RCK Member and past RCK District 6780 District Governor Frank Rothermel introduced Chattanooga Rotarian John Germ. As Frank noted, Mr. Germ has held many important offices in Rotary, including serving as RI President in 2016-17 and Rotary Foundation Chair 2021-22, and Chair of Rotary’s $200 Million Challenge. He has received several Rotary awards, including the RI Service Above Self Award, the Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service, the Rotary Foundation Distinguished Service Award and the Rotary Foundation Polio Pioneer Award.
Mr. Germ recognized RCK Members Margo Hughes and Dave Baumgartner for their tireless work on the Polio Purple Pinkie campaign. He recognized RCK Member Townes Osborne for her work on the project that resulted in a sculpture in downtown Knoxville Krutch Park portraying Oak Ridge Rotarian Bill Sergeant administering a polio vaccine to a young child.
Mr. Germ mentioned other Rotary projects around the world, including clean water projects in desolate areas and the seven Rotary Peace Centers in various locations around the world, most recently in Uganda. The Peace Centers promote peace through training combining conflict resolution methods, peace building and conflict prevention. There have been over 1,200 Peace Centers graduates to date.
Mr. Germ’s marks primarily dealt with the Rotary polio eradication campaign. Over the years, the effort has helped immunize almost 3 billion children in 122 countries. The effort began in about 1979 when Rotary International started a program to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. After initially getting resistance from the World Health Organization and other governmental entities, the WHO, UNICEF and the CDC came onboard in 1985 and Rotary International launched Polio Plus, the first and largest internationally coordinated private sector public health initiative. It began with a fundraising goal of $120,000,000. At the time there were about 350,000 polio cases in 125 countries.
In 2003, the Rotary Foundation raised $119,000,000 in twelve months for the Polio Plus campaign. In 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $355,000,000 to Polio Plus, and issued a $200,000,000 challenge to the Rotary Foundation for a total commitment of $555,000,000 from the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates’ father was a Rotarian. In 2012, Rotary Foundation passed the Gates Foundation $200,000,000 challenge with five months to spare.
Mr. Germ indicated that Rotary Foundation continues to ask for money to fight polio because polio still exists. While there appear to be active cases only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, children still have to be vaccinated around the world. Rotary’s goal is to reach every child with polio vaccine. Mr. Germ ended his remarks thanking all of the RCK Rotarians who over the years have contributed and otherwise participated in the Polio Plus campaign.