Jay Copp Convention in Korea energizes 55,000 Lions. Flanked by a calm sea on one side and glimmering steel towers on the other, Lions worldwide paraded down a wide boulevard of Busan with flair, friendliness and, above all, festivity. Row after row of Chinese Lions, resplendent in blue and white shirts, fervently chanted a slogan. A middleaged Pennsylvanian Lion strayed from his pack and exultantly high-fived the jumble of Koreans lined up on the street to see what the fuss was all about. A female Korean Lion in a yellow vest watching the parade and excited to see the blue-jeaned, cowboy-hatted Texans ringing small cowbells, cried out, “I luv’ you!” The gusto and camaraderie of the parade typified the 95th International Convention in late June in Busan. A record 55,308 Lions, the vast majority of them Korean, registered for the annual Lions gathering. (Not all registrants came to Busan.) Conventioneers elected a new president and second vice president, cheered on the new district governors, listened attentively to thoughtful speeches by the head of the World Health Organization and other significant people, enjoyed rousing entertainment and partook in the omnipresent fellowship. Lions didn’t let language or cultural differences hinder engagement. In the convention hall, a U.S. Lion made eye contact and smiled at a Lion from another nation and then thrust a pin into his pocket. “I don’t have any pins,” the Lion protested. “Think I care?” the Lion roared back. The first plenary opened with an Idol moment, Korean-style. Sung-Bong Choi, homeless by himself for years since a young child and then a national sensation after his powerful, operatic voice was heard on an Idol-type TV show, welcomed the 21 past international presidents in Busan with a thunderous song. The 2011-12 president, Wing-Kun Tam of Hong Kong, China, detailed the many successes of Lions over the past year. He had asked Lions to believe in one another and our service mission and to care of one another like family, to involve youths in Lions and to expand participation in the four Global Service Action Campaigns. “So how did we do? I think one word sums it up: Wow,” Tam said. The four service campaigns tallied nearly 5 million service hours spread among more than 50,000 service projects. Even more impressive: Lions planted 12,856,322 trees. Those trees, besides beautifying their surroundings, should produce 13.7 million metric tons of life-giving oxygen. “I want everybody to take a deep breath now,” Tam said. “Yes, that breath and many, many more were made possible by Lions. Maybe we should do a TV commercial that shows a bright, shiny day and it says, ‘Today’s beautiful day brought to you by Lions Clubs International.’ ” A few months prior to the convention Lions Clubs International and the World Health Organization renewed their long-standing partnership for another five years, and the keynoter in Busan was Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization. Chan decried the vast disparity in wealth and access to healthcare in the world: “a profoundly unfair, lopsided world of vast privilege, hoarded by the billionaires, the multi-millionaires, indifferent to the misery, the poor health, the early deaths from entirely preventable causes, of the bottom billion, the people who live on less than a dollar a day.” Chan vigorously praised Lions for preventing river blindness and trachoma and proudly noted that blindness is declining. “This is what happens when a posse of yellow vests, a pride of Lions, a family 1.3 million strong, roars into action,” she said. Following Chan, 2011-12 LCIF Chairperson Sid L. Scruggs III summarized the wide, effective scope of the Foundation–from preventing measles and providing disaster relief to aiding youth through Lions Quest and curtailing childhood blindness. Ken Miyata, a council chairperson in Japan and member of the East Japan Tsunami Recovery Committee, sadly related that 30 Lions died as a result of the disaster and many more lost homes and jobs. Yet Lions are persevering, as his nation is. “Japan is now on a steady road to healing and Lions in Japan are continuing to help with the recovery,” he said. Wayne A. Madden of Indiana solemnly took the oath of office as the 2012-13 international president during the final plenary. Befitting his love of sports and support for local teams, the 15-minute celebration prior to the oath featured the University of Indiana and the Notre Dame fight songs piped into the vast hall as poster-carrying Hoosiers and others marched before the stage and the waving Madden family. Madden urged Lions to promote literacy and to generally embrace service. “Service is what we do and who we are. It defines us as a revered, highly respected institution,” he said. An Indy 500 auto race fan, Madden also encouraged clubs to do quarterly “pit-stops.” Said Madden, “It’s necessary to set aside a day to reflect, to review the status of membership plans and refocus efforts as needed. Take care of small problems before they become too big.” Madden hit the ground running: at the end of his speech two officials from the United States Agency for International Development joined him on stage to partner on improving early childhood reading in developing nations. The partnership was “conditional” on Lions in attendance heartily assenting to the initiative. “Lions, on a count of three, let me hear you roar if you think Lions are up to the challenge,” Madden said. The roar was sufficiently loud. The crowd also roared in greeting the newly elected Second Vice President Joe Preston of Arizona. After Barry Palmer of Australia serves as president in 2013-14, Preston is slated to lead LCI in 2014-15. Leading Lions this year will be 753 district governors, who just prior to the end of the convention saw a spouse or friend ceremoniously pull off their district-elect ribbons. After requisite picture taking, the district governors, along with thousands of other Lions, sped out of the hall and ultimately headed back to their communities, enthused, reenergized and more connected than before to other Lions and our mission of service. Five Memorable Moments Uncommon Rapper Dr. Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization, can not only bring sight and healing to the world but she also can rap. Leaving the speaker’s podium for center stage at the plenary hall and then shaking her hips and gesturing with her hands, she rapped a poem of praise to Lions: I am speaking to a vast/posse of yellow vests rappin’ if you haft /to get the message out Dressed to impress/in your yellow vests Get the bad guys/save the eyes Watch out, cataract/under attack The lion sleeps tonight?/No way No time to rest/in your yellow vests Forget the “me”/it’s “we” Planting a million trees Giving glasses to the kiddies/see? Helping WHO/turn on the lights Insight/foresight/all right! Blind from bug bites/No more! I hear a roar/philanthropic to the core! Fair Trade; Currency is Respect An example of the spontaneous international good will and camaraderie among Lions found over and over at a convention, Tom Lyle of Erie, Illinois, noticed a Lion from Japan motioning at him. The Lion wanted his red, white and blue ribbon. Fair enough. Next thing he knew the Lion gave him his shirt off his back, well, his colorful kimono anyway. Dancing That Pierces the Heart Never mind that they are disabled or that they went over their allotted 10 minutes by a half hour, the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe captured the hearts of Lions with a stunning dance sequence at the third plenary session. In precise movements too perfect for ordinary people, the troupe proved that dance evokes a language of harmony that surpasses the boundaries of words. But maybe the dancers were especially inspired because they knew what was coming: shortly after performing the troupe and Deng Pufang, honorary chairperson of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, were jointly awarded the 2012 Lions Clubs International Humanitarian Award. Why Our Service Matters Jong-Wook Jang told the Lions he once was a “miserable car accident victim.” Just 24 then, the accident robbed him of his dreams and put him in a wheelchair, he told district governors-elect. He remade himself at the Daegu Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, supported by Korean Lions. He met his wife there and found within himself the confidence and motivation to eventually lead a wooden artwork company with 46 employees, 36 of them with disabilities. His life was a “miracle,” made possible by Lions. Can’t Lead Without Love People and places: we serve the places we love and our service is often possible because of the people we love. After presenting flowers to his wife, Linda, brand-new president Wayne Madden brought old friend and mentor Past International Director Gene Rice to the stage to tenderly sing “Back Home Again in Indiana.” In his final speech as president, Wing-Kun Tam described how the death of his wife, Irene, drained him of his motivation until his children and his Lions family revived his faith in action and service.
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