Jay Copp 2016-09-27 10:20:21
Fukuoka Knocks It Out of the Park Roaring cheers and chants, frenzied baseball fans typically fill the Yahuoku! Dome in Fukuoka. But in late June thousands of Lions roared in the stadium. They celebrated the accomplishments of Lions worldwide and heard heartfelt appeals from Lion leaders and humanitarian figures to increase their service as the Lions’ centennial approaches in 2017. Thousands of Japanese Lions march in Fukuoka during the grand Parade of Nations. Lions were not rooting for a home team but reveling in the power of an international service association. The 99th International Convention in Japan brought together 37,386 Lions and guests from 124 nations to elect new leaders, learn about the progress of service initiatives and centennial plans and enjoy robust camaraderie and fellowship. Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada of Japan, 2015-16 international president, honors the keynote speaker, Kailash Satyarthi of India, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Leading off, so to speak, was 2015-16 International President Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada of Japan, who related how well Lions can respond to a contemporary crisis. Lions in Turkey and Lebanon, aided by Lions of Scandinavia, are providing food and water, shelter and even prosthetic limbs for refugees from the war-torn Middle East. He urged even greater assistance. “If each one of the 1.4 million Lions members can help just one refugee, then the impact is not small. This is the power of grassroots service. This is what Lions are all about,” he said. Chancellor Bob Corlew of Tennessee, the 2016-17 international president, speaks at the third plenary session. Yamada, who traveled the world as president, also talked about the sometimes hidden allure of service and the need for Lion leaders to recognize a service job well done. “I witnessed scenes where leaders gave Lions awards, and the Lions were in tears,” he said. “These Lions have continued to serve without expecting anything in return, so the tears are a result of pure surprise and joy at being recognized.” Batting cleanup was newly elected International President Chancellor Bob Corlew of Tennessee. Corlew, whose theme is New Mountains to Climb, spoke at length on the importance of adding members. A typical Lion serves 50 people annually, he noted. Social problems are mounting. “For every new Lion there are young people who are born in poverty, without guidance, without a mentor or role model and without any realistic hope for their own future,” he said. “For every new Lion there are more children who starve to death. For every new Lion here are more adults who become blind due to cataracts and trachoma.” The key to Lions’ progress against social ills is a greater commitment from each Lion, Corlew said. “Each club is stronger only if the individual members continue to strengthen themselves,” he said. “A Lion who is knowledgeable about our great association is far more effective than a Lion who chooses not to learn about the great opportunities offered by Lions Clubs International.” History was made at the convention with the election of Past International Director Gudrun Bjort Yngvadottir of Iceland as second vice president, which will make her the first female president in 2018-19. “By electing a woman as their leader, Lions show themselves to be modern, despite having served for a century,” she told the LION. “This I hope will help to boost the membership of Lions worldwide, so we can expand our service reach and impact.” Past International Director Jung-Yul Choi of Korea was elected third vice president. Choi will serve as president in 2019-20. Other convention highlights included the keynote speech of Kailash Satyarthi of India, the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize who spoke of his efforts against child labor and child trafficking, and the awarding of the Lions Clubs International Humanitarian Award to Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Tomoaki Atsumi, a vice president of the organization, spoke of his group’s selfless, courageous mission, a purpose that resonated with Lions. “In essence, humanitarian action is about saving and assisting strangers, people you have never met and may never see again. It is about going to places other people are leaving and treating any and all people who need medical care. It is about challenging systems and policies that create these needs in the first place or that prevent people from getting the care or the medicines they need.” Lions and Leos enjoy fellowship in Fukuoka. Beyond the three plenary sessions at the baseball stadium, Lions marched down city streets in the traditional Parade of Nations, enjoyed the International Show and its wide array of mesmerizing entertainment, consulted with Lions Clubs International staff at the convention hall, attended seminars to boost their service capabilities and membership rolls, caught up with old friends and met new ones, and became acquainted with Fukuoka and its foods and sights. Convention can be serious and consequential but more often the five days are a pleasant swirl of Lionsstyle fun and fellowship, a friendly, relaxed gathering of like-minded folks. The recurring message in Fukuoka was that the gatherings in service—whether at the club, district or international level—bring about enormous positive changes to communities. Past International President Joe Preston, the chairperson of LCIF, detailed the astonishing impact of the foundation: from nearly eliminating blinding trachoma in China and curbing measles in Africa to protecting the vision of tens of millions of children in Asia through Sight for Kids and aiding victims of major disasters worldwide. “Just think of the millions of lives we’ve impacted,” said Preston, who dramatically entered the stage in a Star Wars costume to the delight of Lions. “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. In many ways, LCIF is just like the Force. It is the energy generated by the good works Lions do around the world under the LCIF banner.” The convention ended at the third plenary session with the swearing-in of the 2016-17 district governors. But just before that Lions were encouraged to come to Chicago June 30-July 4 next year for the centennial convention. Past International President J. Frank Moore III detailed the progress of the centennial celebration: nearly 100 million people served, 4,000 Legacy service projects and grand commemorative projects such as a $1 U.S. silver coin, postage stamps and a globetrotting enormous banner, divided into 48 parts to be signed by Lions until attached back together in Chicago. Lions involved in the centennial celebration, Moore said, are “rounding third and heading home.” Chicago promises to be a home run, a walk-off grand slam. Extra Digital Content Didn’t make it to Fukuoka? Do the next best thing and watch colorful videos of convention highlights and interesting videos shown at the convention. Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of the Convention highlights videos, a fun animated video on Lions’ efforts against measles and a video on Doctors Without Borders, honored in Fukuoka, at lionmagazine.org. Meet the 17 new international directors elected at the convention. Spectacle, Song and Dance Convention is anything but a solemn, fuddy-duddy gathering. The days are filled with the energy, passion and artistry of singers, dancers, musicians and even Star Wars characters and sumo devotees. Drum Tao, a taiko drum show, performs at the International Show. The second plenary begins with a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on: the music, dance and look of the 1950s. The Jedi Master of LCIF, Joe Preston channels his inner Obi-Wan Kenobi as he describes the achievements of the foundation in 2015-16. As immediate past president of Lions Clubs, Preston chaired LCIF last year. Yu-ki Nishimoto demonstrates traditional calligraphy at the third plenary session. Lions enjoy music at the third plenary session. Sumo wrestlers on a college team display their surprising dexterity at a Leo gathering at the convention hall. Convention participants wear sumo suits. Pride on Parade Nearly 15,500 Lions from at least 105 nations marched in the glorious Parade of Nations. For nearly four hours people of Fukuoka, as well as Lions, were treated to a vibrant display of the universality of Lions Clubs. A marching band from Japan boisterously leads a Lions nation. Indonesian dancers fan out. Lions from India include their children in their delegation. Nepalese Lions shake and bake their way down the street.
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