The Prior Lake Rotary Club was well represented at the annual Rotary International Convention held in Atlanta in June. In all, 17 Rotarians and 6 spouses attended this unbelievable and sometimes life-changing event. Attendees (non-Rotarian spouses in parenthesis) included David and Joan Fawcett, Doug and Marlys Gesme, Jack Haugen (Mary), Kyle Haugen (Carrie), Joan Lompart (Brian), Vic Noer (Maria), Paul and Susan Perez, Darcy Rose (John), Don and Edith Schrope, Guy and Mary Selinske, Dan Stanley, and Mary Viereck (Paul). David and Edith are actually members of different Rotary Clubs since the two couples go on snow bird status.
Attendees had so many options during their time in Atlanta. Obviously, the convention was the highlight, and Rotary was front and center. The Georgia World Congress Center was the site of the convention; opening and closing sessions were held there, and that is where each convention day started where various topics were covered. The speakers were incredible including Bill Gates, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, activist and favorite son of Atlanta Andrew Young, and actor Ashton Kutcher. We also heard Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko give a rousing update on the status of Rotary. There were breakout sessions covering numerous topics, and Prior Lake Rotarians came away inspired with great ideas they can bring back to our club and community. The House of Friendship was also held at the Center. Here, there were hundreds of booths covering Rotary programs and specific projects and booths selling items including local vendors. It was an awesome experience seeing Rotarians from around the world and getting to talk to them.
Away from the convention, there were other opportunities to see the city including the Georgia Aquarium, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The host city even set up special events to get a flavor of the city. Some of these included the Zone 28 and 29 night at the World of Coca Cola, Blue Jeans and Blue Grass Festival, and the Women of Rotary held at the Carter Center. Speaking of taste, there was no shortage of restaurants around the hotel and convention center, and Prior Lake Rotarians took advantage of doing some heavy sampling. Despite all that was going on, there were plenty of opportunities for club members to get together to enjoy the friendship of each other.     
Among the attendees were some first-timers. Said long-time member Joan Lompart, “It was amazing to see all the countries represented at the convention in all of their traditional clothing. I saw outfits from Nigeria, Thailand, Mexico, West Africa, Brazil, and Argentina that were truly gorgeous. 
This was my first International Convention, to see the difference a group can make in the eradication of polio was another highlight! With the Gates Foundation pledging their continued support; it is exciting that we will see this debilitating disease eliminated in our lifetimes. 
Andrew Young, a humanist from Martin Luther King's era, was a dynamic speaker with much wisdom. It was also great spending more social time with members of our club and getting more acquainted.” 
This was also Dan Stanley’s first Convention. He said two things struck him. (First) “The reach of Rotary is very apparent when you attend the Rotary International Convention, you have doers from all over the world and from numerous cultures present at the convention.  It makes you realize that when an initiative is conceived by Rotarians it is quickly and efficiently disseminated around the world without the political drag and inefficiencies of working through governments. PolioPlus (program) is a great example of an idea conceived by Rotarians and put in action where it is needed and the successes of this effort speak for themselves. (Second) For me it was very uplifting to see that Rotarians can work so well together despite the seemingly large divisions there are in our current times; it gives you hope for better things in our lives.  It only served to validate my involvement with Rotary, I know that my time and giving are going to the proper group!” 
The 2018 Rotary International Convention will be held in Toronto, and there are already several Prior Lake Rotarians registered to go. On to Toronto!