Fifty years ago, December 26, 1967, the Sanibel Captiva Lions Club was organized by twenty-six island residents who wanted to serve fellow islanders… and have a good time doing it. Since then, the club has grown and prospered by adhering to that simple idea.
Here is a story which appeared in the Island Sun on June 9, 2017. Written by Lion Bob Kern, the article traces the origin of the simple motto which still informs who we are and what we do: “We Serve“:
Lions have both a slogan and a motto. The slogan reflects the association’s formative years in America during and after World War I. The motto declares its common purpose in two short words. In the early 1920’s, cleverly spelling out our name, the slogan “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety” appeared widely on club stationery, billboards and other promotional materials. Who said it first? Chances are that it was a young attorney named Halsted Ritter, who rose to speak at the 1919 International Convention in Chicago.
“The name Lions stands not only for fraternity, good fellowship, strength of character and purpose”, Ritter declared, “But, above all, the combination of L-I-O-N-S heralds to the country the true meaning of citizenship.”
The words suited the patriotism that swept the United States following Word war I, and the Lions embraced the slogan. As the Lions movement grew across national borders, cultures and languages, Lions began looking for other words to describe their mission and work. In 1954, the Lions Board announced an international motto contest and invited suggestions from all 522,000 worldwide members.
According to the entry form, the motto had to be “enduring”, “international in character” and “easily translatable”. There was also a strict contest rule to discourage wordiness. Lions could submit as many mottos as they liked, but each entry could be no more than five words in length. To get Lions thinking, the organizers gave out a few five-word examples: “Men of Action”, “Working With Others For Others” and “Worldwide Service to Humanity”.
Thankfully, eleven of the 6,000 Lion contestants had a better idea. They each submitted identical entries. But Lion D.A. Stevenson from Fronthill, Ontario, Canada was declared the winner as his submission had the earliest postmark.
His entry contained the two simple words that have worked so well for us to this day: “We Serve”.