LIONS CLUBS INTERNATIONAL – HISTORY
The International Association of Lions Clubs began as the dream of Chicago businessman Melvin Jones. He believed that local business clubs should expand their horizons from purely professional concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large.
Jones’ group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed. After contacting similar groups around the United States, an organizational meeting was held on June 7, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The new group took the name of one of the invited groups, the “Association of Lions Clubs,” and a national convention was held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of that year. A constitution, by-laws, objects and code of ethics were approved.
Among the objects adopted in those early years was one that read, “No club shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object.” This call for unselfish service to others remains one of the association’s main tenets.
Just three years after its formation, the association became international when the first club in Canada was established in 1920. Major international expansion continued as clubs were established, particularly throughout Europe, Asia and Africa during the 1950s and ’60s.
In 1925, Helen Keller addressed the Lions international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, USA. She challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” From this time, Lions clubs have been actively involved in service to the blind and visually impaired.
Broadening its international role, Lions Clubs International helped the United Nations form the Non-Governmental Organizations sections in 1945 and continues to hold consultative status with the U.N.
In 1990, Lions launched its most aggressive sight preservation effort, SightFirst. The US$143.5 million program strives to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness by supporting desperately needed health care services.
In addition to sight programs, Lions Clubs International is committed to providing services for youth. Lions clubs also work to improve the environment, build homes for the disabled, support diabetes education, conduct hearing programs and, through their foundation, provide disaster relief around the world.
Lions Clubs International has grown to include 1.4 million men and women in 44,600 clubs located in 190 countries and geographic areas.
The Name: The proper name of the association is “The International Association of Lions Clubs.” Many Lions, however, prefer the use of the shorter form of “Lions Clubs International.”
The Emblem: Throughout the world, Lions are recognized by the emblem they wear on their lapels. It consists of a gold letter “L” on a circular purple field. Bordering this is a circular gold area with two lion profiles at either side facing away from the center. The word “Lions” appears at the top, and “International” at the bottom. Symbolically, the lions face both past and future proud of the past and confident of the future. Lions wear their emblem with pride.
The Motto: The motto of every Lion is simply “We Serve.” What better way to express the true mission of Lionism?
The Slogan: The slogan of the association is “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety” (LIONS).
The Official Colors: The royal colors of purple and gold were selected as the official colors when the association was organized in 1917. Purple stands for loyalty to friends and to one’s self, and for integrity of mind and heart. Gold symbolizes sincerity of purpose, liberality in judgement, purity in life and generosity in mind, heart and purpose toward humanity.
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