Happy New Year Rotarians. Yes, it is that time of the year when we transition from one set of leadership teams to a new set of leadership teams. It is also the time of the year where we offer a big thank you to those stepping up to a new role in Rotary and to those who are continuing on in the same role. All the work that you folks do is truly appreciated and many times you do not receive the recognition that you deserve.
This year my two main areas of focus will be PolioPlus and membership. OK, I admit these are tired issues that we have been discussing for years, but we continue to have work to do in both of these areas.
Let’s talk about polio eradication first. As I write this message the latest statistics from polioeradication.org dated June 19, 2018 show that we have 11 cases of polio caused by the wild polio virus so far this year. These cases are in endemic countries where the transmission of the wild polio virus has never been interrupted. Afghanistan has had eight cases and Pakistan has had three cases. These 11 cases represent an increase of five cases over this time one year ago. This doesn’t sound like much, but statistically it is an 83 percent increase. Rotary International and its partners have been working for 30 years to eliminate polio, and while we have been saying for a number of years, “We are this close,” there remains much work to be done in order for our initiative to be successful and for us to wipe out these last handful of cases. It’s quite possible that our latest case of polio reported in Pakistan will be our last case. We cannot assume that to be the case, however, and we must soldier on with a continuing laser focus on eliminating this devastating disease. If we give up now, in a heartbeat we will be back to the 385,000 cases per annum that we saw when we started down this road in 1988.
Membership is also an issue I’m sure that many of you have grown weary of hearing about. The formation of our District 5495 one year ago has not solved the membership problem. I’ll be honest with you, membership numbers are a little suspect. There continue to be discrepancies between member numbers reported in Rotary Club Central and those reported in our clubs and district. However, any way you choose to look at the numbers does not change the fact that our membership total remains relatively flat.  That’s good in that we are not losing members, but not so good given that we are not growing. We celebrate the new clubs that we have chartered or will soon charter. But we mourn those clubs that did not make it. When was the last time you asked someone to join you at a Rotary meeting? 
Now, in regards to this photo, I am far from a Super Hero, but for those of you who attended PETS and/or CLA and/or the District Conference you will recall that there was some discussion by yours truly about remembering to smile. Just so you can see that I took this seriously, this photo is used to show that YES, I am capable of smiling.
I am looking forward to another great Rotary year, visiting your clubs, and working with as many of you as possible. Let’s get started.