"Grand Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Distinguished Visitors, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, good morning.
I stand here this morning in front of this 142nd Communication of this Grand Lodge eternally grateful for many things. I have a loving wife, 2 wonderful children, 1 Grandchild, my health and many great friends, many of whom are sitting here today.
Just a short 18 months ago my youngest Daughter enlisted in the US Army, the first member of my family to do so. Before she left for basic training in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, she asked me to write to her as often as possible, as she had been told, truthfully it turned out, that contact with her would be almost nonexistent except by use of the US Mail.
I promised her I would and the experience reignited the love of letter writing that I had lost when modern technology took it away. I wrote every day for 10 weeks about anything and everything, until her Graduation on the 20th September, 2012 from the 165th Infantry Brigade, my last letter I gave to her in person the night before that Graduation. She has kept every one of them, we both have never shared what was in them and when I asked her to throw them away her answer was 'I want to remember who you were Dad, when you are no longer here.'
Most Worshipful Grand Master, about 2 months or so before your Installation last year you asked me to become your Grand Orator, you never said, why and you have never told me your reason, or what I could or could not talk about, not that any instruction from you would have stopped me.
When I told my wife, I said I had some reservations. Seemingly, or so I am told, I speak with a foreign accent and some people have difficulty understanding me and this had me concerned, not about the accent, but of the contents of my Orations. She told me to be myself, to talk about the things I believe in and that you, Most Worshipful Sir, knew these things but that you had the confidence to appoint me and when people saw me for who I was the accent will become a nonfactor. To her I wish to thank for being my sounding block and partner, I do not know what I would do without her.
However, when I looked at the task ahead and did some researching into various subjects I rediscovered my love of history and reading which had also been lost when other distractions took it away.
It is amazing when you look through the old Communications and discover through the writings that as well as being full of our Masonic heritage they are a snapshot of the life and times in which they were written.
In 1965 the Grand Orator Harvey L. Riggle wrote the following as his introduction to his Grand Oration and it appears fitting to what I wish to talk about today;
It is like the new Pastor of the rural church. On his first Sunday he found the Church empty of Members. At last one man arrived. The time came and went to start the Service. Finally, the Pastor asked the man if he would care to hear the Sermon. The man said 'Pastor, I have been feeding cattle for 20 years. When it comes time to feed, I feed whether there is one cow or one hundred.' The Pastor felt very pleased and delivered a sermon lasting 1 hour 45 minutes. When he had finished he asked the man what he thought of the Sermon. The man replied 'As I told you, I have fed cows for a long time. When it comes time to feed I feed whether there is one or one hundred. But if there is only one I don't dump the whole load.'
The remainder of the Oration I ask you to go and read as it was done at the time of civil unrest in the country and to me does not make good reading, except to say that I am glad we have moved on since those dark days.
I hope that in 49 years' time the Grand Orator of that year will look more kindly on this Oration and the snapshot he will get from this Communication will be one of hope that the time had come for us all here and in the Lodges to at last stand up and say enough.
Enough of being disrespectful to each other, enough of being rude to each other and more especially enough of being harmful to this fraternity.
I have this past year seen the effects of some of these actions and you know what, quite frankly, it saddened me what lengths some Members of this jurisdiction would go to satisfy their own desires.
Our Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Master Elect, is fond of telling us all that 'It is always about me.' We often joke about it together but you know what it is all about me.
This Fraternity has taught me that it was all about me the night I was Initiated, it was all about me the night I was passed and it was especially all about me the night I was raised. I have tried to put into action those things which I have been taught. Have I been successful - no, do I try my best - yes, could I do better, of course, we all could.
We all look upon ourselves as belonging to a Society of Friends and Brothers among whom no contention should ever exist save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree. Can we all look into a mirror and say we do?
Every day we only have to look at that bastion of free speech, Facebook, to see how Masons talk to one another. It is great to have a difference of opinion or a disagreement but let us be realistic if some of the things that are written were said to my face it would be let's go outside and settle this man to man.
How many times does it have to be said, we are all Masons and we are supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard not lower ourselves into the gutter. We do not have to hide from all this we know it goes on so let us face it head on, let us all say enough.
Last summer I had the opportunity to attend the Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference in Helena Montana. It was a great event, great speeches and great company. However, are you aware that one Grand Lodge attending that Conference said that we should do away with the Investigation of Candidates, let everyone in that wants to join?
That is a scary thought. After what I have seen this past year I think the Investigation process is not strong enough. I want us to be particular in whom we allow to join this fraternity. Membership should be a privilege, not a right, it should be earned not packaged up and given away.
I am sure everyone here could agree that our Federal Government could do worse than receive a healthy dose of Masonic Leadership. What an example to our children, but we allow it to happen. More often than not by our actions we encourage the discourse.
Some 226 years ago on September 17, 1787, the US Constitution was signed. Amongst the signatories of that document were at least 13 confirmed Masons or 33% of the total. I wonder how they would feel looking down on Washington today. We all have a choice, conduct ourselves like the politicians of today or the Masons of 1787 who signed that living testimony to our ideals. This is still the nation that every child growing up in a slum in Calcutta, India or in some village in deepest Africa aspire to come to.
Brethren, there is something to be said about our past. Our ancient landmarks have survived for generations; we should all ensure that the lessons they contain will survive for generations to come. This, however, does not mean that we have to live in the past, but we must respect it, because if we do not, it will be harder to build our future.
Never forget that we all represent the Widows son as a just and upright man and his progress through life. We are all endowed with intellect and power to carry out the designs of the Grand Master so that finally, when our time has come we will hear those welcome words, well done thou good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
Always remember, not one person ever joined Masonry because George Washington was a Mason. Not one person ever joined Masonry because Harry Truman was a Mason. Not one person ever joined because of any of our great Masonic heroes. Joining doesn't make you any of those people.
Not one person ever joined in order to give a million dollars a day to charity, or homes, or crippled children. You don't have to be a member to give money.
Not one person ever joined because our ritual is outstanding, or our minutes are accurate, or a hundred other things we worry about. They don't know about our ritual.
They joined because someone they knew and admired was a Mason. It could have been a father, a friend, a man down the street, or someone a thousand miles away. Who, it didn't matter.
They admired him and wanted to do the things he did, and they did it by the millions.
Want to help our growth? Be the kind of man someone admires. Someone will notice.*
Remember the next time you see a Candidate at the Altar that when he removes his hoodwink he will be able to reflect later that the reason everyone came was because it was 'All about me.'
Most Worshipful Grand Master, you are nearing the end of your journey. After you have taken a well-deserved rest, you will realize, that unlike this Oration, you will not be confined to the pages of a book on some dusty bookshelf, you have so much to offer this jurisdiction and guide it for many years to come but I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your Orator and I trust that I have at least lived up to your expectations.
So, Most Worshipful, I have lost count, but I think it is for the 26th but I know it is for the final time, that I thank you for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your Communication.
Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator February 1, 2014
* John Klaus Grand Lodge of Iowa