Earlier this week, Kevin Beckner and Tim Euler were inducted into the Rotary Club of Tampa. I was proud to have sponsored both of them as members of the Tampa club, which celebrates its centennial anniversary next year as part of the international civic organization.
Kevin Beckner is a Hillsborough County Commissioner, a Democrat, and the county’s only openly gay elected official. He had spoken at the club earlier in the year and was interested in Rotary, so I invited him to come back as my guest and consider joining.
Tim Euler is the new Head of School at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, where my girls are students. Tim is an unapologetic Christian conservative and a Republican. Tim moved to Tampa from Orlando over the summer, and we developed a friendship; as with Kevin, I asked him to be my guest at Rotary.
Kevin and I scheduled the day for him to attend his first meeting as my guest weeks in advance of the actual date. I had all but forgotten which day it was when I invited Tim to attend as my guest the same day. When I realized they were coming on the same day, a slight panic set it.
Panic because I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over with these two ideological polar opposites sitting together at the meeting. I considered telling one of them a little white lie to keep him from coming to the meeting on the same day as the other.
I decided to apply Rotary’s “Four Way Test,” which is: In all the things you say or do, ask yourself, 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?
If you can’t answer “yes” to all four of the questions, you shouldn’t say or do whatever it is you’re considering.
When I applied the test to the question of canceling one of my invitations, I failed miserably. Having one of them not attended would have been a lie, and would have been unfair to the person affected.
It is hard to build goodwill and better friendships if you’re telling lies to your friends — another “no” response. Although it may have been beneficial to me to cancel one of them from coming, it would not have been beneficial to all concerned. I finished the test zero for four.
I decided to proceed with both of them coming on the same day.
At the meeting, I introduced the two of them to each other, and they each gave a little background about themselves. Of course, Kevin no more told Tim, “I’m gay” than Tim told Kevin, “I’m straight.” However, Kevin did mention he was a Democrat county commissioner, and it wasn’t lost on him that Tim was a conservative Republican. We sat for lunch and had a cordial discussion which included politics. All the while I privately hoped no highly controversial social issues came up. Fortunately, none did.
Both expressed interest in coming back to Rotary, so I extended an open invitation to “come whenever you can.” Weeks later they both told me they wanted to come back — and as fate would have it, on the same day. Fortunately, the second encounter was even smoother than the first. Over the next few months they attended more meetings and each decided to join the club.
Tim told me later that between the first and second lunch, he had Googled Kevin and knew all about him. He told me he doesn’t have to agree with someone who has a different ideology or lifestyle than himself to like them or get along with them. Kevin had a similar view, telling me that Rotary’s motto of “service about self” requires putting your personal differences aside to give back to the community and to build better friendships.
That is what Rotary is all about: a diverse group of people getting along and working together to benefit the community.
Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and analyst for Bay News 9. Email him at: [email protected]