Fellow Rotarians in District 7950
A few short months ago I wrote to you inviting you to join me in reflecting about the current state of affairs in our country.  It was a difficult moment when I felt a sense of urgency to call on you, the members of my Rotary family to hear my plea to add your voices to those expressing concern about the pattern of social injustice against segments of our society.

Sadly, that pattern of injustice has continued and its impact on other populations in our community is becoming apparent.  Our sensibilities are continually assaulted as we hear reports of peace-loving Asian American men and women attacked and beaten only because they are Asian and demeaned with insults as though they are not Americans.  Or the rising Anti-Semitic insults and attacks in the streets and in synagogues and even in schools now becoming revealed, these against our fellow Americans who are a part of the Jewish Community in our country.
 I cannot be silent and look passively on and allow these atrocities to continue without at the very least saying out loud - “This is not okay!”

It’s not okay to witness a 65-year-old Asian woman beaten and then to close the door as she lay bleeding and broken in the street outside your door.  It’s not okay to know that a coach of high school students allowed students to use anti-Semitic language as a tool to build their self-esteem inferring their superiority over people of Jewish descent.  It’s not okay that a Black and Latin X member of our armed forces, a lieutenant in uniform, with arms stretched out to confirm there is no threat, is accosted and pepper sprayed because he was not compliant - no wonder he was afraid to exit his car.  It’s not okay that an Asian American man trying to reach home was attacked on public transportation and told he did not belong here.  It’s not okay!  It’s just not okay!

Although most of the members of District 7950 consider themselves Rotarians of European descent, in our ranks we have Rotarians of Asian descent, Rotarians of Middle Eastern descent, Rotarians of the LGBTQ community, Rotarians of Latin X Descent, Rotarians of African descent, Rotarians who are Jewish and Moslem and Christian and on, and on – all are Americans and people of good will and People of Action.  How would we respond if one of our members was attacked because of her/his race, religion or preference or told they didn’t belong here?

I suggest as Rotarians we have a well-earned reputation in our communities and if we connect our service so respected with expressions of dissatisfaction with what is occurring around us, we can make a huge difference contributing to the public discourse.  One example of a Rotary Club in our district which has taken this charge is the Rotary Club of Duxbury.  In the aftermath of sweeping protest around the world following the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, a member of that club spoke to his fellow Rotarians expressing concern that there existed a need to speak about conditions in their own community that appeared to condone bias.  The club began a journey that has attracted new members and active collaboration with other like-minded organizations.  They created a not-for-Profit initiative called “Prejudice Free Duxbury” recently renamed “Duxbury for All” and opened a discussion in the town that has won the admiration of town officials and residents alike.  Congratulations to the Rotary Club of Duxbury!

As a member of the leadership Team of District 7950 and as the Chair of the District Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, I urge you to make this a topic of discussion in your club meeting.  If we are to respond to the call of Rotary International to make our organization one that is welcoming to all and to expand our ranks including people of varying backgrounds, we cannot remain silent as the very people we seek to engage are victimized in the very communities in which we live and work.

While you and your club may not attempt such an intensive effort like the Duxbury Club, you can offer your voice of concern in many forums both virtual and in person without wading into partisan politics.  To simply state I stand for equity, for a community where all feel safe and can belong is powerful and will signal and reflect what we as Rotarians stand for.
District Governor Charlene Jarest, District Governor Nominee David Sampson, and District Governor Nominee Designate Angela Ponte join me in sharing these sentiments.

Thank you for your courageous and thoughtful consideration and continued selfless service in the world.
Dr. William (Billy) Roberts
District 7950 Governor 2021 – 2022
Rotary Club of Barnstable Sunrise