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Dear Fellow Rotarians,

A Perspective on Media Coverage about New Allies in the Fight Against Polio
By now, many Rotarians and friends of Rotary have read the February 28thedition of The Wall Street Journal, which includes a news report as well as an op-ed column about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to donate US$100 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative through his charitable foundation.
It’s great to have such leaders join our fight.  As we all know, over the last three decades, Rotarians have contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless hours to end this scourge.  As advocates and fund-raisers in this cause, we welcome help from all who share our vision, and we thank Mayor Bloomberg for stepping forward.  In fact, on behalf of all Rotarians, Dr. Robert S. Scott, chair of our International PolioPlus Committee, publicly thanked the Mayor as soon as the announcement was made last Friday.  At this critical time in the battle, we want and need to encourage other philanthropists and business leaders to join us.
In addition to the Bloomberg donation, the WSJ coverage describes philanthropist Bill Gates’ commitment to polio eradication.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed more than $1.5 billion to fight polio, including the $355 million challenge grant to Rotarians, who successfully raised more than $228 million by early 2012.  You’ll recall that the Gates Foundation was so impressed by our success that they quickly added another $50 million.
When supporters such as Mr. Gates and Mayor Bloomberg join ranks with Rotary for a cause as important as the eradication of polio, it demonstrates the immense contribution the private sector can make in addressing the world’s most pressing needs.
Again, we want and need to encourage philanthropists and business leaders to generously step forward.  To achieve this objective, however, we must remember that the world is watching how Rotarians respond when such announcements make the news.
I understand that we may not always like how the media tell the story.  However, I believe that we can all agree that announcements such as the Bloomberg donation are urgently needed if we are to win the battle against polio.  Let’s all remember that polio, after all, is our common enemy.  We are in this battle to beat polio once and for all.  In short, it is not helpful when we criticize our partners or allies, or even the very media upon whom we rely to carry our message.
Ultimately, history will tell the whole story of how polio was eliminated from the human experience.  And, we can be confident that the role of Rotary will not be missed or dismissed.  In fact, over the past 18 months, we have greatly increased our PR outreach, and we are seeing significant results.  For proof, we need only remember some of the most recent coverage from the world’s major media: a cover story in the international edition of TIME Magazine, a full page in Discover Magazine, a first-person column in the New York Times India web site, and major stories on national networks in Taiwan and Korea.  And, let’s keep in mind that all of these news reports are just since the start of 2013.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we can and must be confident in our partners and allies.  Mr. Gates has repeatedly given credit to our hard work and leadership.  As but one of many examples, consider that on the evening of the Bloomberg announcement, Mr. Gates and Mayor Bloomberg appeared on the popular Charlie Rose television talk show in the United States.  During the program, Mr. Gates praised Rotary’s leadership in polio eradication: “They’ve been involved from the very beginning,” he said. “We wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are without Rotary’s key partnership.” 
I hope you will agree that the quote from Mr. Gates says everything.
As Rotarians, let’s welcome announcements of new partners and allies with a spirit of generosity and gratitude.  I would deeply appreciate it if you would share this perspective with your clubs.  Ultimately, it is in the best interest of every Rotarian – and all who share our passion to end polio forever – to encourage and welcome more organizations like the Gates Foundation and more individuals like Mayor Bloomberg.
John Hewko
General Secretary
Rotary International


From Ken Robinson on June 1, 2016:
Polio is almost completely eradicated. But as Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization says: Almost isn't good enough with a disease this terrifying. Aylward lays out the plan to continue the scientific miracle that ended polio in most of the world -- and to snuff it out everywhere, forever.
See Aylward's very informative TED Talk video: