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Rotary International’s President Gary C.K. Huang: Building a bigger and brighter Rotary

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In a recent trip to Philadelphia, Rotary International’s President Gary C.K. Huang threw out the first pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Hosted by Rotarians in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, the event honored the new President, who is currently touring Rotary Clubs around the world.

Huang is Rotary’s first Chinese president, and this year hopes to build a bigger and brighter Rotary family.

“Sometimes we forget to invite our own spouses, partners or family; we just think we should invite other people,” he says about his plan to increase the number of Rotary members from 1.2 to 1.3 million. Rotary International’s President Gary C.K. Huang: Building a bigger and brighter Rotary

“Go with your family and children and have fun together and do good things together. I think this is the best education for the second generation that teaches them how to help people, and let them know when you’re helping other people, you feel good too.”  

That goal perfectly coincides with his presidential theme, Light Up Rotary, inspired by the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius, who said “It is better to light a single candle, than to sit and curse the darkness.”

Light Up Rotary isn’t just a theme. Huang truly believes it’s a way of life for Rotarians who work to make a difference every day. Not only in their clubs and districts, but in the countries where they serve.

“This world has so many problems and so many people need help, but many people sit there and do nothing, so everything stays dark,” he explains.

“As a Rotarian, if each of us lights up a single candle—1.2 million Rotarians all light one—then all together, we can light up the world.”

Currently, he’s bringing that message to Rotary clubs across the globe, including the United States, Argentina, Chile, France, India, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and his home city of Taipei.

While Huang’s new title with Rotary International officially began July 1, his role has been one in the making for the past six decades. Although it was a long journey with many obstacles to overcome, Huang was destined to become a Rotarian.

Born in Fujian, a province in southern China, Huang’s family was unhappy with the communists who were taking over the country. They fled during the civil war, eventually settling in Taiwan in 1947. His first experience with Rotary came when he was a just teenager, and his high school nominated him for outstanding service.  

“That was my first time attending a Rotary Club meeting,” he recalls. “All the people I saw, they didn’t know me, but I recognized them—they were famous.  I saw them in the local newspaper or television. They all spoke good English and very high-level of society. I said one day I would like to be a member like that and to serve.”

After graduating from high school, Huang served in the Army for two years and then studied in the United States. He is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and holds a MBA from the College of Insurance in New York.

Established in the business world and back in Taiwan, fate stepped in when Huang was working with a client who asked if he wanted to attend a local club meeting.

“I really forgot about what the club meeting was for Rotary. But when I walked in, I found out that’s the club I attended before, but they changed the location,” he recalls. “I said ‘Wow, this is my dream and I want to attend’ so I kept going.”Rotary International’s President Gary C.K. Huang: Building a bigger and brighter Rotary

In the 1970’s, times were very different, and it was difficult to secure an invitation to join Rotary. But despite being rejected three times, Huang was steadfast and never wavered from his dream.

“I worked hard,” Huang remembers. “It was difficult after nine months and every week they said, ‘Oh, you still have not joined?’ they were joking but I felt embarrassed. However, I stayed very patient and got it! Finally, I became the youngest member and I worked very hard.”

He quickly rose up the Rotary ranks, becoming Rotary International Director, Vice President, Rotary Foundation Trustee and now, President. Along the way, he also wrote a book called Finding Solutions, Not Excuses, a motto he lives by both personally and professionally.

“I try to tell the young generation—especially new Rotarians—that there are always challenges or problems in front of us, but if you do not reach what you want, that means you have not yet found the right solution,” he explains.

“Continue to try—never give up. The time you waste to complain or if you give up and say it’s hopeless, that means you’ll never reach your final goal. But if you realize that there’s a possibility, there’s a right way waiting for you. And once you keep going and work hard, that opportunity will come and your goal will be completed and reached.”

Rotary continues to look for solutions to solve problems plaguing the world today. That selfless momentum is currently seen in the numerous humanitarian projects the Rotary Foundation supports. For decades, Rotary has been a leader in the fight against polio. And to date, the organization is on track to achieve full polio eradication by 2018.

Celebrating 109 years, Rotary has become one of the world’s leading service organizations. As for Huang, he plans to accomplish his goals to make Rotary bigger and brighter by applying the same strategy he used to join Rotary—perseverance in finding the right solution to succeed.

Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. You can also catch Veronica on Me-TV.  Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook

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