Recently PE Jay Black delivered this brief message to kick off his club’s meeting. Other Utah Rotarians might find being ‘good for nothing’ is something they want to do too. Here is his address.
I have a modest proposal for our Rotary Club today: I think we might want to change our motto from “Service Above Self” to “Being good for nothing.”
The more deeply I am exposed to Rotary leadership and our collective visions, the more I have come to believe we owe it to one another, to our progeny, to the universe, to be good and do well when and where we can. Doing so is a moral obligation, to be sought for its own sake. This is what I mean by advocating “being good for nothing.”
Like most of you, I believe in stewardship for stewardship’s sake. It is its own reward. Psychic rewards—not tangible ones—make the efforts worthwhile. We do not own this planet, this country, this community, this club—but we are obligated to be stewards of each and every one of them during the brief time we are leaseholders or mere squatters. We have many campsites, and we generously commit our time, talents, and treasures whenever and however we can to each of them. We shouldn’t be motivated to do this because we think we’ll be rewarded for doing so or punished for not doing so; our ethic calls for “obedience” to the unenforceable. We leave our campsites better than we found them because that is what stewards do, with joy in their hearts. Again, the bottom line: We are good for nothing.
The longer I have belonged to Rotary (and the older I get), the more I have come to believe a challenging aspect of maturing is to move beyond our professional careers by doing other meaningful things as we invest our substance, energy, and core being in life and work that might possibly outlive us. This is “giving forward”—being useful, making an imprint. Perhaps unconsciously, we want to “repair the world.” We want to preserve our dignity and self-respect even if we are willing to relinquish our status and seniority; we want to be useful, not used; engaged, not isolated.
Totally ignoring matters of politics, or religion, or race/gender/class/ age/whatever, I believe Rotarians around the globe are motivated by very specific values…the values of freedom and independence coupled with such values as diligence and hard work, honesty, a belief in progress, a sense of accomplishment, family security, a world at peace, a world of beauty, inner harmony, and wisdom—among others from which we pick and choose in our daily living. These are positive values; they motivate us; they serve as a moral compass and a moral gyroscope.
And they encourage us to be good for nothing.