My Brothers, I am deeply honored and humbled by your vote of confidence. And while I have been elevated for a short time to the position of Grand Master, I assure you that I will always keep in mind that I am nothing more than a representative on your behalf. I further assure you that every decision made this year will be made with your best interests as well as those of our craft in mind.
I would like to congratulate the elected and appointed officers who have been duly installed for the ensuing Masonic year. All Grand Lodge Officers will do their very best to uphold the duties of the office for which they have been installed, and on their behalf we would like to thank you all for your ongoing support.
The progressive line officers have been very busy preparing for the upcoming year and have worked diligently on your behalf to ensure that we move this great Fraternity forward while continuing to be leaders in educational programming. We are ready and excited to support the constituent lodges in all their endeavors. Please contact us as far in advance as possible in order that we might send representation to your events.
We also would like to extend our support to all appendant bodies as well as our youth organizations. Your success is our success, and working together as a team, there is no doubt that Masonry will prosper and reap the benefits of those successes.
Our fraternity is fortunate to have had the strong leadership of our Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters. Each and every one has shown the leadership, wisdom, concern and compassion it takes to be a great leader. They have laid a solid foundation for all future Grand Masters to build upon and for this we are truly grateful. I have personally had the honor to serve this great fraternity as a Grand Lodge officer under the guidance of 16 Grand Masters and each one of them has a special place in my heart. They have helped develop me into a better person, with a better outlook on life. I encourage all brother Masons to take the time to thank them and have them share their wisdom and experiences with you. I know that I will be drawing on their knowledge throughout the upcoming year and I thank them in advance for being ready to assist as well as support us in all aspects of Masonry in Wisconsin. Thank you all.
The progressive line officers along with Most Worshipful Grand Master Joseph B. Harker held monthly meetings to prepare for the upcoming year. We worked diligently on nominations throughout the year and I feel we have assembled a great team of officers. There will be a lot of new faces along with many familiar ones. Please welcome your new Area Administrators, District Deputies, District Lecturers and Area Chaplains when they visit your respective lodges and give them the respect they deserve. They are there to work with you not against you.
During the course of the year we also met with Right Worshipful Grand Treasurer John Benedict as the expenditures committee prepared our yearly budget. We spent several months going through it line by line, in order to present a budget that was as close to actual operating expense and income as possible. I again thank these brothers for their hard work and dedication.
I am sure the progressive line officers will continue to meet monthly so we can continue to have the cohesiveness and programming that comes from a team effort. We all know more can be accomplished as a team than individually. I will also continue to hold monthly Skype conferences with the executive committee in order to address problems and concerns promptly and efficiently.
Our Most Worshipful Past Grand Master and Current Grand Secretary Michael A. DeWolf will again be conducting MORI Training during the upcoming year. He is always ready to assist the lodge secretaries and their assistants with any problems they may encounter while learning to navigate their way through the MORI system.
During this Masonic year, we will be implementing a Secretaries Training Seminar to be held in the Madison area on January 21st and 22nd 2012. Please put this date on your calendar and plan on attending. The session will cover a wide variety of subjects and will be very useful to all who attend. In addition, we will be adding a section in the L.E.A. form to cover this training, with a large point total for participation in the event.
It is essential for lodge secretaries to participate in the training sessions offered by the Grand Lodge office staff. Continuing improvement in modern technology coupled with ever-changing government regulation has created a real need to offer this type of training to prepare our lodges for the future needs of our fraternity and society. I certainly hope you take advantage of this and any of the other programs offered by your Grand Lodge representatives. Your Grand Secretary is usually available during the normal business hours of the Grand Lodge office and will assist you in finding the answers to your questions.
The Grand Lodge Office staff consisting of Jan, Alicia, Cheryl, Erika and Bill are always ready to assist you or your lodge with questions, providing materials or awards, or pointing you in the right direction to get answers. We have an excellent staff and each individual is extremely knowledgeable and patient. I have spent a great deal of time at the Grand Lodge office and logged many hours talking with them on the phone over the last 16 years. They have always provided me with the information I needed in a timely manner and I would like to thank them for all their help and assistance, it was greatly appreciated.
Our Director of Development Office personnel, consisting of Bill Barnes and Erika Miller stand ready to assist you with matching grant programs (and many others), letting you know what qualifies and the parameters you will need to operate within. Bill is a wealth of information and is willing to travel to your lodge and make presentations on these programs throughout the year. Remember there are no stupid questions, they are all important to us.
The Wisconsin Masonic Home Inc. under the direction of Mark Strautman and his staff continues to be a shining example of what Masonry is about. The care and compassion shown the residents who reside there is second to none. The Board of directors is to be applauded on their fine efforts also. They along with the staff have been very busy implementing the new by-law changes as well as handling continually changing government regulations. It truly is a very complex industry and I have enjoyed being on the board and learning more it.
The last year we opened the new Hickory Suites Rehabilitation Center and the Health And Wellness Center on our campus. They are both state-of-the-art complexes and I encourage you to visit them when you’re in the area. Please watch for upcoming festivities to be held on the campus and take the time to enjoy it’s beautiful surroundings. The residents always enjoy sharing some time with visitors. This truly is one of our greatest charities and something we all can be proud of.
Our Wisconsin Masonic Foundation continues to look for and implement new programs. We all know about the AED program, which has been around for quite some time. Through our efforts, the Masonic lodges and the Foundation have placed units in communities throughout the state, saving a number of lives by doing so. The Wisconsin Masonic Foundation has many matching grant programs available for the lodges to utilize and I encourage you to contact the foundation with any ideas you might have to see if they can assist you. It is a great way to become involved in your community and make a difference in the lives of many individuals. One of the new programs being implemented is the CPR anytime program which was kicked off in Richland Center earlier this year. I look forward to this program developing into a great success. Thanks to the board members for their hard work and innovative ideas.
My Brothers I would like to talk a bit about some of the programs we will continue as well as those we will be introducing. As most of you know, my start in this fraternity began with my ability to learn the ritual. This year we will be introducing a three-year program to be instituted at our Schools of Instruction. We will be covering one degree per year along with some additional sections. I, as well as the progressive line officers, recognize the need to bring the integrity and importance of our ritual back to our Schools of Instruction. Without our ritual teachings and people like Ernie Hiegal, our fraternity would not be what it is today.
The Lodge Excellence Award has been revamped, and we have moved all required sections into one section making it easier to follow and understand. We also cleared up a few sections we felt were either too confusing or were being manipulated by some lodges. I would ask that within a few weeks after Annual Communication the Masters, Wardens and Secretaries look this up on the Grand Lodge website to either adjust your current year or plan your upcoming year. This award is a great tool for the Wardens to utilize and will make planning their individual year much easier. The Planning Committee will be putting together a chart, which will be available to keep track of your lodge’s activities as the year progresses.
The Education Committee has been charged with putting together several new programs. We ask that you contact one of the progressive line officers and schedule them to make a presentation at your District Meeting or special lodge function. We would also ask that you try to schedule an officer from outside your respective district as we feel it is imperative that progressive line officers travel to other districts and get to know brothers from across the state. Our goal is to put together programs that we can take to the Midwest Conference on Masonic Education to share with the other jurisdictions attending.
We will be continuing to partner with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons Inc. through our annual joint Table Lodge. They will be hosting the event this year so please watch the Wisconsin Masonic Journal for future details. We would also like to expand our joint efforts in the future and I look forward to working with Most Worshipful Earl M. Thomas III in accomplishing our goals.
During the course of our travels, we also picked up a few programs at the North American Conference of Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries that we thought were worthwhile and are continuing to explore ways to implement these programs in Wisconsin.
One of the goals we have set this year is to have our progressive line officers attempt to visit every lodge in the state during the upcoming year. We have all traveled to Lodges that tell us they haven’t seen a Grand Lodge Officer for years. This will change. I work third shift and am limited to the distance I can travel on Sunday through Thursday nights. However if given enough notice, we will arrange for one of the officers to attend your function. If you would like me to attend your function, I would encourage you to schedule it on Friday through Sunday and give me advance notice. Thank you for your understanding and co-operation.
I would encourage all officers of the lodges to take the Code Correspondence Course and become familiar with it, especially when it comes to our ritual. We should all know what is permissible and what is not. I am not a fan of the “It’s easier to do it and ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” approach. If forced to, I will make an example of those violating our code in this manner.
I would like to address my pin for the year. It stands for the tenants of our fraternity. Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. These are the foundation of our Fraternity, and if practiced on a regular basis in our daily lives, become a way of life. Our ritual states that “By the exercise of brotherly love Masonry unites men from every country, sect and opinion and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance” I feel sometimes we forget that simple statement and how fortunate we are to belong to such a fine institution, where we have the opportunity to broaden our horizons and friendships.
To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but more particularly on Masons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. My brothers it’s time we realize our duty and obligation to take care of our brothers in need. There are several resolutions being presented this year concerning suspension for non-payment of dues and providing for our elderly members. Often we get so wrapped up in the dollars and cents of our own budgets and today’s society that we forget it’s our obligation to provide for our brothers in need. And, if that means paying their dues, so be it.
Truth is something we should strive to practice at all times and that’s why there is an all seeing eye at the top of the compasses… to remind us that although we may hide things from the eyes of men, our great creator is keeping an eye on us at all times.
You may have noticed that I thanked some people several times. This was not done by accident. They deserve every thank-you they received.
In closing I would like to thank my wife Tammi. Without her this would have been very hard to accomplish. She stayed home with the kids, taking them to ball games and other functions so I could do what I thought I needed to do to accomplish this goal. Thank You!
Lastly I would like to close with a poem that was given to me by my Godchild.
Davey L. White Jr.