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Donald MacRae

Canada�s International Service Visionary

From the proceedings of the 1921 convention held in Edinburgh

MacRae’s Fourth Object

Also see the Rotary Zone 22 Donald MacRae Peace AwardAlso see the RGHF “search” for the Object of Rotary


 The advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of serviceThe Fourth Object of Rotary initially composed by Donald MacRae.

Past District Governor Jim Angus has recently engaged all in the Global History Project in further examining Rotarian Donald MacRae. Jim has argued with both knowledge and passion that Zone 22 covering Canada acknowledge the massive impact Donald MacRae had on the Rotary movement and introduce a  Donald MacRae Award to be given annually at the Zone Institute to an individual or association that made some significant contribution to international understanding, goodwill and peace.

Jim has compiled a brief analysis on MacRae�s life and his impact on Rotary which is reproduced below. It is pleasing to all at Rotary Global History Fellowship, that we have not ignored Donald McRae�s contribution to our movement. John Eberhard, RID Zone22 2003-2005 is currently considering Jim�s request.

Canada, Jim explains, was an obvious land in which to sow the seeds of Paul Harris�s new vision: �If any group had an understanding of how international organizations might operate, it was the Canadians with their country�s long-time membership in the British Empire, now the Commonwealth. Indeed, Canada belongs to more international organizations than any other country � The Commonwealth, Francophonie, the Group of Seven (G7), the UN and all its branches, NATO, OECD, OAS (Organization of American States) SEATO  (South East Asia Treaty Organization, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation), WTO (World Trade Organization), NAFTA, and probably FTAA  to name a few.

Rotary International President Pete Snedocor appointed Donald MacRae, a recognized expert legal draftsman, chair of the incoming Constitution and By-laws Committee.

He was born in the tiny village of Canoe Cove on Prince Edward Island on 13 June 1872.   After graduating from high school, he worked in a clothing store for seven years.  In 1894, at the age of 22, he entered Dalhousie University on a scholarship, graduating four years later with high honours in classics and the University Medal. He next spent six years at Cornell University, teaching Greek and earning an A.M. degree in 1899 and a PhD in 1905. Between 1905 and 1909 he lectured in Greek at Princeton University. In 1909 he returned to Canada to study law at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, graduating in 1912 and being called to the bar in 1913. After practising law for one year in Toronto, he accepted an appointment as Dean of the Law School at Dalhousie University, a position he held until 1924, when he returned to Osgoode Hall as a full-time lecturer.  He retired in 1944.

To return to his Rotary activity, MacRae presented a host of constitutional amendments to the Edinburgh Convention. The most significant one, which has had the greatest long-term effect on Rotary, was a resolution adding the Fourth Object. Drafted by MacRae, himself, it was approved earlier by the Board of Directors. The wording was similar to the present wording: �To aid in the advancement of international peace and goodwill through a fellowship of business and professional men of all nations united in the Rotary Ideal of Service

It is not surprising that MacRae should propose the fourth object of Rotary which now reads: �The advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional people united in the ideal of service.� He had been thinking about it for a long time.

 In an address to the International Convention in Kansas City in 1918, while World War 1 was still raging, MacRae outlined his philosophy of peace and proposed that Rotary become an agent for the promotion of goodwill and peace among nations – the first time this vision of Rotary was expressed publicly.

In the Kansas City address, MacRae spoke of three kinds of peace including the peace of primitive man (barbarism) and peace imposed by a world power (imperialism). But to him the most lasting kind of peace was what he called the  �peace of cooperation.� He defined  it as �peace founded on goodwill, on sympathy and trust, the peace of free play and fair play.�  He urged Rotarians to become involved in creating this kind of peace. �Goodwill implies sympathy and sympathy and goodwill beget trust,� he said. And then he added, �On these foundations then, on the foundation of goodwill, sympathy, and trust, to which may we not add, to make it four-square, the Rotarian spirit of service, must we believe, be erected the structure of peace.

MacRae ended his address with these remarks. �The ultimate and final security of peace is to be found in individual hearts and minds.  The spirit of goodwill, the spirit of sympathy, the spirit of trust, the spirit of service, the new sense of community of purpose, the new sense of unity of life, these are things which must have their birth and growth in the hearts and minds of individual men and women.�

MacRae mulled these sentiments over for three years as he devised a strategy whereby the service ethic of Rotary could be used to create the foundations on which international peace might be built.  His strategy was the Fourth Object of Rotary, which he, and he alone, devised. It was fortuitous that he had been appointed chair of the Constitution Committee when he was.

Before the Edinburgh Convention, the object of Rotary had been limited to domestic affairs. Other than its inclusion in the name of the organization, the word �international� did not even appear in the organization�s constitution or by-laws and not much of its literature. �Service� meant �community service;� �fellowship� implied only �club fellowship.� But MacRae�s fourth object would change all that.

Money is another passion for all. Everyone wants to enter the stock market today. Because they know one can definitely earn well when the right investment decisions are taken at the right moment. When you go to a trader, the risks are well known but high. What if he makes a mistake because he was in a fight that morning or if he was at the rest room when the market decided to soar up in an instant. Hence it is better to invest through a fully automated system like the Fintech Ltd. Just like how MacRae’s strategy changed Rotary’s thoughts and actions, such softwares could change the way investments are made.

commitment to �international understanding and peace� is what distinguishes Rotary from all other service clubs. Cliff Dochterman, a recent RI president updated MacRae�s Fourth Object by explaining how Rotarians promote peace. Dochterman wrote:

It is the conviction of Rotary International that the lasting peace which the world seeks is built on friendship, tolerance, and goodwill among people. Our instruments of peace are food, education, health care, environmental improvements, respect for all persons, and many other activities we call humanitarian service.

And so The Fourth object was to become the engine that drives Rotary�s international service; it has become the watchword of the Rotary Foundation. All the marvellous international service programs in which we participate can be traced to the Fourth Object � Youth exchange, Group Study Exchange, World Community Service Projects, Scholarships, Health Hunger and Humanity Projects, matching grants, peace forums, and the magnificent PolioPlus program.

With thanks to RID 2003-2005 John Eberhard & PDG Jim Angus

 Calum Thomson, Rotary Global History Fellowship

Rotary Zone 22 Donald MacRae Peace Award