Happy September, Everyone.

Imagine: what would your daily life be like if you couldn’t read? Whether accomplishing the tasks of daily living… like interpreting a recipe to programming your thermostat… or succeeding in your career, the ability to consume and comprehend information is critical.

September is Basic Education and Literacy Month. Literacy serves as the cornerstone of education and personal development. It equips a person with the skills to comprehend, analyze and communicate, enabling them to participate fully in civic life, access opportunities, and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

For Rotary, global literacy is not just about individual empowerment; it's a catalyst for societal progress. Countries with higher literacy rates tend to experience greater economic growth, improved health outcomes, and enhanced social cohesion. Literate societies are better positioned to address complex challenges, make informed decisions, innovate across various sectors, and make strides toward peace.

By prioritizing and investing in worldwide literacy initiatives, we pave the way for a brighter future where every individual has the tools to unlock their potential and actively engage in shaping a more prosperous and equitable world.

I’m so proud of the many Rotary Clubs in our district who support learning initiatives both locally and globally. Rotary members are making things happen, like teaching adults and children to read, supporting teachers, enhancing educational systems, opening, or refurbishing schools, providing scholarships, and so much more.

But our work is far from done. California is one of the most populous and diverse states in the United States, and yet has one of the lowest literacy rates in the nation.  Nearly 1 in 4 people aged 15 or older are unable to read or write at an 8th grade level. Only 32% of fourth graders can read proficiently. And, while California is home to a large number of “English as a second language” learners and there are known educational inequities in marginalized communities, studies show that language proficiency gaps also exist among non-low-income students, as well.  

Rotarians can make a difference. Consider starting a tutoring program, collecting, and donating books to schools lacking resources, volunteering at local libraries, or joining the Education and Literacy Rotarian Action Group. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We all have the power – both as individuals and as Rotarians – to create lasting change around education and literacy.

Speaking of creating lasting change, I want to thank everyone who has stepped up in some way to support our neighboring communities affected by recent natural disasters. From the devastating fires on the island of Maui to the roaring wildfires in Northern California, Rotary has shown up in the form of hands-on support, collaborative projects, and generous financial donations. Your swift and compassionate response is truly heartwarming and exemplifies our motto of Service Above Self.