Volume LVIIJanuary 2010Number 1

Thomas Sturgeon R.W. Grand Master


275 years ago, a famous American from Philadelphia named Benjamin Franklin stood as I do today, having just taken the obligation of Grand Master of Pennsylvania Freemasonry. I would expect that he, like me, was enthusiastic and confident, but also wondering what the long-term future of our Craft would be.

Brethren, ladies, it is with great honor and anticipation that I make this declaration: "The 21st Century Masonic Renaissance begins today!"

It will be a Renaissance for us brothers and I hope, a new beginning for those now in the fraternity and those who would consider joining our ranks. There are many critical issues we need to address, and I am prepared to offer solutions for the greater good of the fraternity that I have been dedicated to for 45 years.

To better understand why I believe change is necessary and how those changes should occur, you need to know how I envision my term in office, and what kind of Grand Master I will be. I believe that change is necessary, and I commit to you that I have the courage to initiate substantive and reasonable change while at the same time maintaining those same principles that have made us great.

Always remember this: If we do what we have always done - we will get what we have always gotten!

One of my dear friends, Kenton McElhattan, founder of Industrial Scientific Corporation and also a 33° Mason, wrote a book a few years ago titled, "Hurry Up Son!" In his book, this corporate giant wrote about change and the need to change stating, "The next generation must always be the greatest generation. If each new generation is not superior to the previous one, then mankind will regress. Each new generation must re-fight the battles and bring new vitality to the ideals that their parents and grandparents cherish, or allow those ideals to decay. Knowing how to use the future requires an understanding of the past. We should learn from the mistakes of our ancestors."

So, here is a brilliant gentleman and brother, in the twilight of his life... he is now in his mid-80s... writing about the need to move past the status quo and introduce needed ideas, vitality and change to our missions, whatever they may be.

What does this advice mean to us as Masons in the first decade of the new century? We must emancipate ourselves from the status quo and recognize that to change nothing is to do nothing, and to do nothing is a guaranteed avenue of failure. It would be a failure to me, failure to each of you, and most importantly, failure to those brothers who have maintained Pennsylvania Freemasonry for the past 275+ years.

To best accomplish this goal, it is imperative that the leaders of this fraternity listen to ALL Masons - not only the most active ones. Lodges with a small group of brothers controlling all aspects of the lodge must be willing to encourage new brothers into their inner circle and receive new ideas. How else can we propagate new ideas and regenerate the enthusiasm that is so vital to our strength as the oldest and largest fraternity in the world? If we wish to maintain that status, we must begin our work TODAY!

I obviously know that not everyone will agree with some of the changes I am encouraging. Instead, those brothers believe we should not change anything under the mantra, "we never did it that way before." Believe me; I understand the importance of Masonic traditions as much as the next brother.

However, no matter how much each and every one of us loves this great fraternity, we cannot overlook the need to conduct it as a business and also a fraternity that mirrors the times we live in. There are financial responsibilities to be considered concerning the cost of each lodge and of the Grand Lodge. For example, our expenses have risen dramatically and our revenues have equally decreased. We have become real estate poor and many lodges are struggling to keep their Temples and buildings from foreclosure. Part of the reason is that our dues and fees are not current with the rising economy, more than likely because we did not want to place another barrier to gaining new members and keeping current members. However, this cannot continue, and the solution lies either in raising dues substantially or in doing a much better job of bringing new members into our fraternity.

I will demonstrate that it is possible to preserve our rich history and heritage while also modernizing it within the 21st century culture and strengthening it for future generations. Social change is, and has always been, slow throughout the history of our society. However, change in Freemasonry must start sometime, and my fellow Freemasons, the change in Pennsylvania starts today!

In my professional career I have had tremendous responsibilities, both for the safety of the public and for those who have worked for me. While I recognize the responsibilities of my new position and that the authority of the Grand Master is supreme, I commit to each of you that I will concentrate less of my energy on authority and more on leadership. I intend to be a kind, thoughtful and caring Grand Master... being as democratic in decisions as possible while still recognizing my serious responsibilities.

In terms of attitude and humility, Bro. Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, frequently reminded people that he was a "Ford and not a Lincoln." In my case, you should know that I am a Sturgeon and not a Shark!

Niccolo Machiavelli, in his book, "The Prince," written in 1513, questioned "whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved." I believe my success will be somewhere in between. I fully recognize that Tom Sturgeon may not be loved by all Masons in Pennsylvania. Indeed, given the degree of change I am proposing, there will be those who will think my actions might be detrimental to the Craft. So, I don't seek love. But through this time of change, I am hopeful to be respected.

Respected for acting solely for what is best for this fraternity... for showing respect for each brother who is a member... and, for remaining respectful of the responsibility to do what is right. And what is "right?" For me, what is right is what I truly believe, from the bottom of my heart, will be best for the fraternity and not for self.

Truthfully, if I did not have such a fondness for this fraternity, I would try to be popular and simply keep steering the ship in the same direction. When the Titanic set sail in 1912, the world thought it to be invincible. Some brothers think the same of our fraternity, but without the proper leadership this fraternity can also be vulnerable. I assure you my plan is strong, well thought out, and I intend to be vigilant and wise when encountering challenges.

We will not always agree on the issues, but I assure each of you that all decisions that I make will be intended to make the fraternity more contemporary to the time in which we are living and also better positioned for future success. The good of this fraternity must transcend all personal thoughts, ideas or opinions.

Just a short time ago, I took an obligation on a Bible that has been part of Oakdale Lodge for 99 years. That Bible has been through a fire that totally gutted the previous lodge building in 1973 and a flood that placed seven feet of water in our new lodge building in 2004. Just as that Bible has endured, I obligate myself to each of you that I will have a similar commitment and endurance to always do what is right.

My brethren and friends, having stated my belief and my thoughtful desire to make appropriate, substantive and respectful changes, I will issue decisions and propose changes to the "Ahiman Rezon" to initiate the components of the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance, which are clearly outlined within this magazine. We have undertaken a very aggressive agenda that will make our Grand Lodge more contemporary with 2010 rather than 1910. I stand behind these changes and during the next three months, I will travel throughout the state to hold regional meetings of the membership, "Renaissance Visitations," to further explain my vision and plans and to answer questions about this agenda.

In closing, let me say that I recognize that the higher the station of life that each of us achieve, the more severe will be the criticism that we will be subjected to. When that criticism comes my way, I will accept it because I truly believe that the changes I am making are necessary for the perpetual future of Pennsylvania Freemasonry.

When I was in high school, I spent three years on the varsity wrestling team. I learned that when you are all alone on the mat in a gymnasium full of fans, you must take full responsibility for what goes well and what goes badly, and not blame others for your actions. This remains a good lesson for me these many years later as I assume the office of Grand Master.

To accomplish this energetic and much-needed agenda, I need the help of each of you. It is not a one-man job. When Chuck Noll came to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 70s and met with great success, he made the following statement: "It is not the super stars who win Super Bowls, but rather games are won by blocking and tackling." As with a team of football players, if each Pennsylvania Mason does his small part, what we achieve together will be massive.

Abraham Lincoln stated, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." My brothers, the time has come for all of us, in total unanimity, to sharpen our axes and get to work to rebuild this fraternity.

Pennsylvania Freemasons' pride should not be based on the size and beauty of our magnificent Masonic Temple or the fact that we are the largest Masonic jurisdiction in the world. Rather, our pride should be based on what we do for those who need our help and the way each of us represents himself in the community in which he lives.

In the great city of Pittsburgh, two rivers come together to form a larger river. Likewise in Freemasonry, we need those who support the status quo and those who welcome change to come together to form a stronger and more unified fraternity.

My friends and fellow Freemasons, it is axiomatic that to do nothing and to perpetuate the status quo is like denying treatment to someone who is ill. The treatment for this fraternity in Pennsylvania begins today, at this very minute. I have the courage to change what we are and what we do, with my rock being my faith in God and country, and my enduring faith in this fraternity. With your help, faith and cooperation, there will be Masons meeting in this Commonwealth 100 years from now, and it will be in part due to the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance that we are embarking on today.

Respectfully & Fraternally,

Thomas K. Sturgeon
R.W. Grand Master

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