Rotary Club of Belfast

RIBI President Burman's Address st the Centenary Gala Dinner

dinner 9In a hugely entertaining keynote address at the Centenary Dinner,Thursday 15 September 2011,  RIBI President Burman recognized the work done by the Club in the last 100 years both locally and internationally. He thanked the Club on behalf of the 1000's and 1000's of people whose lives the Club had changed and saved and who have never heard of the Belfast Club. Click on image to view.

He gave some insight as to how Rotary had changed his life and he asked all members this year to pass on the gift of membership. On an outside wall at Chicago University is a quote which he thought summed up what celebrating our 100th birthday really means, by Margaret Mead, author and Nobel Prize Winner it says (paraphrased) 'A small group of people can change the world and frequently do'. He stated that the Belfast Club was that small group of people which for 100 years has changed lives as members of the greatest service organization in the world and he looked forward to the next century of service by Rotarians in Belfast.

As a retired senior policeman of the Metropolitan Police I thought I would share with you just one little story which sort of set me on the road to being your national President.

It was my first arrest and I want you to picture the scene. I was a young officer number 614 (we had collar numbers in those days) and I started night duty. They never addressed you by your first name in those days, so I came into the big old Victorian Police Station and I paraded with my cape and my helmet and I was told "614, tango 1, backs". Tango 1 – meant foot patrol and backs meant that for 8 hours that night I had to check the back of the premises to make sure they weren't broken into. Got the scene? I came out of the Police Station, turned left and started my beat, maybe walked 500yds down the road and there lying in the gutter, absolutely drunk, was a man and I remembered the definition from my training school - drunk and incapable. So, I stood him up and took him to the police station. Now, in the Police Station was Sergeant Thompson, Sergeant Thompson then had 33 years in the police service but nobody told me he hated two things: probation police officers and drunks.....Sergeant Thompson never looked up and at the big old Victorian desk he would write the charge sheet. I walked in and said 'good evening Sergeant, 614 Burman Tango1 backs, proceeding in a westerly direction.... I saw this man drunk and incapable so I arrested him and brought him in. Sergeant Thompson looked up and he said "How did he get here boy?" I said well he walked. "He's not incapable then is he? Take him back". So I learned about the 4 Way Test very early!

I wear the Chain of the RIBI President, not as many names on it as your President's chain, but we have something in common – all these names on the Chains and I am mindful of Sir Isaac Newton's comment made famous by Martin Luther King Jn which said: "I see further because I stand on the shoulders of Giants" and there are many giant's names on my and on his chain and I am mindful that there are many giants in this world. And that is really is what we are here to celebrate. We are here to celebrate a significant event of Rotary, particularly in Ireland.

Can you all remember the very famous photograph of the very first Rotary meeting 23 February 1905, Room 711, Unity Buildings Chicago? Paul Harris our founder – the first four members? You know the photo. We have four at the first meeting can anyone tell me how many of the 4 attended the second meeting 2 weeks later? - 2 – so retention of new members has always been a problem in Rotary! Also I might point out that there were no minutes of that 1st meeting because the Secretary didn't bother to write them and didn't turn up for the 2nd. As far as the world is concerned there is nothing new in Rotary.

Can all Rotarians in the room please put one hand up, leave your hand up if you can remember the person who asked you to join Rotary, leave your hand up if you can remember the President who inducted you into Rotary, leave your hand up if you can remember the name of the RIBI President the year you joined Rotary!... The significant message is that the RIBI President isn't the most important person in the room.

The message is simple. Somebody gave you a great gift, the gift of membership of the greatest service organisation this world has ever seen. They invited you to join Rotary. A simple question for you this year would you please this year, all of you, pass this gift on? Just ask somebody to come and join because we are the best kept secret we are the best service organisation. Thank you for that.

Rotary has changed my life. I left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications and in 1979 I was walking the beat as a local bobby. The local Rotary Club asked me to go and speak at their lunchtime meeting. (I actually thought I was going to speak to the Lions!) 2 weeks later two of these gentlemen walked up the path to the police house I was in and they said we'd like to send you on a Group Study Exchange. So I said how long? –they said 6 weeks – I said where to? – They said Rio de Janeiro – I said how much? – They said nothing – I said I'll go twice! When I was selected I was the only one on that team that didn't have a degree, I was the only one on the team that was not a professional and I went to Brazil for 6 weeks and it fundamentally changed my life. In 1995 I was asked to join Rotary and in 2003/4 I thought I'm the District Governor and I am going to have a GSE team in this year and we did from Sri Lanka. I'll do more than that I thought I'll ask the Club to support a village of 30 houses at $1000 each for the displaced people from the war, which will matched by RI- a dream village which became 145 houses, 2 schools and a playschool – because that's what you do Rotarians.

2 years later after the tsunami I went out to Sri Lanka to open these villages and you can imagine the proceedings and from this corner here a young lady, 17 years of age, Christina - nothing to do with the proceedings, came over and dropped to her knees and kissed my feet. Through the interpreter I found out that Christina was a member of the fishing community and the tsunami had killed every single one of her family. She was on the beach the day after the tsunami literally surrounded with dead bodies with her twin babes in arms and the 1st person to come along that beach was a Rotarian with milk for her babies and she wanted to say thank you. That is when I realised why I was a Rotarian, that's when I realised what the Rotary Foundation does. It changed my life, it changed the lives of those people in those villages and it changed her life. And that's what we in Rotary do – we change and save lives. That's what this Club has been doing for 100 yrs. I was trying to work out how many hours of service that represents - at least, at least 5,000+ weekly meetings plus Club council meetings. Service - thousands and thousands and thousands hours of service that you have given, supported of course, by our wives and partners and friends and children. There are 1000's and 1000's of people out there don't know your name, they have never heard of you or your Rotary Club yet you have saved their lives and on their behalf can I thank you. Can I thank you because that's what Rotary does.

On the outside wall at Chicago University is a quote which I think sums up what celebrating your 100th birthday really means; its by Margaret Mead, author and Nobel Prize Winner, and it says (paraphrased) "A small group of people can change the world and frequently do".

You are that small group of people, you have for 100 years changed lives, you are the most amazing people I'm so honoured to be able to come here this evening and on their behalf thank you for what you are doing.

Thank you, Mr President, for inviting me, thank you for including me in a great birthday party. Please, please carry on with the wonderful service you have been giving.

Thank you all very much.

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