What do 16-time WWE champion John Cena, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, ironman world champion Minda Dentler, human trafficking survivor Rebecca Bender, actor and advocate Ashton Kutcher, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, golf icon Jack Nicklaus, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young all have in common?
They were all part of a power-packed line-up of speakers at this year’s international convention and 100th anniversary of Rotary International.
Cena devotes much of his time working on behalf of numerous charitable causes. He joined Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign in 2015 as a celebrity ambassador, and is Make-A-Wish’s most requested wish granter of all time and the only celebrity to grant 500 wishes. Cena is also a powerhouse on social media with 44 million Facebook fans, making him the most popular active U.S. athlete on Facebook.
In 2007, Bender escaped a life of sex trafficking here in the United States. After nearly six years of being forced into modern day slavery, she found hope and restoration solely through Jesus Christ. In 2013, Bender wrote her first book "Roadmap to Redemption," a faith based workbook for survivors and advocates. Today, she is a nationally recognized, expert on the issue of domestic human trafficking. She has trained thousands of service providers, first responders and faith leaders, including President Jimmy Carter.
Co-founder of Thorn, Kutcher is an actor, tech investor and philanthropist focused on using technology to effect positive change in the world. Monday’s events featured Kutcher, Corker, Bender and Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission, coming together to ask Rotarians to unite to fight human trafficking that is a worldwide plague.
Gates is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates began his major philanthropic efforts in 1994, focusing on global health. Over the next three years Gates has pledged more than $300 million to Rotary International to help eradicate polio from the face of the Earth. And we are close; only five cases of polio have been reported this year world-wide. Gates is now 61 years old.
No single person has changed the face of his sport more than Golf icon, philanthropist and Rotary ambassador for polio eradication — and polio survivor —Nicklaus. He was a keynote speaker and is 77 years old and still doing good in the world. In 2015, the Golden Bear received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the United States Congress can bestow on an individual or group.
Dentler became the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the ironman world championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October 2013. Her life is one of inspiration, courage and determination. When she was an infant in India, Dentler contracted polio, resulting in the paralysis of her legs. She was left in the care of an orphanage. Adopted by an American family, she moved to Spokane, Washington, and underwent a series of surgeries on her hips, legs and back which enabled her to walk with leg braces and crutches.
Undeterred by her disability, Dentler became an independent, educated woman with the intention and drive to face and overcome the many obstacles she has encountered throughout her life. Her life came full circle when she returned to her home country of India to help administer polio vaccines.
Former Mayor of Atlanta and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Young is chairman of the Andrew J. Young Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to promote more just and prosperous communities in the U.S. and globally by developing and supporting new generations of multiracial leadership. He spoke, reflecting on his time as a pastor, activist, ambassador, elected official and, of course, family.
He was, without a doubt, this writer’s favorite orator of the event. He recently celebrated his 85th birthday. Young was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1981.
Each one of these amazing people is using his or her success and experiences to do something special in the world. They have vision, focus and passion for helping and serving others. But they can’t do it alone. And what is the overall message from such an eclectic group of individuals who spoke over the three-day convention? Think globally and do locally your part to help change the world for the better.
Very fitting advice for the more than 40,000 Rotarians who attended this week; and whose motto is "Service Above Self."
Do good, my friends!
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