July 9, 2020

Letter from 2020-21 Club President, Benjamin Votteler

 Inaugural speech, July 8, 2020 

I am very happy to welcome so many members and guests today! Welcome to the Rotary E-Club of Wall Street! 

It is a great honor for me to help shape the coming year as your club president. I have to admit, I’m both a little nervous and excited! Our last year was extremely successful, we have communicated a lot about our achievements on social media in the past few weeks and also in our last meeting. Linking to THESE successes will be a challenge, BUT the new board under my leadership is very happy to accept it. At this point I would once again like to thank the board of 2019-20!

JASON GONZALEZ, President
MIKE VENY, Vice President
HAROUN ALI , Treasurer
WILM KEMPER, Secretary
SUSANNE GELLERT, Director of Service Projects & Community Engagement
JAN HOLZ, Director of Membership, Immediate Past President
THOMAS RUDY, Foundation Chair

Please give a big applause! 

I have long thought about what our goals should be for this year. At this point I would like to thank all participants in our surveys. The results, as promised, have been incorporated into the goals for this year. 

There are so many ideas and there are so many needs both in our communities and in the WORLD. We are a truly international club. There is not just this one community in which we can be active, even if New York and our district naturally make all of us feel at home. I myself live and work in Germany, which is quite far from Wall Street! When I was asked by Susanne two years ago whether I could imagine becoming a member of this wonderful club, I knew about Rotary but I was not familiar with the concept of an e-club. In the end it was in fact ONE of the reasons WHY I decided to join. 

Since then I have never regretted my membership, it has been two great years! And also my first two years as a Rotarian. I never thought that our meetings would make me feel at home since we only meet online – even before Corona. I guess the reason for me feeling home is – next to the spirit of Rotary – you, our club members. And from my point of view THIS is the BASIS for all the big things that we can pursue and achieve together in the future. The feeling of friendship, the joy of working together to plan and implement projects and thus achieve the goals we set ourselves. 

Let’s chat more often this year and start talking EVEN about private matters. Let us not forget that our membership in this club should be fun and can be a very special social and business network of its own. I still don’t know exactly what EVERYONE of you does professionally, how your families are doing, what your hobbies are! This year, I would like to promote getting to know each other better, both in our regular ZOOM meetings AND through additional social events. 

Rather than setting a specific target for increasing the number of our members, we should rather think about how to grow in a sustainable way. Let‘s focus on keeping CURRENT members engaged and INCREASING overall engagement and THEN adding new members who are the right fit for our club. 

I have to give special praise for the selection of speakers in our meetings so far – what an added value for everyone who joined! I like to think of our great panel discussions. Thanks again to Nick for being a wonderful host and moderator! At the same time, I would like to see more of OUR club members willing to speak on a topic this year. Give us insights into your exciting industries, introduce us to your own business, report from your home town and your communities. it doesn’t have to be more than 10 minutes, you will probably not even need a presentation. I’m sure the audience will be very interested in what you have to say. We want to promote this exchange even more and will therefore provide the framework for it. 

Let‘s run service projects ALSO in THOSE communities where YOU and your families live, in your neighborhood. Whenever Susanne called for our service projects in New York City, I was a little jealous, I must admit. I would have loved to help and be part of the group that gives out food to the homeless or gives Christmas presents to children from a difficult background. I think of the wonderful photos you always share in our group chat. 

I want us as a club to partner with other Rotary clubs and local institutions more OFTEN to make a difference locally. I would like, at least for those of you who wish, that we offer our own or joint service projects even beyond the borders of New York City and our district. I can tell you, when we handed over our hygiene kits and masks for the homeless and people without health insurance here in Hamburg, as part of an international COVID-19 response project, it felt so fulfilling. The magic of making a difference and seeing the result and the joy is something very special. Our club will be happy to help you get in touch with local partners. 

Even if I live far away, I will try to continue networking in our District (Rotary District 7230). We are looking forward to working closely with our DG Mary Shackleton and our AG Wayne Charles, two extraordinary Rotarians and friends of your E-Club! Our neighboring clubs also have many great ideas that we can help with and the other way around. COVID-19 forces those traditional Rotary clubs to meet online. This is a chance for us to invite each other to meetings and get to know each other more EASILY. Let us connect! 

Most of you will surely remember our entrepreneurship camp in Haiti a couple of years ago. What a great project! Since then Haiti has never let go of us. Only recently did an alumni of this camp decide to switch their production from backpacks to masks – with success! And we supported it. One of our members, Albert, has been busy planning the construction of a primary school building in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We will continue to support this project! 

Overall, our club is very interested in supporting education and the development of future leaders. There are many ways to achieve this. Without revealing too much today, I can tell you we will be presenting new ideas in the coming weeks on how (theoretically) all of our members, no matter where they live, can contribute. Even fellow Rotarians and Rotaractors from our District can play an essential role. You will hear about it soon. 

I learned a lot about the many ways of fundraising and utilizing grants last year. Our first online wine tasting in Germany was a success. Incidentally, this event was also an opportunity to get to know each other personally. I found the idea of our friends in Haiti to organize a virtual charity concert very inspiring. After all, over 100,000 viewers have tuned in. Both the wine tasting and the live concert are different formats, but serve the purpose of collecting money for a good cause AND at the same time having a very nice evening ONLINE. Let‘s do MORE of that! 

The new president of Rotary International, Holger Knaack, by the way a member of a German Rotary Club in the neighborhood of Hamburg, revealed the 2020-21 Presidential Theme, Rotary Opens Opportunities, at the Rotary International Assembly in San Diego. He said “Everything we do opens another opportunity for someone, somewhere“. For our members, this motto should mean being able to develop personally and to build international relationships. For all of us including the beneficiaries of our projects, the aim is to improve lives, and create a better world, support peace and eradicate Polio. Rotary isn‘t just a club to join, but rather an invitation to endless opportunities! 

Let us fill this motto with life in the RCWS way. Thank you!