain at the right end of the backdrop is drawn open) III. The Rotary Club as Key Partner in Nation-Building The Rotary Club, true to its vision and avowed commitment, can be an effective vehicle of change and an answer to the country’s nagging problems. It is not our intention to duplicate the work of government, but since we believe that we have a moral obligation to help change society and make essential contributions to uplifting the lives of the unfortunate ones, it behooves us to pursue parallel efforts that can bring such goals into fruition. This pro-active stance is not only a vision that would later prove to be too remote and void of realism. Quite the contrary, it is reasonably doable and laudable for a civic organization like ours that is widely reputed for its commitment to poverty alleviation and authentic change in the larger society.  Every government, as a matter of fact, seeks close partnership with civic leaders and social organizations that share the same vision the government preaches. The reason is simple, since the civic leaders are, more often than not, deeply concerned with the growing problems in social life they cannot simply choose to fold their hands and ignore them, for such a stance would only make matters worse until no one or no government agency is strong enough to stop them. Doing nothing at a time when committed and informed action is called for, is the greatest disservice we can do to our country and people—and that is the exact opposite of the beliefs and foundational principles of Rotary.
  1. The Need for Unity
I am sure there are far too many worthy endeavors that we can pursue and in so doing reach as many indigent families as our resources allow. But all these require that we get our act together and ensure that the commitment of every member remains intact. That is a challenge that we as Rotarians face on a daily basis and it will be so for as long as we aim at higher and greater achievements in the years to come. Towards this end, we have adopted as our theme “Together for Mankind” and a logo showing Rotarians linked together to serve humanity. Again, please look up to our backdrop as we unveil our logo and theme for this Rotary Year. (The curtain at the left end of the backdrop is drawn open.) It is easy to build a whole program of action and a long line of priority projects that can benefit the lives of so many poor and needy people around us. The hard part however is to get our act together and in the absence of it, not even the simplest endeavors can be called a real success. As the prominent author, H. E. Luccock used to say, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” A club like ours is like an orchestra. As a large orchestra we cannot rely merely on the violin or the piano to perform the entire symphony. A perfect harmony is possible only when every instrument contributes to the overall performance and any exception would mean our kind of music deserves no praise from any listener. The office to which you have just installed me would be of no value and bereft of meaning if this entire body of Manila Rotarians refuses to unite and fails to consolidate its own ranks. Somehow what we need is to develop the spirit of teamwork among us and believe that each member of the team is too important to be ignored or seen in isolation from the rest of us.  Teamwork, according to someone, divides the task and multiplies success. In other words, division if at all a given reality in any organization should apply only to the tasks and duties assigned to individual members and not to the varied loyalties and hidden agenda of a few. This harmony is exemplified in the teamwork, dynamism and dedication of our Inaugural Committee headed by Rtn Past President Boy Ampil with Rtn Ces Ubaldo, another Past President, VP Frank Evaristo, Rtns Gus Fajardo, Mark Humphries, Rudy Bediones, George Salazar, Jim Chua, Chito Tagaysay, Albert Alday and not the least Past District Governor Frankie Roman, as Adviser and Protocol Officer, that made this affair possible and a success. The Committee will please rise!! To them I salute and extend my sincerest appreciation, congratulation and thanks. Let’s all give them a resounding round of applause. Likewise, I extend my thanks to all our supportive members and our Secretariat for a job well done.
  1. A Lesson from the Good Book
In religion the matter of unity in every institution is a fundamental mandate. The Lord Jesus Christ, in one of his best teachings during his time told his audience: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12: 25). This particular teaching applies directly to civic clubs like ours which quite often go through the pain of disunity if not a case of worsening conflict within the ranks of its leaders and their larger constituencies. Such problem when neglected and ignored would lay all our best efforts to waste. When one’s leadership is perennially threatened and challenged by disunity and loss of a common bond it is headed towards failure and the sure disruption of its avowed goals.  This is one thing that you and I cannot allow to happen. And so I now knock at the hearts of every Rotarian and friend present here tonight to help our new leadership break new grounds in forging a stronger and a truly united Rotary Club. As Henry Ford aptly puts it:   Coming together is a beginning;                       Keeping together is progress;                                       Working together is success!   Maraming salamat po!   Mabuhay ang kilusang Rotary!

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