What an amazing experience we have had in San Diego!  Kevin and I ( DGE Gillian Jones), along with the five other New Zealand based incoming Governors and their partners, spent an exciting week of training and camaraderie with DGEs and partners from around the world, becoming inspired to take Rotary into the future. Our incoming Rotary International President, Holgar Knaack (standing to the left of  DGE Gillian, top left photo!) from Germany, is a very warm and personable leader who passionately encouraged us that Rotary open opportunities.
Throughout the week we heard from numerous international Rotary leaders that the Rotary of the future needs to be different from the traditional Rotary model that many of us have grown up with.  While some of our current ways of thinking and operating are still relevant, we were encouraged to be innovative in thinking about how best we create a Rotary that will attract a membership base to carry us into the future.  Rotary International now allows us, in fact encourages us, to encourage existing Clubs to look at themselves and assess what might need to change in order that they are attractive to new members, retain their current members and meet their community’s needs.  We are also being encouraged to look at new Club models and be bold in starting new Clubs that might meet a different need in a community than that of an existing Club – not to be competitive, but to widen access to Rotary. There’s room for us all!  Rotaract representatives took part in the last three days of the Assembly and their input into discussions enabled us to explore ways Rotaract can contribute to the new shape of Rotary.  These key themes and more will be discussed at various forums over the next few months.
Some highlights of our week certainly focused on the internationality of Rotary!  It was so exciting to be in the same vast room as 1500 other passionate Rotarians from around 200 countries, demonstrating the way Rotary connects the world. Apart from the daily general sessions to all delegates on a range of topics, we had several breakout sessions each day where we had the opportunity to sit around a table of 15 to 20 people and work through key topics in detail.  Partners had their own programme of relevant sessions. Each session saw us mixing with people from many other nationalities so headsets were used for translation. I was struck by the fact that, although people clearly had very different Rotary experiences, we all shared similar challenges and issues that we needed to plan for.  The world really is a small place….
Each evening brought the opportunity to connect socially and the Grand March was an amazing spectacle of colour and pride in culture.  We Kiwis took part in the March, proudly wearing black skirts/ trousers with colourful paua inspired tops and scarves for the women while our guys looked resplendent in black trousers with ties with a Maori motif. We Governors’ Elect proudly showed off our new Governor jackets.
The Cultural evening provided the opportunity for selected countries to entertain with a short presentation.  We were given the opportunity and sang two waiata, while wearing tee shirts emblazoned with a large silver fern.  It was a daunting experience! 
Our partners too contributed to the international experience through setting up a New Zealand table at the Cultural Exchange event.  Here they shared Kiwi memorabilia and fielded many queries from people around the world who wanted to know more about our country. There was a great buzz in the air and colour as again people dressed in beautiful national costumes. 
The week has absolutely inspired me to carry Holgar Knaack’s message of optimism and opportunity home to our District and I look forward sharing that message with you all over the next 18 months!
ROTARY OPENS OPPORTUNITES!  What does that mean for you?
 Gillian Jones DGE District 9940