Germ shared with Norman Rotarians the updates of Rotary's mission to eradicate Polio.  He serves on the International Polio Plus Committee and is Vice President for RI in 2012-14. He was recognized in 2013 by the White House as a Champion of Change for his many years of service to numerous community and volunteer organizations.

By Andy Rieger
Transcript Executive Editor


A small crutch leaned against a podium inside an Oklahoma Memorial Union room Wednesday evening. It was a prop, retrieved and held aloft by Shawn Arnold as he described his early battle with polio.


The 55-year-old attorney and Norman resident was one of Maine's last polio victims in the early 1960s. He contracted the disease as a toddler when his mother feared having him immunized would give him the disease, as was reported at the time.


At an OU Rotaract banquet Wednesday night, Arnold was the local face of polio, a disease now nearly eradicated through the efforts of world health organizations and Rotary International. Polio now exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.


In 35 years, the disease has been eliminated in more than 120 countries. Organizations have spent more than $9 billion in hopes of declaring the world polio free. We need to finish the journey, Tennessee engineer John Germ told Rotarians and guests. It was Rotary's initiative that got the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Unicef to adopt a resolution in 1988 that said we want to make the world polio free.


Germ is a past director, vice president and vice chairman of Rotary International. He is a past trustee of the Rotary Foundation and currently serves on the organization's International Polio Plus Committee.
OU's Rotaract Chapter raised more than $2,000 in the fight to eradicate polio. The chapter's weeklong events raise money for and awareness of Rotary's polio initiative.


Germ has been a leader in fundraising for Rotary International's polio eradication campaign. Germ talked of the millions pledged and donated by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, through their personal foundation.


Germ also spoke Thursday to the Norman Rotary Club. Rotary's effort at polio eradication began in 1979 with a commitment to vaccinate children in the Phillippines. By 1988, 350,000 children a year still were contracting polio.

That's almost 1,000 children a day. Think about the devastation. Think about the children, he said. We must do it because we promised the children we would do it.


India is the latest country to be declared polio free, and Nigeria may be next. While the success is celebrated, isolated cases have been reported in Africa, Ethiopia and Syria in the past few months.


I'm still convinced that success is achievable, Germ said. We have to continue the fight.