Posted by Jim Fitzgerald
Whether battling the Ku Klux Klan, The Lions, or any one of the thousands of battles that Rotary has engaged in over the past 100 years, one thing is certain, not all battles are winnable, at least in the short term, but defeat is not an option; the battle against disease falls into that category.  Only one battle in this category has ever been won in my lifetime, the battle against smallpox. The devastating disease killed one out of every three who got it.  According to Wikipedia, smallpox was the leading cause of death in the 18th century, killing over 400,000 people.
Ali Maow Maalin from Somalia contracted the disease October22, 1977, making him the last known case of smallpox contracted from naturally acquired smallpox in the world, which was caused by the smallpox virus.  Ironically, Ali survived and died 36 years on July 22, 2013, while working on the Rotary Polio Eradication campaign.
Ali’s dream as was the dream of 1.2 million Rotarians who have been battling the brutal Polio virus since 1985, long after it had been completely eradicated in the United States.  At that time, it was infecting 350,000 children each year, of which nearly ten percent died, and more than half were left crippled for life.
The Rotary International President’s theme in 1985-86 was “Rotary Brings Hope”. Challenged by Dr. Jonas Salk, a pilot program was authorized to vaccinate half a million children in the Philippines, paid for by Rotarians. 
Stunned by the success of that effort, Rotary set a goal to raise 120 million dollars by 1988 to begin the process of vaccinating all of the children in the world.  Many in Rotary at the time predicted that the program would bankrupt the organization, but instead, it galvanized the whole of Rotary into action.
Gone were the days when humanitarian projects were proposed and completed in a single year.  This was an ambitious, multi-year project, directed by the highest levels of the organization, calling for sophisticated planning and coordination never imagined before in Rotary.
The magnitude of this program was mind boggling, but Rotary never wavered.  At the Rotary International Convention in Philadelphia, June 1988, the goal had been met and exceeded, raising over 200 million dollars.
Six years later over one-half billion children had been vaccinated by Rotarians and the western hemisphere had been declared Polio-Free.  The story has played out for over 30 years now; global partners have joined the program, even Governments and international groups like the United Nations, have joined in the battle.  Now millions of children are being vaccinated in one day, at National Immunization days in endemic countries.
There have only been 15 cases in the first nine months of 2018, thanks to the relentless effort by Rotary and its international partners. 
Sadly, Religious extremists are holding a handful of children hostage at gunpoint in a tiny little region on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and thus preventing the complete and total eradication of the disease forever.
Just as in any war lives have been lost in this struggle. Armed guards travel with the immunization teams now to deliver the precious drops of the vaccine to the children in this conflict region of the world.  The war goes on, and Rotary is more determined than ever to see it through, because defeat is not an option.
Nevertheless, they are many other battles that continue to be fought as surely as the life and death struggle against Small Pox and Polio.  Those battles include; hunger, illiteracy, prejudice, poverty, and thousands more. 
Rotary clubs around the world, including the Rotary Club of Marshall Texas, have been at the forefront of these battles. The Rotary Club of Marshall Texas will be marking 100 years as part of those battle August 1, 2019.  Please plan to join us as we “Celebrate a Century of Changing Lives in Marshall and Beyond”, August 24, 2019.