One common refrain is that the past presidents do not contribute, do not participate in projects, and are always critical. The past presidents, on the other hand, complain that they are not involved and nobody 'invites' us, and at times, they very vehemently suggest that the club should list out "our role as past presidents".
In many clubs I have been witnessed to the unfortunate whip that the past presidents continue to yield and drive their agenda and hamper the reigning president's performance. Many of the PAST club presidents get lost in the timeline and vanish from the club scene, visible only on select functions where they would insist on recognition and special status.
No harm in recognising our past leadership; indeed, it is on their shoulders that the current or the incoming leadership stands, and is able to carry forward the Rotary flag to higher pedestal. But in case this label of 'past president' comes in the way, it does need to be pondered; especially the question that the past presidents are themselves posing as to their role.
July 1, or perhaps the day the installation function is held to formally handover the baton to the new team, is the day for every outgoing President to remember the famous British phrase, "The King is Dead. Long Live the King". The phrase owes its origin to French Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!, which was first declared upon the coronation of French King Charles VII following the death of his father Charles VI in 1422. This declaration was traditionally made the moment the coffin of the remains of previous king descended into the vault and the phrase "Long Live the King" referred to the continuation or transfer of the sovereignty to the next monarch.
Allegorically speaking, in Rotary too, the outgoing president must symbolically, bury this title as the leadership passes on to the new leader. Why bury the title? Because, we continue to burden ourselves with a self-imposed ego of being a past president, and we tend to forget, that the first and foremost, we are a Rotarian. We need to take the example of the A Rotarian, who is committed to the higher cause of serving the humanity, which does not cease after one has done one's term as president.
Hats off to Paul Harris who perhaps took cue from the flying geese in which every goose has a turn to be the leader during their flight and the synergy of exchanging place with another fellow goose during their flight, makes them cover 71 percent more distance than they could have covered alone. And the leader after exchanging the place flies as religiously and contributes to the flight.
We as Rotarians must adapt the 'flying geese paradigm', and the one year that one of us gets to lead our club, we must return back to the fold of our club as a ROTARIAN, to return back in the flock and fly with as much gusto, vigour, and vitality, while another Rotarian is up ahead to lead the flock.
This is what makes Rotary great, a continuous progression from one year to another, with past presidents become much better informed resources and strength for the Club instead of leading a ceremonial existence. Let not the 'Past President' title make us 'Past Rotarians'. Definitely no one would like to be 'past'. Will you?