This was the speech I gave June 4, 2011 at the club’s Awards & Installation Banquet.  We have almost come full circle now and we will be reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to another great Rotary year.  As I was reviewing my Rotary files I came across the Word document that had my speech and thought I would post it here for some history.  What a great year it has been and it was my pleasure to represent our club over the past 12 months.  So here is where the speech started:

Does anyone remember the movie “Love and Death” with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton? That’s where the famous quote, 80% of success is showing up, comes from.  It’s reassuring to know that as we start here, we’ve already got a B average because we all showed up.  Now let us consider the other 20%.

Governors Hearn, Denise & Jerry, Governor Israel, Councilman and Deputy Mayor Spear, City Manager Price, President Dati, Past Presidents of our Club,  My beloved family and friends,

Fellow Rotarians,

It is truly and sincerely an honor, privilege and joy to be installed as your President of our beloved Rotary Club of Bonita Springs.  I say beloved, because that is exactly how I feel about our club.  I love this club and the great people that you all are.

I would like to (1) thank some people, (2) then talk a little bit about Rotary, and (3) leave us all with some thoughts and ideas about our future.

As I stand before you at this moment, seeing my family and so many great friends and fellow Rotarians, I can honestly say that tonight, right now, I feel like the luckiest man on earth.  To my family, it is my first love, my greatest joy, to be your son, your brother, your husband, and your dad.

Mom and Dad, I love you so much, so deeply and truly, and am so thankful for the life you have given me, the love you have given me, and the constant encouragement and support you have always provided.  April, you have given me the love of a lifetime, you are my best friend, my closest confidant, and I am so truly happy to be your husband.   Margie, you and Roger, April’s dad, sure created a masterpiece in April and I am so lucky to have her in my life.   You have given us our beautiful children, Sadie, Molly and Amy.  Girls, I love you so much and am so proud of you!  You are truly exceptional girls!

I grew up in Miami and when I was young my mom and I would have what we called “Friday night dates” together.  Usually she would take me to get a pizza or something like that and we would have dinner.  I remember one night when I was probably 10 or 11 years old.  You said to me, looking straight into my eyes, penetrating into my heart, soul and mind, you said, “Jimmy, you are an exceptional young man.”   That moment of pure love, encouragement, caring and support is symbolic of what you ingrained in me to believe about myself.  Let me tell you now: “Mom, YOU are truly an exceptional woman!  And in my eyes, an exceptional, still young, woman” and I love you and thank you.

Dad, in the summer of 1984, between 9th and 10th grade, you took me into the mountains of North Carolina to have our first father son sabattical, as we call them, a sabattical that forever changed my life.  As we enjoyed the peace and serenity of the mountains, you guided me and convinced me into truly believing that I could become anything I wanted to become and I could achieve any goal that I set for myself. You gave me an autographed copy of Zig Ziglar’s “See You At The Top” and introduced me to the miracle of personal development . The leadership and love you have always provided is priceless, invaluable, and a lesson only a dad can truly give his son.   Your courage, your strength, your persistence and determination in overcoming all the challenges and obstacles of life, and your quiet but immensely powerful love are the qualities that I admire most in you.  Your deep abiding love for me has been like a rod that has helped me develop into a mature adult who can accept 100% total responsibility for my life.

When I moved here, I came into town in December of 1996.  I can remember driving a U-Haul up Old 41 to the place I rented out in Fairway Dunes.  I didn’t know anyone here other than family.  I had very little money, no clients, and no real friends in town.  It was back during that first year that I met a fellow attorney named John Spear.  I immediately felt a strong feeling about John.  My office was across the parking lot from his in the Sunshine Professional Center.  We both liked Rock and Roll and wound up at the first Sister Hazel concert in Fort Myers.  Over the 15 years since then, I can thank no other person more than you John for helping me build my law practice.  You have demonstrated to us all what it means to be a community leader.  You have been a true friend, and I also want to include Jim Kerr, your partner, here because he has also been such a close friend, advisor, and a great Rotarian as well.

Don Thomson is not here tonight, but back in 1998 I moved my office to Bonita Bay when Don and I moved into a beautiful office in the professional center.  Those 5 years sharing space with Don were some of the best years of my life.  My office was right next to Don’s.  I could hear how he handled folks on the phone, how he managed his law practice, but most importantly, how he was such a caring and loving husband and father, a true leader in every sense of the word.  And now in more recent years, Jim Dati.  You have become not only a close friend, a trusted advisor, but also a role model for me about how to effectively lead our club to new heights.  These are just a few of the good men of great character and integrity whom I greatly admire and respect.  And I want to thank Nancy Ross, the reason why I’m standing here right now.

II:            Rotary

Thanks in large part to Rotary I was able to get to know great people and get involved in serving our community.  People often ask when did you really become a Rotarian?  I think for me it was almost before I even joined Rotary, when I worked the Christmas tree tent.  I remember working with Richard Garner, and how he showed me how to use the wide shovel to serve as a large oversize dust pan as he sweeped the tree branches into it.  Here was the president of the bank, working on a Sunday night sweeping Christmas tree branches to clean up a tent, raising money for charity.

Rotarians through Gift of Life program have saved over 10,000 children already through a network of Rotarians and volunteers and have set a goal of saving another 20,000 lives in the next ten years.  Under the leadership of Ron Anderson, we can proudly say we have saved two little girls lives in the past two years, and we have an opportunity to save two more children’s lives this year, redoubling our efforts, through our Rotary Run that Ron masterminded, Bob Lombardo’s Mini Golf tournament, and our Gift of Life committee.

Let me preface with a quote that I love taken from Bill Gates Sr.’s book, “Showing Up for Life” who he quoted from Kitchen Table Wisdom by Dr. Naomi Remen:

Life is the ultimate teacher, but it is usually through experience and not scientific research that we discover it’s deeper lessons.  We are all here for a single purpose: to grow in wisdom and learn to love.  We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or by failing.  All we need to do is to show up open hearted for class… So fulfilling life’s purpose may depend more on how we play than what we are dealt.  You have to be present to win.

So this year, our club theme, and my request, is that we all show up open hearted for Rotary.

I had the pleasure of seeing Bill Gates in person in New Orleans for the Rotary International Convention.  It was a true thrill to be that close to someone I hold in such high regard and truly revere.  As I think we all know, his foundation has given Rotary 355 million dollars and we’ve done 173.2 million so far of the 200 million dollar match.  He stated that his number 1 priority is eradicating polio.  Rotary has eliminated 99% of polio across the world.  We need to redouble our efforts and continue raising awareness and raising money to achieve this global goal of eradicating polio, and as Bill Gates said, to finish the final chapter, and close the book on polio.

There is a story I love about a poet named Pablo Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.  When he was a little boy growing up in southern Chile he was playing in a lot behind his house peering through a hole in a fence.  Sensing something was going to happen, he pulled back.  At that moment he saw something come through that hole in the fence.  It was the hand of a boy his age.  A moment later the hand was gone, but in its place was a gift.  A small well worn toy sheep that he found magical.  Pablo then went and got a toy he treasured and placed it in the hole in the fence in exchange.  Years later he wrote of that exchange:

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.  But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know… is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being and unites all living things.”

And so my fellow Rotarians, ask not what your Rotary club can do for you, ask what you can do for your Rotary club.  Think about what you can do to serve humanity through Rotary.  Think about how you can not only serve our club, but your profession or occupation, your community, our nation, the international community, and to the young people who need our example, our encouragement, and our leadership.

As a famous Antropologist Margaret Mead stated: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Every person in here, and this Rotary club, can achieve any goal that we set for ourselves, and can become anything we want to become.  Act boldly for Rotary.  One of the main goals I hope we can accomplish is to help educate, inspire, and motivate people to do great things with our lives and our club.  All of us in this room only have so much life left on this earth.  There are so many opportunities for us to serve, and let me say emphatically and unequivocally, Rotary is the single most effective organization to engage in international and community service, professional networking, and social fellowship.  Let us all reflect on what our International President, Kaylan Banerjee, has challenged us to do.  Reach within to embrace humanity.  And also what I challenge us all to do: to Show Up Open Hearted for Rotary.

Become the best person you can possibly become, continue to learn and educate yourself about Rotary and our world, create new relationship with others, promote peace, goodwill, and better friendships, mentor a young person and encourage them to believe they are an exceptional young man or woman.  Set new and greater goals for yourself, and together we will strengthen our club, our occupations, our professions, our community, our international community, and the next generation of Rotarians.

Thank you very much.

Jim O’Leary
June 4, 2011