January 19, 2018
Dear Rotarians,
I am just finishing a book by a professor Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame University entitled “Why Liberalism Failed”. This is not an attack on progressive politics. In using the term “liberalism” Dr. Deneen is rather referring to a philosophy first articulated by Machiavelli during the Renaissance and later developed by John Locke during the enlightenment. Dr. Deneen’s thesis is that this cult of the individual born in the Renaissance, nurtured through the enlightenment, and coming to maturity in today’s Western culture is the source of present damage to our cultural institutions, inequitable divisions of wealth among our citizens, and significant destruction to our environment. He opines that the emphasis on individual freedom unconstrained by corresponding concern for a person’s place in and responsibilities to culture and society has been the source of the dysfunction which we are presently experiencing in our country.
I mention this book not as an endorsement for his thesis or a recommendation of his book, but rather because it reinforces my feelings about the importance of Rotary in our society and in the world. I do share Dr. Deneen’s concern about a prevailing sense of dissatisfaction among many people, and particularly among young people about conditions as they exist today. Many young people seem frustrated at the lack of opportunity that lies before them. Too much emphasis is put on material accumulation, frustrating those who feel that they are unable to achieve financial security, but often leaving those who accumulate wealth lacking satisfaction for their achievement. There is a prevailing feeling of emptiness among many in our communities.

Rotary provides a connection between people within a community that will always be a source of satisfaction and happiness. Whether one is serving a Meal on Wheels to the elderly, guiding people through a haunted house, or handing out scholarship money at the local school, the act of extending a helping hand to others always provides a connection that warms the heart and provides a sense of fulfillment. Rotary also affords a special opportunity to educate our children in the values that we cherish. When our sons and daughters accompany us as we deliver meals or flip pancakes they experience the fun in contributing to the welfare of others. They see the joy in the faces of the people affected by our efforts.

Perhaps I should write Professor Deneen a letter and encourage him to join his local Rotary Club. It may give him some hope for the future of the society that he otherwise feels is in a state of dissipation. In any case, as you go forward in this Rotary Year, jump in and participate. Take your children with you and have fun.

Yours truly,
District Governor Ralph Smith