Herb Brown likes to talk about his Cajun roots in small-town Louisiana, where "everybody knows everybody, everybody loves everybody."
Of course, it can't quite be like that on a worldwide basis. But Herb, as president of the 1.2-million-member Rotary International for the coming year, plans to give it a good try anyway.
Clearwater is still the primary home of Herb, the Rotary president and board chairman for Checkers Drive-In Restaurants. But a condominium in Evanston, Ill., the site of Rotary headquarters, and hotel rooms around the world will be the second homes for the next 12 months of Herb and his wife, Diane.
He has seen for himself on trips how much healing Rotary "manpower and dollar power" already make possible _ from a recent two-day immunization blitz in India, during which an estimated 70-million children were administered the polio vaccine; to boat camps in Hong Kong, where Rotary doctors treat Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees; to a small building in New Delhi, where 3,300 people have been fitted with artificial arms and legs.
But he also has seen that there is so much more to do, especially to help the world's children and all they have to cope with, from drug abuse to parental abuse.
So a major focus of his year in office will be to increase Rotary membership. He wants 1,000 new clubs and at least 100,000 new members, figuring the more Rotarians, the more their service organization can accomplish.
Herb's second major focus will be Rotary's ongoing campaign to eradicate polio by 2005, which also is the year Rotary will celebrate its 100th anniversary. This interest is not new for him. Herb in 1985-87 led the fund drive that raised $120-million in the United States for the PolioPlus program. Rotarians worldwide raised $246-million.
Although Herb's term officially begins today, he was introduced as the new president last month at Rotary's international convention in Nice, France, to 34,000 delegates from 130 countries. Also on hand were his wife, four children, two grandchildren, other relatives from here and Louisiana and friends from the Clearwater area.
Herb returned to his home club in Clearwater this week to induct Kevin Connelly as its new president before a somewhat smaller crowd of 127. But he challenged them, just as he did the Rotarians he addressed in Nice, to work harder because "what's happening to the children of our world is frightening."
Each Rotary International president selects a theme for his year in office. Herb's, which was displayed proudly by his home club at its Wednesday luncheon, is: Act with integrity. Serve with love. Work for peace.
Herb Brown, 71, like another American history-maker, has a dream. In a new Rotary brochure, he says: "I dream of a world where the word integrity becomes as essential as the air we breathe and the water we drink . . . I dream of a polio-free world. It is a world where every child has food to eat, every student an opportunity to learn, and every adult the chance to earn a living.
". . . I dream of a world at peace. It is a world where all people live the legacy given to them by our great religious leaders to "love thy neighbor' and to have a "boundless heart toward all beings.' "