Jay Copp 0000-00-00 00:00:00
<b>Stretching for miles, the 200-nation Lions parade wove through downtown Sydney. Striding past busy intersections with onlookers lined three or four deep, Oklahoma Lions wore Native American headdresses, Egyptians dressed as mummies, and Londoners rode proudly on a double-decker bus. The Scandinavian Lions sang a lilting melody and Lions from Pennsylvania marched smartly to the strain of bagpipes. All in all, it was an impressive show of numbers and diversity.</b> “Iknew about the club near me. But I didn’t know Lions were this large,” said Greg Light of Sydney, watching the parade on a long lunch break. Light added that he buys a dozen books from the Lions each year at a book sale and then dutifully returns them next year so the club can resell them. The 93rd International Convention June 28-July 2 brought together nearly 12,500 Lions and guests to revel in decades-old traditions such as the parade, to elect new officers and to hear about the progress and direction of Lions clubs worldwide. Lions also learned new skills at seminars, listened to renowned figures such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya and heroic pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and enjoyed the pleasures Of a world-class city and the camaraderie of fellow Lions. The Sydney convention, like those before it, combined cherished rituals such as the flag ceremony, irresistible entertainment such as a dueling piano segment at the second plenary and small endearing touches that remind Lions of their purpose and value such as the large blue tent in the exhibit hall, the same kind of tent used by LCIF and Lions in Haiti after the earthquake. Lions attending conventions marvel at the scope and range of Lionism. The five days in Sydney were a showcase for the association not just for Sydneysiders but for Lions. “It’s good to see so many people who do good for others. It’s inspiring to see people under that same banner,” said Suzanne Foxe of the Logan Ladies Business Lions Club in Australia. For veteran convention attendees, the experience doesn’t grow old. “I just love it —the travel, the excitement, the new experiences, the new things to learn,” said John Ochoco of the East Kaua’i Lions Club in Hawaii, who has been at 15 conventions. “It never ceases to amaze me all we do. It’s inspiring all the things we do for the blind. I just love coming to the conventions. Each one feels like the first time.” At the third and final plenary session of the convention Sid L. Scruggs III of North Carolina took the oath of office as the new international president. Scruggs urged Lions to remain Beacons of Hope (his presidential theme). His son, Kevin, an accomplished singer, sang the Beacon of Hope song and, in a touching tribute to Scruggs’ wife and his mother, Judy, Wind Beneath My Wings. Earlier in the day, Dr. Wing-Kun Tam of China Hong Kong was elected as first vice president and Wayne Madden of Indiana was elected as second vice president. Seventeen international directors also were elected (see September LION or visit www.lionsclubs.org). Before a hushed crowd, keynote speaker Sullenberger recounted the calm precision in which his crew landed a passenger jet in the Hudson River last year. Maathai, the activist leader of the Green Belt movement, received the prestigious Lions Humanitarian Award and then expounded on the dire need for education, civic engagement and service. At the opening plenary session outgoing International President Eberhard J. Wirfs of Germany detailed a year of growth and innovation and proudly cited gains in membership including growth in China and Africa, new structures such as the District Governor team, technological advances such as Webinars and improvements in leadership training. Move to Grow was his theme during his presidency and Wirfs saluted Lions for moving the association to new heights. Conventions typically herald new partnerships and programs, and Sydney was no exception. The Pediatric Cataract Initiative will fund innovative, replicable programs to prevent and treat cataract in infants and children and promote early childhood vision screenings. Bausch + Lomb will contribute US$350,000 in the pilot year to launch the partnership program. Also, Essilor, a leading manufacturer of optical lenses, will partner with LCIF to provide equipment, expertise and exclusive brand-quality lenses through local Lions clubs worldwide to help Lions with their vision projects. Music was a predominant element of the convention–from the first-ever Global Youth Music Competition and the International Show featuring Men at Work front man Colin Hay to the Lion Music Around the World video montage at the third plenary and the chanting, singing and marching bands at the festive parade. Music to Lions ears, too, were the words of gratitude spoken at the plenary sessions by beneficiaries of Lions service. Lions from nearly 200 nations in the convention hall cheered proudly for those sentiments; they acted in unison as well when exchanging mini-flags of nations placed on their chairs or roaring in approval when Maathai and Sullenberger took oaths of membership. The unity of purpose drew Lions from disparate places close to one another in Sydney. “We’re all so different but we are all alike,” marveled first-time convention attendee Lion Joanne Parrott of North Carolina. <b>Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, received the 2010 Lions Humanitarian Award. Here is an excerpt of her speech.</b> <b>Wangari Maathai</b> Because the environment has been there since time immemorial we have learned to take the environment for granted. And we have an attitude that these resources are limit-less. Well, we know now that there is a limit. You can only take so much from the environment before the environment is unable to give back. And so we find that people who destroy the environment eventually get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment. And the Green Belt movement set out to break that cycle. It is not just a matter of planting trees. It’s also a matter of empowering people and making them understand that if we really want to develop ourselves, if we really want to move forward, we must embrace some of the best values that I know that the Lions have – the values of honesty, integrity, accountability and responsibility. These are very, very important values in any community that wants to go forward. Africa usually is presented as a very poor continent. But Africa is not a poor continent. It is endowed with a huge amount of people and many resources including oil, minerals and forest. It is a very, very rich continent. You can’t have such a rich continent and have very poor people. Something is drastically wrong. And the reason is very complex. It deals with history, technology and knowledge. But the most fundamental principle is good governance. She has been unable to raise leaders who work for them rather than tread on them. … Sometimes we feel we can’t forever give aid, we can’t forever give handouts, we can’t forever give charity. And so we must get involved in some of the political And economic policies that are responsible for the poverty and the misery in the world. And I know it is much easier to give charity than to worry about the politics and economic policies. But sometimes those of us who are in the position to raise their voices – even though at their own risk. We need to because that’s the only way sometimes to break that cycle and make sure that these people are freed and liberated from the chains of economic and political subjugation. Now you can get overwhelmed. And especially the Leos here: don’t get overwhelmed. But even some Lions may be overwhelmed. So it is very important to tell you: do not feel overwhelmed.
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