by Greg Hill


A full house at the Topeka Country Club witnessed Rotary International President Ron Burton from Norman, Oklahoma deliver one of his very first speeches during his term in office.  Burton spoke to the Topeka Rotary Club on July 18th to a special joint meeting of the Topeka Downtown Rotary Club and other Topeka and area clubs.


“We’re so excited to have this opportunity to be the President of Rotary International,” Burton said during his remarks. “I stopped and I thought of this when someone brought it to my attention, but they said, ‘you are in the line that was started by Paul Harris.’  That kind of puts it in perspective.”

Burton, accompanied by his wife Jetta, was in Topeka at the invitation of Washburn University President and friend, Dr. Jerry Farley and Past Topeka Rotary Club President Blanche Parks.

“We were in Bangkok and I was introduced to Ron Burton and I invited him to come to our meeting,” Parks said.  “Across the world in Bangkok, I invited a Rotarian from Norman, Oklahoma to come to Topeka, Kansas to speak.”

Burton acknowledged that the office of President of Rotary International is not about him; it’s about the position and the honor bestowed upon those who have served since Paul Harris. 

“I tell people all the time that I’m happy to have my picture taken with you, but I’m smart enough to realize that in two years, nobody will want their picture taken with me,” said Burton to the laughter of the nearly 250 in attendance.  “They won’t remember who I was or what I did.”

Burton spoke of his theme for 2013-2014, Engage Rotary, Change Lives and his belief that Rotarians are blessed to have the opportunity to serve in such a wonderful organization.

“I believe that we as Rotarians are a very blessed group of people and we need to share that blessing with others,” he said.

Part of sharing that blessing comes with how Rotarians interact with new members and engage current members.

“Just because you get them in the club you are not finished with them at all,” Burton said.  “You need to mentor that person, you’ve got to get them engaged, you’ve got to give them something to do to keep them involved in Rotary.”

Burton said he once tried to terminate his membership in the Norman, OK, club because they didn’t keep him engaged about eighteen months after he joined.

“They were smart enough not to really terminate me,” Burton said.  “They asked me to chair the Rotary Foundation the next year because they thought he had some expertise in dealing with foundations.”

Burton asked the audience to look at the many things that Rotarians have to offer as individuals and seek to engage them to become more involved.  Otherwise, they run the risk of letting members slip away.