Touchstone Story–Lions International Convention
In 1925, when Lions Clubs International was only 8 years old, the annual convention was held at Cedar Point, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. The Ohio Lions planned to host 4,000 attendees.
In fact, 7,500 Lions converged on Cedar Point. The August 1925 LION Magazine reported that “he was a fortunate man who had a room with a bath, even though he had to share it with some other. Many would amend that and say that the man with any room at all was lucky.”
It was at this convention that Helen Keller, an American icon who was both deaf and blind, spoke to the assembled Lions and called upon them to become “Knights of the Blind” in the crusade against darkness.
Incoming Lions Clubs International President Ben F. Jones of Newark, New Jersey, called this the convention the greatest yet. “Those who have been inconvenienced because of unprecedented number of delegates and guests I am sure will keep smiling,” Jones said. “We are glad that this great association is building men of vision, men who will lead us and help our governments lead us into the greatest future that history has yet recorded.”
The Lions Clubs International Convention, which has been held annually except for 1945, grows bigger, stronger and better every year. At the 1933 convention in St. Louis, Missouri, a resolution was passed stating that at future conventions, the national anthem for every country represented by a Lions Club would be played. This practice later evolved into the Parade of Nations, which in 2015 featured 10,000 Lions from 120 countries, often marching together in traditional clothing of their home countries.
Every international convention sees the election of a new international president, a rousing competition by the Lions All-State Bands, lots of seminars and an opportunity to visit old friends and make new ones.
Past International President Brian Stevenson, from Alberta, Canada, who served from 1987 to 1988, recalled conventions as a time to conduct club business and to spend time with friends from around the world. “It’s one of the great benefits, the friendships you form. We draw people from all walks of life.” Lions in Honolulu for the 2015 International Convention agreed, saying, “The world is so big, but once you all get together it becomes such a small place.”
The 2015 convention was one of the biggest conventions in recent years. About 20,000 Lions and their families spent five days having fun and learning more about Lions. Thirteen-year-old Wei Jin Qian from China, the winner of the 2015 Lions International Peace Poster contest, and 12-year-old Jalen Ballard of Toledo, Ohio, the winner of the 2015 Lions International Essay Contest for visually impaired youth, were honored. Save the Children, an international charity, was presented with the 2015 Lions Humanitarian Award.
“Meeting people from all walks of life all over the world is so engaging, so wonderful,” said one recent convention attendee. The international convention is a unique opportunity to see the growth of Lions clubs and take of stock not just why but how Lions will continue to serve around the world for a century and more.
Explore the dynamic history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!