Rotary Principles

Why Rotary?

The information on this page is provided by Rotary International.


The vision of Rotary founder Paul Harris was of a club that would kindle friendship among members of the Chicago business community. He wanted to find in the large city the kind of friendly spirit and helpfulness that he had known in the small towns where he had grown up -- the spirit to reach out in service to others less fortunate. Through the subsequent spread of the Rotary movement, the spirit of friendship and service evolved quite naturally into a focus on helping to build goodwill and peace in the world.

It was also Harris's thought that the first club should represent a cross-section of the business and professional life of the community. From this idea developed Rotary's Classification Principle. Admission to Rotary club membership is by invitation, and accepting the invitation represents a personal commitment of the Rotarian to exemplify high ethical standards in one's own vocation or occupation.

As the entity representing the global association of all Rotary clubs, Rotary International's mission is to assist Rotarians and Rotary clubs to accomplish the Object of Rotary, emphasizing service activities by individuals and groups that enhance the quality of life and human dignity, encouraging high ethical standards, and creating greater understanding among all people to advance the search for peace in the world.

The Object of Rotary

The Object of Rotary can be considered the foundation stone on which the Rotary house is built. This brief statement, 106 words in its current form, is a key element of the Rotary International Constitution. It states the essential purpose of the organization -- "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise" -- and then lists four areas by which this "ideal of service" can be fostered. They are: through the development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; the promotion of high ethical standards in business and professions; through service in one's personal, business and community life; and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace.

The 4-Way Test

One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary 4-Way Test. It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company is credited to this simple philosophy.

Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International in 1954-55. The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. The text is printed below:

Of the things we think, say or do:

  1. Is it the Truth?
  2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned