Throughout my time in our great organization, I have been asked “how did you become so involved In Kiwanis and what drove you towards it?” I can honestly say that it was because I had the opportunity to attend my first Kiwanis International convention in Detroit, in 1970 – three years after joining – and I was bitten by the Kiwanis “bug”.
I was able to observe the impact that it had around the world through displays, speakers and while talking to other members. And I was impressed with the fact that the delegates actually participated in the business of the organization, by discussing and voting on KI bylaws amendment proposals and participating in officer elections.
Beginning back in 1919 when Kiwanis bought its “freedom” from Allen Browne in Birmingham, the convention has been the showplace of the Kiwanis world. To go to a convention and see the broad display of service and fundraising projects, a member can only return home with many new ideas for the club.
The convention has also been the vehicle used to present prestigious awards such as the World Service Medal to Mother Teresa, Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore, Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter, Heifer Project International and Sleeping Children around the World. Also, the prestigious Robert Connelly Award for Heroism is presented to an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Most of these recipients have addressed the convention in conjunction with the presentation, but the Kiwanis stage has also seen the likes of President Reagan, Dean Rusk, Richard Lugar, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale and numerous others.
Four Kiwanis International conventions have been held outside of North America: Vienna, Austria in 1983, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Kiwanis in Europe; Nice, France in 1993 which I had the privilege of presiding over as your Kiwanis International president; Taipei, Taiwan in 2001; and Chiba, Japan in 2014. And now in 2017, we will be traveling to Paris, France for the 102nd convention
Finally, one of the biggest reasons to attend a Kiwanis International convention is to meet with fellow Kiwanians from around the world and be amazed by how much we have in common and to bring back to your club the excitement that only attending such an event can create. Enrich your lives and improve your clubs.
See you in Paris in July. And as we said in my day: Be there or be square.
Bill Lieber, past Kiwanis International president