Bill Gates and John Cena to address more than 40,000 Rotary members in Atlanta

At first glance, they may not appear to have much in common.

There’s Bill Gates, the business titan and global philanthropist.

Then there’s John Cena, the WWE wrestler  and actor.

Both, though, hope to deliver one epic final smackdown to polio, a disease once feared in much of the world that has now been nearly eradicated.

Gates and Cena will be part of a general session on ending on polio as part of the Rotary International's 108th annual international convention. The Monday session begins at 9:45 a.m.

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The gathering will be held through Wednesday at the Georgia World Congress Center.  Roughly 40,000 Rotary club members from more than 170 nations will be in Atlanta, pumping  an estimated $52.3 million impact into the local economy.

This is the third time the international conference has been held in Atlanta - the first 100 years ago.

“We are on the cusp of eradicating polio,” said John Hewko, general secretary and CEO of Rotary International. “It is going to be historic.” He said there will be a major announcement Monday related to those efforts but declined to release details.

John Cena

Rotary International, a humanitarian organization, has has 1.2 members worldwide and 11,000 in Georgia. It has clubs in  all but a handful of nations. It even has a club in Afghanistan.

Hewko said there will be a major announcement on Monday regarding polio, but declined to release details.

Saturday, Amina J. Mohammed, deputy secretary general of the United Nations will speak at 8:30 a.m.  At  9:30 p.m., there will be a candlelight vigial to end slavery and human trafficking at Centennial Olympic Park.  

 Gov. Nathan Deal will give the opening address at 10 a.m. Sunday.

During the opening session, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will welcome participants in a video message.

Actor Ashton Kutcher, co-founder of Thorn,  a digital taskforce designed to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the internet and combat child sex trafficking, will be a speaker at a panel discussion on human trafficking that begins at 11 a.m..

Other speakers over the next few days include Amina J. Mohammed, deputy secretary general of the United Nations; Anne Schuchat, acting director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Hamdullah Mohib, Afghan ambassador to the United States.

Rotary’s Hewko said the organization went through a rebranding exercise a few years ago.

“A lot of people have heard of Rotary but were not aware of what we do,” he said. He said the organization wanted more people to know about their work in disease prevention, human trafficking, maternal and child health,  literacy and peace and conflict resolution.

“Our goal is to make people better understand the enormous scope and breadth of work that our organization does,” he said.

Some activities are open to the public.

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