Ben Smith (third from left) poses for a photo after giving his Rotary Foundation Month presention, which included a progress report on Rotary's participation in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide.  Sherrie Wight (left) and David Wight (standing next to Ben) traveled to Old Town from Frankfort to make sure that Ben would have an audience.  Also in photo: Robin Merchant, Steve Russell, and President Doug. 
November is the month every year when Rotarians remember--and celebrate--the Rotary Foundation, which was started 100 years ago.
In the last three decades, Rotary International and our foundation have been particularly prominent in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio.  The Global Polio Eradication Iniative (GPEI) started in 1988 as a joint effort of UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Rotary International. In that year, WHO estimated there were 350,000 new cases of polio worldwide--but few, if any, in the U.S.
But Rotary was more than just a partner.  The GPEI was inspired by Rotary's 1985 pledge to raise $120 million to immunize the world's children against polio.
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Some of you here probably remember Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine. I remember lining up in 1954, with all the other children in my school, to get my first polio shot. What you may not know is that Salk refused to patent the vaccine because he wanted it to be widely available. 
When Salk died in 1995, his obituary in the New York Times reported an opinion poll which ranked him between Churchill and Gandhi as one of the most revered figures in modern history. 
Salk once said, "There is hope in dreams, imagination, and in the courage of those who wish to make those dreams a reality." Sounds like he might have been a Rotarian!
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From 350,000 new cases of polio in 1988, the number has dropped more than 99%--to 74 new cases in 2015, 37 new cases in 2016, and through Nov. 7, a total of only 14 cases this year--five in Pakistan and nine in Afghanistan.
WHO estimates that more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis during the last 30 years. 
We are getting very close to eradicating polio in the world. Doing so would represent only the second time in history that we've done that.  The first was smallpox.
A few numbers about Rotary and the effort to eradicate polio:
•  Since 1988, the GPEI has spent more than $15 through June 30, 2017.
•  Rotary has spent $1.8 billion, and by the end of next year, that number will increase to $2.2 billion.
•  In 2000, the Gates Foundation launched its Global Health division. So far, they have contributed $685 million to eradicate polio, and within two years, that number will exceed $1 billion.
•  The Gates Foundation has also agreed to match every dollar donated by Rotarians with two dollars from their foundation.
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Some of you know that part of the reason I feel so strongly about polio is that my grandfather contracted the disease when he was 2 years old. He lived to be 97, but he walked with a limp his whole life because of polio.
As I said at the beginning, November is Foundation Month for Rotary. The first gift to the Foundation was from the Rotary Club of Kansas City--$26.50 in 1917.
My first ask of you tonight is that you consider writing a check to the Rotary Foundation for $26.50, for Rotary's Polio Plus Campaign, before the end of the Holiday Season.
The world really is really close to eradicating polio, and we are all part of an organization that's been instrumental in getting there. Please help make polio a thing of the past.
My second ask is that each Rotarian consider becoming a regular Foundation supporter. Rotary does a lot of good things in the world, and the Foundation is the vehicle that supports many of those efforts.
About 20% of our members support the Foundation each year. But I think it's significant that 75% of our members have donated to the Foundation at some point in their Rotary careers. That suggest to me that, as a group, we appreciate the Foundation's value.
The two simplest ways to support the Foundation are EREY (Every Rotarian Every Year) and Rotary Direct, a program that is growing in popularity and that five of our members already use.  Rotary Direct allows Rotarians to donate directly to the Founcdation via bank draft or credit card. Donations may be one-time or recurring (e.g., an automatic monthly donation from your credit card).

EDITOR'S NOTE:  A belated Thank You Dollar for Ben's presentation on the Rotary Foundation.  He took what could have been a really boring topic and presented his report with passion and conviction--and made it interesting for all of us.  Thank you, Ben!