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World Understanding and Peace Day

On February 23, 1905, Chicago attorney Paul Harris gathered together a few others—Gustave Loehr, Hiram Shorey, and Silvester Schiele—in Loehr's office, in room 711 of Chicago's Unity Building, and formed the first Rotary Club. The name "Rotary" was decided upon because the members planned to gather at a different office or home for each meeting. Women were not permitted at the time and were not allowed as members until 1989.

The Rotary Club soon went global. After sixteen years of existence, there were clubs on six continents. Today, there are more than 35,000 Rotary Clubs in the world. To reflect the organization's growing reach, its name was first changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs, and then to Rotary International in 1922. With its spread around the globe came shifting goals, from being a local service organization to being an international service and humanitarian organization that promotes goodwill, peace, and understanding.

Members, who are called Rotarians, focus on projects in their own communities and around the world. Some areas of focus include education and literacy; peace; diseases and health; hunger; the environment; clean water, sanitation and hygiene; local economy promotion; and protection of mothers and children. Money for projects is raised through The Rotary Foundation. Club members usually gather each week for a meal. This not only is a social affair but provides a time for members to plan service work.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the first Rotary Club meeting. Since 1983, the day has been known as World Understanding and Peace Day. On the day, clubs "pause, plan and promote the Rotary's continuous quest for goodwill, peace and understanding among people of the world." The day takes place during World Understanding Month, when clubs are asked by Rotary International to have special programs for their weekly meetings and to have activities that promote "understanding and goodwill as essential for world peace."

How to Observe World Understanding and Peace Day

One way to celebrate the day is to join a Rotary Club. Individuals must be invited to join, but they can first get connected with a club, and after doing so will likely be asked to join. Those who are already Rotarians could gather with their club members today, to reflect on and promote the organization's goal for peace and understanding around the world. No matter if you are a member or not, you could donate to Rotary International in honor of its anniversary.

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