ROBERT W. CLARKE
Junior Grand Warden, 1995
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 1997
From Proceedings, Page 1997-264:
Grand Master, Distinguished head table, newly Elected and Appointed Officers of our Grand Lodge, and my Brethren all, I bring to each of you warm seasonal and fraternal greetings in this most blessed and festive season.
Last week, I was amused by Bill Clinton's remarks about the season. He said "the holiday season is a time when you get more time to spend with your family and less time to spend with the ones you love!" (I can only imagine what Kennedy would have said.)
But my hope and prayer is thai you have all had time to savor the spirit of the holidays, immerse yourselves in the love of family, renew your spirit through the openness of the little ones, and, as the telephone company says, "reach out and touch someone", by extending your Masonic teachings, by extending yourself to someone in need of you. Brethren, if you haven't, don't wait; make it your first New Year's resolution.
I want to chat with you a few minutes about the future. I have to admit that in preparation for my remarks, I took a moment to visit the Grand Lodge Library and to read back a few years in our Grand Lodge Proceedings, to get a sense of the messages that other speakers had brought; their messages of renewal, to this marvelous Feast of St. John the Evangelist. I found, almost as a fundamental, that everyone seemed to have a joke or two mixed in - even Dave Lovering, back in 1995, attempted humor, and told a joke, although he claimed that it wasn't intended to be a joke. He claimed that he was just talking about Phil Berquist and that was enough to get everyone laughing!
Phil Berquist has a great sense of humor, and he also does funny things, things that we'll never understand, like naming his dog Bear. Why would you name a dog Bear? Does he have a cat named Dog, or a bird named Rabbit? It seems rather unusual to me, but the dog doesn't seem to mind it, although he's been curled up asleep since mid-November!
Al Ames has a dog, too. He more sensibly named his dog, "Tis", likes to hear his wife in the morning calling, "Here Tis, Here Tis"!
Ralph Semb, (a real computer hack by the way), and since he's traveling a lot with the Imperial Shrine Divan, has been trying to get his dog to answer some of his Shrine E-mail. The dog is smart enough, and Ralph got him a specially built keyboard to fit his paws, but he won't do it. Can't stick his head out of the Windows 95!
But enough about dogs. I want to chat with you a few minutes about the future, about planning the future, about future strategies, about strategics and planning, about strategic planning, about strategic planning for our future as a Fraternity, a brotherhood of kindred spirits, carrying on a 1000 year old mission, as we approach not only a new year, 1998, but soon a new decade, a new century, and for the first time in 1000 years, a new millennium!
I cannot think of another organization that has the unique opportunity to plan for its 2nd millennium, its second one thousand years in business. Even the Japanese, who pride themselves on making 100 year long range business plans, would have to concede that for us to make a 1000 year Strategic Plan for the Fraternity we call, and cherish, as Freemasonry, would be an ambitious and arduous undertaking, particularly because our plans, indeed our lives, are moving and adjusting (as the saying goes) at "the speed of change", an ever increasing pace, in a time when literally nothing stands still, nothing remains constant for long.
Everything is in transition, everything is changing, and at a faster-pace the way we live, the way we communicate, the way we heal, the way we eat, the length of hair and skirts, the friends we make, the ability to get places faster, our health our families, our jobs, our time to share. The list is infinite because everything is in transition. It seems next to impossible to think about planning against such a moving target. But, we're all used to change, and we're all coping at one level or another, at least adapting, to the speed of change in recent years. Stephen Covey, in his well read book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that effective people embrace change, in fact, they thrive on it. He concludes that effective people are not just adapting at the speed of change, but are changing at the speed of life! Having said all that, I must share a concern with you. I've been thinking about it many years. My concern is this, if we all live in a world of change, and if we're accepting change as a necessity, as a fundamental in the course of progress, then why, as Freemasons, do so many of us resist changing how we operate as a Fraternity, resist changing even the most inconsequential things in our own course of progress? While change is taking place in a geometric spiral, outside the Fraternal walls, inside the Fraternity, there is resistance somewhere in Freemasonry at every level of progress, to changing even the most inconsequential things, inconsequential when you really examine our fundamental purpose as an organization.
We resist one day classes, we resist asking a man and his family to join and support the Fraternity, we can't bring ourselves to fully embrace intrafraternalism with the appendant orders, let alone the countless men of every race and color, who believe in God, and live exemplary lives.
The Marines have a saying in battle "The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire, is incoming friendly fire". The cartoon character Pogo says "we have met the enemy, and he is US!" Think about it. We are our own worst enemy, Brethren, and my concern is that we are doing ourselves in, and unnecessarily.
Psychologists say that at the root core of every reluctance to move forward, whether it's a business decision, a personal or family decision, there is a terrifying fear in one's very soul. Perhaps at the core of our own inaction as a Fraternity, there is also a terrifying fear. If so, what are we afraid of? My perception is that, as Freemasons, we resist change because we are not sure just exactly what we mean by change. If there are changes to be made, exactly what will get changed? Will it be our ritual? Our traditions? Our friendships?
Our image? Our heart and soul? Will change make Freemasonry into something else, something less?
Brethren, my message to you is that Freemasonry needs a Long Range Strategic Plan, a plan that by its very existence will remove the fears that Freemasonry will change into something different Believe me, it won't. A plan to being the next millennium, a plan to perhaps begin a new phase of Masonry, let's call it our "Modern Period". Not a Plan for Massachusetts, but a strategic design for Freemasonry in all of North America.
We, of all people, profess to be the builders. We learn from our ancient craft masons that we are obliged to build to a plan Most of us have watched our very small children in their first experience with building blocks. They start nowhere and end up in the same place, because they have no plan, no vision of what it should look like when it's finished. What then is strategic planning? Strategic planning is establishing the purpose of the organization, setting on paper the vision of the organization, how we'd like it to be way into the future, and then measuring that vision against the current situation. Strategic planning is deciding what needs changing. It is examining internal strengths and weaknesses as well as the constant changes and forces in the external world around us to set a course of action. It is, as our ritual says, "redeeming and changing" (in today's jargon that means paradigm shifts). It is transitioning from the rough ashlar to the smooth ashlar; As Bob Ralston says, "it is looking inward to reach outward." It is the preservation of the good; the strengths of the organization and conquering the weaknesses through experimentation with new ideas. Strategic planning is avoiding tlie "quick fixes", the Band-Aid approach. We don't want to be like the mechanic who says to the customer, "I couldn't fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder".
Fundamentally, a strategic plan has three basic ingredients: a Mission Statement that tells the world what Masonry is; and would never change; goals that support the Mission Statement and would rarely, if ever, change, and objectives that change all the time, on purpose, to make the goals come true, the action plans, including the experimental pieces that are expected to change in order to keep the plan dynamic and alive over the many years. If you can't quite see what I mean, here are two quick stories that define strategic planning:
Two fellows are out hiking. All of a sudden, at some distance they see a large bear. The bear also spies them and starts to run toward them. One of the fellows calmly opens his knapsack, takes out his sneakers and starts to put them on. The other fellow says:" What are you doing?" He answers, "I figure when the bear gets close to us, we'll make a run for it." The other fellow says, "That's crazy, you can't outrun the bear." The first fellow says "I don't have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you."
This is Strategic Planning: Goals and short-term objectives.
A blind man is following his seeing eye dog approaching the intersection. They both stop at the corner waiting for the traffic. The man moves up next to the dog. The dog looks up at his master, smiles, and then lifts his leg and pees all over the man's pant leg. The man senses what has happened, reaches down and confirms his suspicions. Another man nearby is watching all this happen, and is amazed at what happens next. The blind man reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a huge dog biscuit and starts to give it to the dog. The man nearby cannot contain himself and says, "What are you doing? After what the dog has just done, why are you giving him a reward with the biscuit?" The blind man responds, "Oh, I'm not giving him a reward, I'm just trying to find out where his head is so that I can kick him in the butt!" Strategic planning: establishing a vision and an action plan.
Brethren, Freemasonry is not a treasure, valued as an heirloom it valued because of its antiquity, or because George Washington and other Presidents belonged. It is not that which carries us back to the past, but that which relates us to the present, and challenges and inspires us to use its principles to shape the future. By its very nature, Freemasonry insists upon, and is irrevocably committed to progress.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Bob, your idea of putting together a strategic plan for Freemasonry in all of North America is a good one and a timely one, but how will we ever get all the Grand Masters in North America to agree to something like this, let alone adopt a universal Mission Statement? I'll tell you why I believe it's possible for two reasons: First, because Freemasonry is finally going through a major paradigm shift. Freemasonry throughout the Northern Hemisphere, is finally thinking that it is time to change, is experimenting with new ideas, one day classes, image building, networking, etc. Freemasonry is thinking about how Freemasonry thinks about itself! There's a new buzzword in strategic planning circles. It is called Strategic Readiness, the concept that we can do all the planning in tlie world, but until management wants to "implement" the plan, until management wants it to happen, is willing to get behind it and make it the operating plan of the Fraternity, it will gather dust on the shelf. Freemasonry is in the mood to implement a plan. Our Scottish Rite, and the Shrine, have recently adopted strategic long range plans. Some Grand Lodges are beginning to sort out the pieces and to experiment with new ideas. There is strategic movement and concern in Canada. The timing is right.
There is an old saying, that it's easier to change our minds than to change our thinking. Let me give you an example of a paradigm shift: Maybe you've heard this riddle. A father and son were injured in an auto accident. The son was taken to the local hospital for emergency surgery. The surgeon arrived, took one look at the boy and said, "I can't operate on this boy, he's my son."
Just a few years ago, most of you would have had trouble figuring out the answer to this riddle. The answer is that the surgeon is a woman, and the mother of the boy. Just a few years ago, our mindset was that Doctors had to be men, and women were nurses. The fact that we now readily accept women as surgeons is a paradigm shift in tlie way we think. We have not just accepted it, but actually changed our way of thinking about a woman's role in medicine.
The second reason I believe it is possible to draft and implement a Strategic Plan for Freemasonry in all of North America is that the Mission Statement has already been written, the fundamental purpose of the Fraternity has already been written and every Grand Master has sworn to promote it, and every Mason has sworn to live by it. And when we embrace it, it will put aside our fears of change, because it doesn't change things about Masonry that we fear deep down will be changed. It leaves Freemasonry "pure and unimpaired from generation to generation".
Brethren, our Mission Statement and our vision for our future is all written in a small piece of ritual in the First Degree, "the tenets of your profession as a Mason, my Brother, are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth". The tenets, the foundation principles, the mission of Freemasonry, is a continuing search for truth through a sharing of ourselves with those less fortunate. Freemasonry is in tlie business of building character, character filled with Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
Truth is the development of intellect, and as our ritual says, "the foundation of every virtue, to be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry". Truth becomes the blood that brings life to the development of character. We are interested in the development of the character of man because we are interested in man for his own sake, for the sake of his worth as an individual. The world's greatest need was, is and will continue to be for men of integrity, men of truth, whose word is their bond. Brethren, I maintain that we'll forever be in the "truth searching" business. More and more light will always be our quest.
Relief is the truth of Freemasonry in action. It gives us the one sure test of the truth of Freemasonry. Freemasonry has never had a particular pattern of relief. We tend to measure it in dollars expended to help others, in our Charlton homes, our Shrine Hospitals, our Scottish Rite Learning Centers in dollars, over two million dollars a day.
But relief means more than giving material assistance to those who need it. Relief means recovery of life! Our whole conception of relief is based upon our affirmation of die worth of human personality. We believe that every person would have an opportunity to find his or her life at the level of the best of which he or she is capable. Brethren, I maintain that we'll always be in the relief business, action will always speak louder than words.
The third of the tenets of our profession as Masons, is Brotherly Love, the development of our emotional selves, the development of a sincere motivation, the development of our ability to love one another, and to regard each other's welfare as our own, truly doing for others as you would have them to do for you, loving others as ourselves. It is also the development of synergism, that "congregational spirit" which confirms that together, we can accomplish much more than we could ever hope to accomplish as individuals. Brethren, I maintain that we will always be in the business of "togetherness". I must conclude that whether consciously or unconsciously, those who included these tenets in our ritual put together the tliree great factors in all living, intellect, emotion and action. The tenets of ourProfession; the Mission Statement of our long range strategic plan.
And doesn't a Mission Statement like this get us over our fears of change? Doesn't it refocus our vision so that any changes necessary to accomplish this mission have to be considered insignificant, non-threatening changes, because they cannot tear apart the fabric of the craft, cannot undermine the uniqueness of Masonic society. Which brings me to the bottomline. In sales we call it closing the sale. I'm going to flatter you and ask each of you to do me a favor. As Massachusetts Masons, you have to be proud, not only of your heritage, your great leaders, past and present, but also of your strategic readiness. You have made paradigm shifts, and have opened many doors of progress. You are experimenting with one-day classes, and other apparent barriers to membership. You were the first to have embraced our Prince Hall Freemasons, constituted a Hispanic Lodge, are bringing new approaches to Masonic leadership training, building solid intrafraternal relations with the appendant orders, and your communities at large. It is already beginning to pay great dividends. You are avoiding the quick fixes. You, in this room, are at the forefront and in the trenches of our Masonic outreach programs across the nation. You are leading the way. I can think of no better group of men than you, the men and leaders of our Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, to introduce the ideas of a strategic plan for modem Masonry onto the trestleboard of North America. In a word, to pull it all together, and as you travel and crisscross through the Masonic vineyards, I ask that you evangelize the idea of strategic planning of our beloved fraternity, and find ways to make it happen!
In Alcoholics Anonymous there is a saying: Our yesterdays are all histories, Our tomorrows remain as mysteries, But each new day is God's gift, That's why we call it THE PRESENT. I ask you to take your gift, to take your present, and to go forward together, in the spirit of St. John the Evangelist, in the spirit of renewal. Brethren, thank you for this honor.