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My Rotary Classification Talk


I had been “dating” Rotary for about 2 years before I decided to commit. My attraction started when I’d caught glimpses of local Rotarians volunteering, endowing, gifting, granting and leading in successful business. My interest grew as I started to see so much overlap of Rotarians between committees, non-profits and community events. My trust expanded as I saw the consistent character of Rotarians in the various roles they filled. I saw humor, friendship, integrity, investment in the common good, a vision for improving our community and the world and professional success that lasted because the success was an extension the authentic self.

In May of 2017, I declared my feelings for Rotary and began an official bid 20170807_223037for membership, particularly as part of the Noon Club of Newberg, Oregon. By mid-June, my membership was official and I’ve participated in several Newberg Rotary events, like the Annual Pancake Breakfast (documented by my husband, Paul, and our local newspaper, The Newberg Graphic). Today, I presented my Classification Talk, which is a rite-of-passage for new members wherein they present themselves, their careers and their intentions to the Club.


I introduced myself by reading Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey.

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting
Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚
Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚
Determined to save
The only life you could save.

I had the attention of my fellow Rotarians and could feel my ankles shake with the attention, despite modest heels. Because I embrace the interconnection of my past with my current success (personally and professionally), and because I believe that the highest levels of leadership ask authenticity from the leader, I shared that I am built for hard things and gifted in helping other people work through hard things and those qualities have created my professional success. I shared that regardless of the painful experiences I’ve come through, I wouldn’t trade any of them for an easier life because of the strength and empathy I’ve developed.

Even as I listed my college degrees and the highlights of my résumé, I told stories from my childhood, early adulthood and personal growth journey. In my candidness, I hoped not only be transparent, but to offer myself as both partner and student, still on my journey, ready for the next stage of growth and ready to offer my skills in service of community, particularly with Rotary.

After I speak, I often get the comment, “You’re so brave to share personally.” I’ll agree that I was once exceptionally brave to begin speaking on this level, but today, my eventual confidence in sharing was reaffirmed when several Rotarians shared that they were encouraged to once again release the shame of having come through abuse, mistakes or crisis and embrace those experiences as formative. Perhaps bravery is easiest when the purpose is to help others be brave.

At the end of my talk, I took my seat and finally tried a few bites of the lunch I couldn’t touch earlier as I steeled my nerves in preparation for sharing my heart. By the end of our meeting, it was time to finally remove the bright red “new member” ribbon from my badge, glad to be gone of the food-stained accessory I had already dipped in my plate several lunches before, ready for a fresh, clean start as an official Rotarian.


Sharing part of my story with colleagues and friends at the Newberg Noon Rotary Club.

For more information on Newberg’s Noon Rotary Club, Early Bird Rotary Club or Rotary International, please check out these links:

Categories: Uncategorized

Shannon Buckmaster

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