"Rotary looked past my disability," said Shane Scott, who has cerebral palsy, as he spoke to the Mount Vernon Rotary Club recently.
Scott, a native of Brisbane, Australia, was on hand to receive a $25,000 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to complete his degree in social work at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He will return to graduate from the University of Queensland in May.
"I can walk and talk, and I consider myself normal," he said before the club members. "While Australia has some of the same disabilities laws that the U.S. does, yours are more fine-tuned. We are developing a more flexible social policy but the real change must comein social attitude, a broader definition of normal," Scott said.
Through the mainstream of Rotary and his many contacts with individuals, Scott feels that he can impact people's attitudes.
Since last August, Scott has attended classes and traveled from Key West to Gettysburg. The warmth of greeting, the hospitality and some of the questions have been unexpected.
"Maybe they are joking but I've been asked by lots of my American friends if I have a pet kangaroo," Scott laughed. "Kanagroos are wild animals, not pets."
AMONG HIS FAVORITE experiences are college football and cornbread. "College sports are not covered on TV in Australia. The hype and excitement of a live college game is amazing. Friday and Saturday nights are the same at both universities, just hanging out with friends or going to a party."
Scott does not understand the American fascination with 24-hour news. "It puts people on edge as they focus on the news and not living."
Nor the size of portions in restaurants. "In Australia, you finish in the restaurant and don't take things home," he said.
Rotarians John and Mo Sykes hosted Scott during his week-long stay. "His smile lights up the room," said Sykes. There is the honor of spending time with someone as far thinking and positive as well as the fun of seeing our culture through another's eyes."
Information and application materials for ambassadorial and other Rotary scholarships can be found on the Rotary International web sit as www.rotary.org/foundation/educational/amb_scho/index.html. Applications must be forwarded to Dr. Jack Pitzer, Chairman of the Alexandria Rotary Club Scholarship Committee, Divison of Purchasing, Suite 301, 100 No. Pitt Street, Alexandria, Va 22314 and received by May 1, 2003.