The Dr MS Swaminathan Award for Environment Protection, 2019

Special meeting held on 08th August 2019


The Dr MS Swaminathan Award for Environment Protection, 2019 function held at the Greenways Hall, Crowne Plaza turned out to be a heart- warming function. A combination of 3 great speakers made the audience feel their time was well spent. Added to that the members of the audience stayed back to have a second helping of the snacks being served. Keeping with the theme of the evening, Rtn Bhagee did a great job with the selection of the menu and the way it was served. She ensured that the food was dished out in earthenware and eco-friendly plates.

The meeting was called to order after Rtn Gurumukh collared the President at 7 pm sharp.  Given the delectable menu for the evening he found it hard to pull members away from the food tables and thereby asked them to carry their plates along. The program began with a melodious rendition by Annette Smrithi Prabhuram for the invocation.  Post that the dignitaries of the evening were welcomed with bouquets. Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General, World Health Organisation was handed a bouquet by Meena Rewari,  Rtn Gurumukh handed over a bouquet to the Awardee, Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn and Rtn CK Ranganathan presented one to the Chief Guest of the evening, Honourable Mrs Justice Prabha Sridevan, Former Judge, Madras High Court.

The President welcomed the gathering and mentioned that this function marked the 25th Anniversary of the event that first started in 1995. Rtn P Ramaswamy spoke more ‘About the Award and its history’ and at the end requested Dr Soumya Swaminathan to release a booklet that was put together covering the history of this award along with a small write up on all the past 24 Awardees.

This was followed by an introduction of the Awardee, Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn, by Rotarian Param where he delved into the two parts of Ambassador Quinn’s work life – a 32 year stint with the US State department culminating into an Ambassadorship to Cambodia from Dec 1995 to July 1999 and a 20 year stint as President, World Food Prize Foundation, which is deemed to be the Noble Prize for ‘Food & Agriculture’.

The citation was read out by Rtn Murari following which the Chief Guest presented the Award to Ambassador Quinn.

In his acceptance speech, Ambassador Quinn recalled his association with the Rotary movement starting with the US$ 100 that he won in 1959 in a contest organised by Rotary Club, Dubuque, Iowa and how this motivated him to complete school and pursue his college education. This initial sum of US$100, which by 1959 standards was a big amount, turned out to be the seed money that helped him pursue his dreams of higher education. His respect for the good things that Rotary movement had done included Polio eradication and the way it has uplifted and changed lives of so many people. He also mentioned that he now contributed to Rotary causes and has attended most Rotary meetings he has been invited to, not having the heart to refuse any.

He also explained how he developed the World Food Prize Foundation with specific focus on educating youth in 65 countries and motivating them to contribute towards sustainable and nutritious food supply throughout the globe. He also urged the Rotarians to recommend Dr.MS Swaminathan for a Rotary International Prize as he felt he is as deserving as much as one its previous renowned winner Dr Norman Borlaug.

In her felicitation address, Dr Saumya Swaminathan started by apologising for her father’s absence. She stressed the important work the World Food Prize Foundation was doing and credited Ambassador Quinn with helping raise awareness levels and contributing to making available good nutritious food instead of the junk food that is now omnipresent. She commended Rotary for the great work done for the irradiation of Polio and hoped Rotary would take up eradication of TB globally as its next initiative.

The Chief Guest was introduced by Rtn TK Bhaskar as one of the few persons in the world who has excelled with the right side as well as the left side of her brain. Both in terms of logic and creativity she had contributed so much to society.

The Chief Guest connected some dots beautifully. Food and Health go together she pointed out, referring to Dr Soumya Swaminathan of WHO and Ambassador Quinn of World Food Prize sitting next to each other. She stressed that the biggest tragedy is a child going hungry as this led to negative consequences and lauded Ambassador Quinn’s efforts to reduce hunger in the world. Felicitating Ambassador Quinn, she made a point that of the two roles he has played – one with the US State Department and the other with the World Food Prize Foundation, each one of these are worthy enough of an award. She urged the Rotarians to keep up the good work they were doing for society and seconded Ambassador Quinn’s suggestion of recommending Dr MS Swaminathan’s name for the Rotary International Award.

Rtn Murugavel Selvan proposed the Vote of thanks after the Secretary Rtn Balaji Sreenivasan made his announcements and the meeting came to an end with the National Anthem.