Rotary’s ‘Service above self’

POINT OF VIEW - Alberto G. Romulo - The Philippine Star

Today I am truly overwhelmed and overjoyed. With this extraordinary outpouring of bonhomie, goodwill and fellowship, my cup is full and overflowing.

This happy occasion reminds me of Charlie Chaplin who lived up to his late 80s. Asked how he managed to reach his late 80s, Charlie Chaplin reportedly said that his best doctors were – laughter, family and friends.

This noon as I celebrate with you my 90th birthday, all these three are present here in abundance – laughter, family and friends. First and foremost, I wish to thank president Raffy for the honor and privilege of the best birthday gathering we have received in a long long time. I want to thank each of you in this assembly for your gracious and warm welcome to me and my wife from the moment we arrived.

I’m truly proud to be a Rotarian. And I am grateful beyond words to Rotary. Rotary introduced me to its 4-Way Test and to the wonderful world of service – of “service above self.” Service to our fellow men, service to our communities and service to our country.

Rotary’s 4-way test is biblical – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you:

Rotary’s Test no. 1 – I will always uphold the truth.

Rotary’s Test no. 2 – I will always strive to be fair in all my dealings with my fellow men.

Rotary’s Test no. 3 – I will always endeavor to build good will and understanding in my community, among my countrymen and among people of all nations.

Rotary’s Test no. 4 – I will always seek to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the spirit of rotary service.

“Service above self” and Rotary’s 4-Way Test have been my lodestar throughout my career in government and in public service – in the Senate, foreign affairs, finance and as executive secretary.

Forty-five years ago, in 1978, I was elected by you as RCM’s 59th president. 1978 also coincided with Rotary’s Diamond Anniversary in Asia and in the Philippines. For RCM was Rotary’s first club not only in the Philippines but in all of Asia as well.

During my presidency in 1978, I met and was friends with many RCM presidents. The careers of these RCM presidents stood out as inspiration to me in the public positions I later held and occupied.

Among these RCM presidents are: Senate President Gil Puyat who was RCM’s 23rd president in 1940 and then 25th in 1945; Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo who was RCM president in 1935; Finance Secretary Eduardo Romualdez who was RCM president in 1953-1954; Executive Secretary Emilio Abello who was RCM president in 1961-1962.

Little did I know then that one day in my lifetime I would be holding positions in the legislative and executive departments that RCM’s presidents Senator Gil Puyat, General Romulo, Secretaries Romualdez and Abello had held with great distinction, fame and honor.

During my RCM presidency in 1978, all of them – presidents Gil Puyat, Carlos Romulo, Eduardo Romualdez and Emilio Abello – were still active in Rotary.

Indeed, during our Diamond Anniversary celebration in 1978, they were generous with their time and they would attend, join and grace our functions and meetings.

In the spirit of fellowship, I visited each of our past presidents in their offices and homes. In turn they would invite me to join them, their families and friends.

When he met with his fellow senators, Senator Puyat usually included me among his guests, either at his home or in his office.

General Romulo invited me and my wife to dinners he tendered for visiting foreign ministers and dignitaries, a number of whom I later met when I was foreign secretary.

On occasion, Secretary Abello would ask me to join him in his office for meetings, conferences or personal talks. The same with Secretary Romualdez, who would call me to join him from time to time.

Later the time came when I finally occupied the positions they had held − in the Senate where I was Majority Leader; in the DFA as Foreign Secretary; in the DOF as Finance Secretary and in Malacañang as Executive Secretary.

Even when they were gone and no longer with us, I continued to remember each of them as model, inspiration and lodestar.

Before I conclude, let me mention a major event during my residency in 1978. As president I initiated and launched the TOWER Awards to honor the Ten Outstanding Workers of our country. Since 1978, the TOWER Awards has been RCM‘s annual presentation to our country and our people.

Fellow Rotarians, today let us again dedicate ourselves to the ideals of Rotary – to the 4-Way Test and to “service above self.”

Those who started Rotary here and abroad were all dreamers and visionaries. They built with vision an enduring and international edifice of understanding, humanitarianism, fellowship and goodwill. They dared to dream that through the ideal of service, they could lift the burdens, improve the lot and enrich the lives of men and nations and thereby build a better life and a better world for all of us. Let us continue to pursue this vision. Let us continue to pursue this dream. Until we prevail.

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