District Governor Cozette Vergari Visits LA5
September 18, 2017

I am honored to be standing before you today, as your District Governor. We in District 5280 are a team of over 2300 Rotarians, making a difference in our communities throughout the greater Los Angeles region, not to mention the difference we make in many peoples’ lives, around the world that we never even have the opportunity to meet.

We as individual Rotarians are joined with, and connected to, business and community leaders, in a dynamic and impactful collaboration around the world of over 1.2 million Rotarians making a difference somewhere every minute of every day.

I thank you for the opportunity to work with you in your continuing efforts during 2017-18. My main goal is to assist you, the real force behind our accomplishments in District 5280, however I can.

Having been born in Los Angeles, I have seen many changes throughout our region. I am fascinated with our history and knowing that Rotary has been an important part of that history. I am proud to live in an area rich in cultural diversity, which is reflected within our district Rotary membership.

That Rotary membership affords us each the opportunity to work with other community and business leaders, who wish to make a difference, form friendships with like-minded individuals, and do business together in an atmosphere of trust and respect.

That Rotary membership welcomes and embraces all spiritual philosophies, as well as diversity of culture, gender and age. As in all organizations and institutions, membership is important to cultivate, both in recruitment and retention. 

And as in all organizations and institutions, looking to remain relevant, Rotary International is evolving to keep pace with our rapidly changing world. We, as individuals, I am confident, wish to remain relevant; as rotary clubs, we wish to remain relevant within our communities; and, as a district, we wish to remain relevant to our members, providing opportunities and resources, to assist our clubs of District 5280 in continuing to make a difference in the lives of others, with impact and passion.

"I believe in leading with passion and purpose. Without purpose, there will be no dreams to make a difference, and without passion, we will not make those dreams come true."

My passion and purpose includes the following:

In1985 when Rotary International set the goal to eradicate polio world wide, there were 1,000 children paralyzed every day by the polio virus. Over 200 countries were endemic with polio outbreaks. In 2017, there have been only 8 reported cases in three countries. We are so close to the goal line. We must finish this task once and for all. 

My dream is for Rotarians in District 5280 to raise $83,333.34 for the End Polio Now Campaign, and when we do, with the match by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, of two dollars for every dollar we contribute, District 5280 will have raised a quarter of a million dollars. It just takes $18.20 per Rotarian with matching funds from the District and The Rotary Foundation.

August 5-7, Playa Venice Sunrise Rotarian, Rob De Cou , ran from Death Valley to the Mt. Whitney Portal...an unbelievably challenging 3-day journey for Rob. And then went 11 more miles to the summit. We had over 150 Rotarians watching Rob, we were able to hear from him, due to the video streaming, into 5 sites. Rob volunteered to make that run to raise dollars for the End Polio Now Campaign.

We are doing great with our goal! We must have the checks or pledges no later than October 1st. 

On October 28th, we will reveal our results, which leads me to my next dream...

I wish to dine with LA 5 Members Fritz Coleman and Javier Cano and at least 750 of my friends in Rotary, their family and friends, at our Foundation Celebration on October 28th. We are kicking off the second 100 years of The Rotary Foundation at the Centennial II: Million Dollar Dinner at the JW Marriott at LA Live.

Javier will be our host and Fritz our Master of Ceremonies.

Our keynote speaker will be Peter Salk, son of Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio virus. 

This year, we will have two consecutive district humanitarian trips, allowing Rotarians to travel to Bogata or Bucaramanga or BOTH. Both trips will include humanitarian projects, sightseeing and lots of fun social activities. Registration will begin next month. If you are interested, contact the district office. We sell out very quickly.

I close with a very touchy subject:

On March 3 at Loyola Marymount U RD niversity, District 5280 held a Forum On Child Sex Trafficking. Our presenters included, Homeland Security, FBI, LAPD and the LA County Sheriff’s Department, the Court System that deals with the victims of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, along with elected officials, mental health professionals and 12 non-profits working with the victims of child sex trafficking.

This is a complex and serious issue that threatens all of our children through the internet and those innocent children living on the streets, through no fault of their own. YOUNG children are being brutalized, while monsters profit in the millions from this exploitation. This is happening in our own backyard..

Today, the most lucrative criminal activity is Drug Trafficking. Human Trafficking is quickly moving into first place. When a drug trafficker sells drugs, the drugs have to be replaced to have product to sell again. But a child who is trafficked can be sold over and over again.

The average age of a minor who is lured into sex trafficking is 13. I repeat the average age is 13. There are children even younger who are sexually exploited. The average life expectancy of these children is 7 years.

A pimp makes anywhere from $150,000-200,000 per year per child. A child is sold an average of 1000 times per year.

70% of children are recruited from foster care and runaways 30% from intact families through the internet. It is a threat to our own children and grandchildren!

Since the Forum, I have met three times, with Homeland Security. In partnership with Homeland Security, as a model for all Rotary Districts in California, Nevada and Arizona, District 5280 is creating a Human Trafficking Initiative in partnership with Homeland Security. Rotary International is well on board with this issue. They have just created a new staff position at RI headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, whom I have been in touch with as our efforts continue.

Incoming president Ian Risely has selected a wonderful theme, Rotary: Making a Difference. I wish each of you a great year in making a difference, with passion and purpose, in your own individual way. Help make a dream come true.

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