John Hewko, the CEO of Rotary International, started his presentation at the World Vaccine Congress Washington this past April with a very nicely put together video about how close the world actually is to eliminating Polio as a disease (watch the video here).
His presentation gave us an overview of the important work all 34,000 Rotary clubs do worldwide to help keep children safe from this debilitating disease.
This crippling childhood disease has been Rotary's sworn enemy for more than 3 decades and vaccines are the weapons that have carried us to the threshold of victory.
Mr Hewko told a very interesting and not as well known story that is linked with the polio vaccine. This is an abstract from his speech:
"A few weeks ago, I came Across a news story about a gentleman named Robert Sherman, who had just passed away at the age of 86.
His obituary indicated that he was an award-winning composer who did a great deal of work for Disney Studios. One of his assignments was to write the songs for the 1964 musical, Mary Poppins, a very popular movie that I certainly remember, and I imagine many of you do too.
One day, Mr Sherman found himself struggling with the lyrics for one of the film's most important songs. He needed a catchy phrase around which to build the song to anchor it. Something memorable. But try as he might, nothing seemed to work.
Then his 8-year-old son came home from school.
the father asked the age-old question: "So how was school?"
"Great, we got the polio vaccine today", came the response.
Mr. Sherman assumed it was delivered by injection. "Did it hurt?"
"Nah," the boy said. "They just stuck the medicine on a lump of sugar."
A light bulb popped above the father's head and an instant classic was born:
"A Spoon Full of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down".
Yes, the same vaccine that has saved millions of children from a lifetime of disability also inspired on e of the most memorable songs in Hollywood history, a song that helped Mr. Sherman win an Academy Award for Best Original Score that year."
Mr Hewko then shifted gears and did go into a bit more detail about the role and responsibilities of Rotary International by highlighting that their main action points are fundraising, advocacy and mobilizing volunteers. Rotarians have contributed more than 1.2 billion dollars to the polio eradication effort.
Through this effort, the Organization has reached over 2.5 billion children with the oral polio vaccine. Polio eradication activities have reached more families than any other public health initiative in history.
Already this year (2012) the long anticipated milestone of seeing India removed from the list of polio-endemic countries has been celebrated. Leaving only Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan as nations where the wild poliovirus has never been stopped. If Polio can be beaten in India, it can be beaten anywhere.
Throughout the history of the polio eradication initiative, the vaccine industry has been amazing in its ability to continually and quickly reconfigure the polio vaccines to make sure we have the right weapons at the right time to use against this tenacious disease.
The private and public sector have played a significant role in polio eradication, where without their leadership, participation, support and cooperation – vaccine manufacturers, foundations, the professional and community leaders in Rotary clubs, it would only remain a dream.
Mr Hewko then asked us to think about the legacy we are leaving behind by supporting the Rotary cause and how important a stamp we can leave on peoples' lives.
For more information, you can download John Hewko's presentation here and let us know what you think.