It is a great privilege for me to be asked by our Grand Sovereign to speak to you tonight on a subject that has been to a very great extent, my life for over fifty years; a subject that has not only impacted my life, but has impacted the evo­lution of civil societies for centuries. The subject, of course, to which I refer, is Freemasonry. Knight Com­panion Wood granted me free reign to speak on whatever subject I chose and I titled my paper, “Our Relevancy in Today’s World.”(…)
It would be illogical to consider that so many of the greatest patriotic leaders of the world who led in the fight for the rights of man were Freemasons and were not influenced by its philosophy. Did Freemasonry make them great? Of course not; but neither can it be happenstance that they were all Freemasons. The philosophical precepts of Freemasonry must have influenced their thinking and contributed in some way to stimulate them to place themselves in a position to be leaders for their country’s struggles for the rights of their citizens to be free.
Freemasonry may not have made these men great but these men contributed to making Freemasonry great. Without them, and many others whose names are legendary in so many diverse fields of endeavor, Freemasonry could not have risen to its greatness and have had the influence to impact the evolution of civil societies the way that it has for several hundred years. One of its great attributes to its credit is that the Craft attracted some of the greatest men with some of the greatest minds that ever lived. This attractive force was primary in causing our Craft to become a force unlike any other seen in the world to serve as a beacon to developing world societies.
Few countries with freedom that exists today do so without the influence of Freemasons or Masonic philosophy. Freemasonry was one of the significant enclaves that provided the environment wherein great thinking minds could meet with a relative degree of freedom during the Age of Enlightenment. Should we doubt how significant the impact and how relative Freemasonry’s influence was, consider that the United States of America is quite possibly a result, along with many other countries, who used the model of democracy created here.
However, the world has changed; and with that change, we must examine our relevancy to it today. Is the philosophy and are the precepts of Freemasonry relevant to the demand of societies of the present day world? Does the visible image of Freemasonry stand out as a significant positive influence as it did in the past? Do we continue to have the influence to impact evolving civil societies? Does our present‑day leader­ship have the long‑range vision required to see the potential importance of the ongoing evolutionary development of society? These are very serious questions and our response to them will determine not only our influence on society but our very survival as an institution.
The answer to the first question regarding Free­masonry’s relevancy to the demands of society in the present day world is an unequivocal “yes.” There can never be a time that the philosophy of Freemasonry and its precepts would not be relevant in any society. The issues challenging Freemasonry in parts of the world today do not lie in the relevancy of its philosophy; it lies in our failure to practice it. I quote John Robinson, the noted author who quite possibly led the charge of the present day plethora of writers on Freemasonry, “The problem with Freemasonry today is that it does not practice Freemasonry anymore.”
Robinson, however, was writing as a result of his observance of American Freemasonry. There is a distinct difference between the relevancies of Free­masonry in America when contrasted with most of the rest of the world. Society’s evolution in America is slowed by a maturation requiring lesser evolutionary change and plagued by complacency and apathy. Unfortunately, American Freemasonry has been plagued by the same disease.
Several weeks ago I spoke at a symposium in Izmir, Turkey on the subject, “The Challenges Facing Masonry in the Twenty‑First Century.” When I was asked to speak, the topic was qualified to me with the observation that it is evident that our protocols of regularity, recognition, jurisdictional authority, etc. are not applicable in today’s world. When I presented my paper, I served as the devil’s advocate debating this observation. These very protocols have sustained Freemasonry for several hundred years and when we begin to lessen their significance, we begin to weaken the fabric that holds us together. I am constantly amazed by many of today’s leaders who seem intent on destroying the very qualities of the Craft that not only sustains us but those that contributed to making us significant.
The proposition put forward was that Freemasonry must change to adapt to the technological age. And yet, Freemasonry has thrived for 300 years through evolving societal changes without sacrificing its protocols. Let us ask these questions: Is the societal change required to advance in today’s age of tech­nology any more dramatic than the societal change required advancing into the age of the Industrial Revolution? Must Freemasonry become something fundamentally different to remain relevant? Perhaps the changes are not so much needed in Freemasonry as they are in the society in which it exists. With the moral and ethical values promulgated by Freemasonry and with the changes that I have observed in my lifetime of society’s evolution, I would suggest it would be more prudent for society to change, than Freemasonry.
(…) In today’s age, we live in a country that is dominated by a precept of “political correctness” wherein the prevailing attitude has become that every citizen has the right to have the same as everyone else regardless of ability, initiative or work ethic. But, America was also built on sustaining protocols – protocols that provided its citizens with the opportunity and the stimulus to rise above the ordinary and to excel in their lives. The political correctness attitude has resulted in the conversion of many productive citizens of America to parasites living upon society. Unfortu­nately, much of our Masonic leadership has bought into this political correctness precept with the result of a devastating decline in the quality of the Craft.
I am not suggesting that we become an organization composed of only the “elite” of society. Indeed, a second reason for our greatness was in the orga­nization’s intent to accept men from all diverse walks of life and seat them in a Lodge room as equals. Lacking that intent, we could not have risen to the greatness that we have experienced. Nonetheless, we are an elite organization. When we set our goal to accept only good men, we became elitist. There is nothing wrong with elitism. Freemasonry has always been, and must always be, an elite fraternity.
However, a third and lasting reason for our great­ness was our commitment to remaining selective as to the quality of the man we would accept. It is our failure to retain that third reason that Freemasonry’s significance is declining in America.
However, my references thus far have been applicable only to the sociological conditions of our country and perhaps a few others, generally, the English‑speaking countries.
Let us now take a look at Freemasonry in most of the rest of the world today. We are living in a remark­able age for Freemasonry. The Craft is growing at what may be its greatest rate since its inception. There have been 26 new Grand Lodges consecrated since the turn of the century and the Craft is achieving success and influence in parts of the world where it has not existed in the past or where it has been rejuvenated following the demise of repressive regimes. This perhaps represents the greatest numerical expansion of Grand Lodges in that span of time in our history, and most Grand Lodges in the world are increasing in membership numbers. They are attracting some of the greatest leaders in their communities and Freemasonry’s impact upon their societies is considerable. Unquestionably, Freemasonry is relevant to them.
Many of you know that I have been serving as Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges for the past fifteen years. In that position, I have had the privilege of traveling over much of the world and have been able to observe, Freemasonry as it operates in many different countries. As might be expected, it has been confronted with many challenges for various reasons. In Eastern Europe, the challenge has been in con­sequence of an ingrained distrust of all orga­nizations as a result of the repressions that they have expe­rienced over many decades. In Africa, it must deal with issues of distrust due to tribal and local fears of it being some type of witchcraft organization. In both areas of the world, it must also deal with resistance from religious leaders that have historically opposed Freemasonry.
I am firmly convinced that the relevancy of Free­masonry in today’s world is no less significant than it has been than any time in our past, but I am also convinced that its relevancy in America must be redefined by our members and reinserted into society and its significance reemphasized. Fortunately, this is not the case in most of the world. Freemasonry has always been at its best when it has been challenged the most. This is a primary reason that it is succeeding in most of the world but showing failure in other parts. Permit me to relate to you some of my experiences that will emphasize the relevancy of Freemasonry.
Over the past decade, I have been received by the presidents of six countries and several prime ministers and have been on numerous television and radio programs in Europe and Africa along with many press interviews. I have addressed a public forum in India and senates and military leaders in Latin America. I participated in a wreath‑laying on the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris with a sitting president, also on the grave of a former president of Gabon along with the president of the country, the tomb of O’Higgins in Chile along with the president and at the monument of Benito Juarez in Mexico. I assisted in the dedication of a Masonic monument on the national mall in Valparaiso, Chile, to name but a few of the significant experiences that I have had as a result of the significance of Freemasonry It is always astounding to me as to the type of receptions I receive in other countries simply because I represent Freemasonry to them.
I was recently in Montenegro where I attended their Grand Communication. Montenegro, for those who may not be aware, is the southernmost country that resulted from the breakup of Yugoslavia. There are currently seven countries, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bosnia‑Herzegovina created from this dissolution with a eighth, Kosovo, possible in the near future. I knew then how I would complete this paper.
Yugoslavia had been a country composed of nu­merous cultures with centuries of distrust and animosities, some of which continue to this day. It has always been amazing to me that one man, Marshal Tito, as a dictatorial power, could hold them together for as long as he did.
What is far more significant, however, is that within the framework of the philosophical precept of the brotherhood of man, Grand Lodges were consecrated in each one of these new countries with assistance from the others. Even now there are thoughts being generated to create a new Grand Lodge in Kosovo. When it is formed, it will also include the Grand Lodge of Albania because of their citizens living there. Each of these Grand Lodges was present in Podgorica and the display of affection for each other permeated the atmosphere of the occasion.
Does Freemasonry continue to have the influence to impact the evolution of civil societies? Just looking at a Masonic Communication in Montenegro should eliminate all doubt. Freemasonry will continue to have a major impact in evolving civil societies. The struggles will continue and the greatest restraints faced will lie within the vision of the leadership and the need to over­come the egotism that will be the greatest restriction.
At that communication, I wore the medallion of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia that had been presented to me along with the Grand Star of Montenegro. I wore it as a symbolic reminder of the relevancy of Free­masonry. Even though all wounds have not healed and all animosities dissipated in the societies, the philo­sophical impression of Freemasonry on those brothers sitting in the Grand Lodge displayed very prominently the relevancy of Freemasonry in today’s world. The feeling of brotherly love generated by Freemasonry does indeed transcend the hate and animosity in the world. Think, if it were possible, to transfer that same feeling to the world, what impact we would have.

(Given at a United Grand Imperial Council of Knights of the Red Cross of Constantine Annual Assembly)