“Today we are obliged, and this day is specially reserved, to celebrate the ideal of Devotion.
We usually think of that ideal as a love for a person, or enthusiasm for an activity or cause. I am devoted to my wife. Devoted championship of our public schools is a cardinal teaching of the Order of DeMolay.
Warriors’ fans are devoted to a team that hasn’t been this good during most of my lifetime, and that devotion runs deep, just saying.
Historically when a person was truly devoted to something, such as a soldier or a knight to their cause or their kingdom, it meant that they chose to set aside all personal issues or discomfort to focus their best efforts on advancing their purpose, to create success in the honor of their devotion.
In our times what You devote yourself to, what you pour your time and effort into, what you practice and get good at – is crucial .
The questions for your future are: what are you going to look back on, and what will you wish you had accomplished while you were here.
With all of the options available to each of you on a daily basis, whatever it is you personally choose to do matters, because each of you, this group of people here, is going to change the world.
Whatever you devote yourself to, skills in music or writing, studying intricate sciences and logic systems, becoming a leader, how you go about it, how seriously you apply yourself to the daily tasks of getting that done, will make all the difference. Fortunately you are not alone.
A large part of what our organizations do is providing a safe place where young people can learn the skills of leadership by applying themselves wholeheartedly to creating success.
By accepting personal responsibility for creating positive outcomes, by pushing past our individual discomforts to persevere, we all learn important lessons that bring wisdom, and make great things happen.
One of the things we do well, all of our organizations, is to provide young people with opportunities to test and prove themselves, and then surround them with adult advisors, many of whom are successful in business or civic and social groups, and who can praise and counsel young people while they’re working, and then recommend them to others as they grow.
That combination of skills and a good reputation, that’s called Social Capital, and there are studies on the effect it has on a person’s life
Basically, if a young person grows up with all of the advantages, prestigious neighborhoods, excellent schools, substantial support from families and others, those people enjoy a better chance at success, simply because of the relationships they made along the way. It’s like a fast pass that gets you closer to Harvard, and such.
Most people have loving homes, fair schools, and average opportunities to develop their futures, and they can work harder to gain those other advantages, or not. That’s up to the individual, and how much they care to explore, and how smartly they work.
The personal connections that young people create as they are developing affect the types of success that are readily available to them, or as grandma always said, your friends are a reflection of your character. Make good choices.
Young people that do not enjoy even those average luxuries, who live in rough neighborhoods, with challenged families and negative influences at school, they are what we call At Risk, and they need all of our help.
Among those young people At Risk you will find brilliant thinkers, artists, musicians, scientists, builders, but who cannot gain access to traditional avenues to success, simply because they’re from that zip code.
If they never develop Social Capital, through sports that lead to scholarships, through internships that create job opportunities, by demonstrating their talent so that appreciative viewers can promote them, they find their options more limited, and their way more challenging.
Most of the original 9 members of DeMolay certainly met that criteria, and Dad Frank S. Land saw the risks they were facing in 1919 Kansas City, and he devoted himself to ensuring that these young men got a chance at a better future than they expected. I’m sure the founders of the ladies groups had similar feelings when they were starting off.
So, our groups, DeMolay, Rainbow for Girls, Job’s Daughters, the entire Masonic Family, we have been providing Social Capital to At Risk youth for almost 100 years.
By creating places where young people are surrounded by folks who are earnestly working to improve themselves, where mutual trust, respect, and benevolence are the expectation, not the exception.
The thing is, when we all use the opportunities that these organizations offer to improve ourselves, when we get beyond our self-imposed limitations and fears, when we give 110% and strive to create positive change, we learn lessons about ourselves, – that we can do anything we set our hearts on, and that we are stronger than we ever expected.
Young people from our community go on to become astronauts, to report the news on national TV. They become administrators of government agencies that distribute billions of dollars to the needy and homeless, they become business owners and craftsmen that create jobs and quality high-end shoes. They get confirmed to the Supreme Court, or become highly-regarded actors, and they pursue their dreams.
All of those examples are DeMolay, Rainbow, and Job’s Daughters alumni, and all of them were just like you. They went to meetings, they ran fundraisers, they sought opportunities to memorize a part, helped out a friend, went to dances as teenagers, and they learned valuable lessons about themselves.
Among the people you know, Matthew Romero-Salas of Pleasanton Chapter, who personally headed up fundraisers that gathered thousands of dollars to research the causes of autism and beat cancer. You can do that.
I remember Samantha Forcum, former Grand Worthy Advisor and Sweetheart of Vallejo Chapter, rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, creating housing in Mexico, and meeting the Dalai Lama. You can do that.
You, whenever you make a food barrel appear, manage a fundraiser, help a friend through a tough time, or give your chapter, bethel or assembly hope and strength by doing your part really well, you make the world a better place.
You inspire people younger than you, shyer than you, or less organized than you simply by being able to put it all aside and get the job done. You may not know it, but we see it all the time. You’re already making a difference, every day.
Again though, the questions for your future are: what are you going to look back on, and what will you wish you had accomplished while you were here. The answers are going to depend on the choices you make, starting today.
So thank you, each of you, on behalf of Northern California DeMolay, for your devotion, and for all of the good that it does.
–Oh, and young men, get your DeMolay Foundation Scholarship applications in by the end of this month. Just saying.