Posted by JT Forbus on Jun 22, 2021
Well, today is the day! It has been about a year since I took office, and almost a year and a half before seeing each of you in the same room together. Today, we are celebrating so many things! Sure, we’re celebrating the obvious coup of my Presidency, but we are celebrating so much more.
  • We are celebrating seeing friends in 3-D, shaking hands, hugging, elbowing, meeting the new members, and finding out who ate too many sweets during the pandemic! 
  • We are celebrating being together, feeling normal, enjoying a new venue, and moving on from what hopefully is a once in a lifetime event. 
But while we transform into Phoenixes rising from ashes, let’s talk for a moment about where we’ve been:
The Pandemic: We can’t get around it; we can’t not talk about it. It’s woven into everything that happened this year. For good or bad, we dealt with it and kept this Club alive and moving. I’m thoroughly impressed at this membership for sailing this boat when you could have easily just abandoned it.  

Service: In the face of a pandemic, we provided service opportunities to get back out there and help! We volunteered at the food bank; we delivered hygiene kits; we loaded boxes of food with TogetherSF; we gave socks to SFPD, SFFD, and the homeless; we cleaned up Sutro Towers; we cleaned up the beach; and we built bikes for kids! 

WE did that! We did it without recognition (even though we tried to get recognized), without selfishness and without hesitancy! We do what Rotarians do; we helped the community without being asked! 

Service is at the core of who we are and what we do. No one in this room would be a part of this Club if we did nothing to help the community, but we do and might I say, we do it well. Lucky for us, we had the stalwart Bob Hermann as our VP of Community Service. Not only was he looking out for service projects and managing them, he was looking out for our safety protocols as well.
Youth: I can’t say enough about how far we’ve come with youth! We strengthened the committee and made great strides with the hiring of Harmony Ma. We had an ALPS gala to keep this commitment going and reached out to new demographics of kids. We adapted RYLA so kids could still attend, and we continued to give away college scholarships. We also helped charter another Rotaract Club at San Francisco State University! We’ve also had a lot of Rotarians step up with the various Interact clubs we sponsor. This list could go on and on about the improvements here, but lucky for us, we had a three-headed dragon with David Dye, Lynn Luckow, and Lisa Christian! 
Membership: We inducted 15 new members: Sue Rokaw, Liam Sheridan, Katie Cooney, Lesya Pishchevskaya, Dan Davies, Margaret Miley, Csongor Czezar, Scott Lai, Moustafa Harfoush, Jeff Lerner, Karen Sommerich, Matthew Madsen, Andrés Vera, Kevin Davidson, and Carmel Finnerty! What more can I say? I am so excited that I had the privilege of inducting so many new members in a time when I thought I’d only induct a few! Let that speak to the draw of SF#2! We also lost some members due to moving or loss of interest. It happens and there’s nothing we can do about that, but we continue to evolve! Terry Pickering, thanks for keeping me well scripted and in front of everything.
Fundraising: We raised over $100K this Rotary year!!! Let that sink in…$100K. Collectively, we committed pledges AND fulfilled them so we could continue with projects that we hold so dear! Much appreciation to your “King of Cash” — Mr. Christopher Wiseman and our Foundation President — Mr. Dan Joraanstad! Bringing them together to unite in an effort to raise funds for our Foundation as well as The Rotary Foundation was a huge success! We wanted to come up with a way to make giving more flexible and natural; so, the 50/50 Campaign was created with pledges that could be fulfilled during the year. I admit that I never expected us to get to $100K, but will always be impressed that we did.
What else? We had so many accomplishments this year, and they could easily be overshadowed by the Pandemic, but let’s not let the Pandemic define this year.  
  • We re-signed a sister club agreement with the Rotary Club of Shanghai.
  • We contributed to the Rotary Rose Parade float.
  • We created an ombudsman policy to give Club members a resolve to any conflicts they may be experiencing within the Club.
  • We made the Grants Review Committee more robust and responsible for seeing out our grant process.
  • We gave out $172k worth of grants.
  • We brought the Club and the San Francisco Rotary Foundation closer together after drifting apart for so many years.
  • We created relationships with the five oldest Rotary clubs in the world.
  • We’ve created new committees like Rotary Climate Action Team and Ending Human Trafficking.
  • We are actively taking on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
  • We are active in the District. One of our members, Laine Hendricks, has stepped up to be District Governor in 2023-2024.
  • We have centralized a lot of documents and continue to make processes more efficient. 
We did quite a bit this year, and we did this in The Pandemic! Who does that? WE do! That’s who we are, and that’s who we’ll always be! When someone talks about us, they’ll talk about how proactive we are, how caring we are, and how dedicated we are. I haven’t met a room full of people more dedicated to a cause than this one. I’m proud to be in this room with you, and I am proud to be a part of something greater than myself.  

Which leads me to me. Did I accomplish everything I wanted during this year? No, certainly not (does any President?), but you should always set your goals high regardless of where you land. I could have lowered the bar and made myself feel great, but that’s not who I am; that’s not what I want.
I didn’t expect to spend my entire Presidency behind a screen preparing shoddy PowerPoints and stale jokes. But I did, because I had to find a way to keep members engaged in any way I could during a very peculiar time. You have to rise to the occasion and deal with the task in front of you.
I also didn’t expect my job to invade my Rotary space as much as it did. By having two brutal tax seasons back-to-back, it made life a challenge. I also didn’t expect my two kids to be home all day and spending a good portion of my days helping them with school. That really impacted my efficiency and response rate among members. 
If you sent me an email in the past year, you’ll often find that I would start an email with “sorry for the delay…” but that was something I had to deal with day in and day out. However, even while trying to keep my head above water, I never felt like giving up on Rotary. I never felt like I couldn’t do both, and I never once felt like that I didn’t have any support. Thanks so much to my Past Presidents Stephanie Schmautz, Rhonda Poppen, Casey Blair, John Mathers, David Dye and my future Presidents Mary and Christopher. Without them I don’t know if I could have really made it to the end. A special thank you to Scott Plakun for the guidance early on in my Rotary career and supporting me through my Presidency. 
I know being a President looks like you do it all alone and you make all of the decisions, but I promise you it’s not designed that way. I went to great lengths to not make any decisions on my own. Decisions are made at the Board level, and this Board was outstanding! While this Board was helping make decisions, please remember that they are also members of the Club and were doing everything in the best interest of the general membership. I’m quite proud of that and appreciate the thoughtful and sometimes animated discussions!
Being a President in this Club is hard. It is time consuming, and sometimes exhausting, but I knew that walking in. I saw changes I wanted to make in the Club; so, I committed to being a President to help make them. I have always believed that if you want change, you have to be part of the movement. It’s easy to sit back and criticize someone’s leadership skills or be disappointed in how things went, but let that inspire you to take on a leadership role and make the change YOU want to see!
As a sitting President, all you ever want is feedback that you are doing what the members want. No one wants to take a group in a direction they don’t want to go, but sometimes as a leader you have to introduce new ideas that you believe are good for the group. I hope I did that; I hope I gave you what you wanted and brought you some new ideas that you didn’t know you wanted.
The biggest task in the weekly meetings is to find out what is important to your group, and I hope I chose wisely and gave you enough variety that helped your Rotary journey or inspired you in some way. 
Now, this isn’t a woe-is-me story; this is the reality of being a President of this Club and to let you know that if I can do it, so can you. One day some of you will be President of this Club, and I want you to remember that being the President isn’t about what you do or what you say; it’s about how you make them feel, and I hope I made all of you feel proud, heard, and seen.  
This was a joy for me and one of my happiest moments of my life. I feel accomplished, and I feel ready to stand down from the helm of this ship. I feel we took her in to some unchartered waters and came out more experienced on the other side. I hope when you look back on this year, you’ll remember it fondly as a year we defied the odds and came out better than when we started. 

Now, I want all of you to rise like the Phoenixes you are and give yourselves a round of applause! 

I look forward to my next chapter in Rotary and will be more than happy to not lead any meetings for a while. Thanks for all the memories! With that, I’d like to call the meeting adjourned.  

- President J.T. Harold Forbus, 2020-2021