[Editor's Note: As the prospective R.W. Grand Master, Bro. Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., R.W.D.G.M., discussed his philosophy for the promise and progress of Freemasonry and the Family of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania.]
"Quality -- 'Making good men better men' is the HOPE of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania," attests Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., the prospective 114th R.W. Grand Master of Pennsylvania. "In turn, good men continue to learn and serve and strive, in the lodge and out of the lodge, to help others pursue an excellence that will improve not only the Fraternity, but also the lives and lifestyles of others, according to their circumstances. I see that as the positive H.O.P.E. for Freemasonry and the Family of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania."
Editor: What is "H.O.P.E.?"
M.A.C.: It is an acronym for "Helping Others Pursue Excellence!" It's a theme. It's a challenge for individual pursuit of excellence and a reminder for us to help others, Brother-to-Brother and Friend-to-Friend, to do the same. That's how good men become better men and better men serve mankind.
What does H.O.P.E. represent?
"Hope" is a positive promise. Webster's II dictionary defines it: "To look forward with confidence and expectation . . . to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment." [Emphasis added.]
I see the theme of H.O.P.E. as a beacon to light the road of advancement and achievement for our membership, our Fraternity, and the Family of Freemasonry. When we pursue excellence and help others pursue excellence, we achieve quality. With quality, we expand our pride, integrity, and patriotism, all those distinguishing values in Freemasonry and among the Family of Freemasonry.
Why is the Pursuit of Excellence important to everyone of us in Freemasonry?
The pursuit of excellence is an individual drive. Each of us is different. Every person faces his own special circumstances, capabilities and even limitations. Nevertheless, if a person has a desire to better himself, he can succeed; if a lodge has a desire to better itself, it can succeed.
How do you define success in the pursuit of excellence?
Pursuing excellence is a matter of recognizing who you are, what you have, where you are in life, and striving to improve upon it. There is no end zone in seeking excellence; there is always more to achieve. There is knowledge to gain, another discipline to study, a degree to learn, a handicap to overcome, an impediment to circumvent, a neighbor to help, a building to build, a community to serve. To grow . . . to excel . . . we have to have vision. In the context of a lodge, an organization, or a community, the power of H.O.P.E. lies in helping others achieve their vision. We should never falter or stop pursuing excellence.
Are you saying that H.O.P.E. is an "on the level" challenge for every Mason in every station of life?
At one point during my military experiences, it was my job in Washington, DC, to assign personnel. The key was to assign the right person for the specific job not necessarily the individual with the highest I.Q., the best grades, or personal recommendations, but the person with a vision to achieve at what he could do best and had the greatest desire to do that job.
I recall a story about a noted leader of a great symphony orchestra who was asked what position he considered most important in his orchestra. Without hesitation, he replied, "Second fiddle." He said that he could find any number of good musicians capable and willing to fill the first chair, but to find the right musician to play second fiddle well is the key. Without a good second fiddle there is no harmony; and without harmony there is no success.
Each of us finds and fills our niche by pursuing excellence and helps his brethren, family and friends to do the same.
How does a Mason pursue excellence?
The first thing a Mason ought to do is recall the words of his Masonic obligations, take them to heart, and keep them sincerely as a part of his lifestyle. Then, he should pay close attention to the Opening and Closing Charges of his lodge. I know of no better road map for the pursuit of excellence than the directions in those charges. I have heard them so many times indeed, I have delivered them often yet each time I am further impressed with a message applicable to my own pursuit of excellence. They have been and still are guidelines for this Mason to be a better man.
What do you say to a person who is curious about Masonry when he asks, "What's in it for me?"
Very simply, I tell that person, it will make him a better man. I tell him he will associate with the best of men from all walks of life. He will be in the midst of men who pursue excellence themselves and help others pursue excellence. There he, too, will focus on excellence and become an even better man himself -- a better man in his family, his lodge, and in his community.
Were you always so actively involved in the Fraternity?
For many years, I was away from home almost all of the time, often at sea, as a career Navy man, so I wasn't able to be active in a lodge. But, I always cherished Masonry because it was good for me and good to me. Everywhere I went, I found brothers and brotherhood. I had made up my mind that when I retired from the Navy I would give something back to the Fraternity. Accordingly, when I settled in Pennsylvania, I sought a lodge and, in short order, became an active Mason. When I was Master of Warren Lodge, the Solomon II program was in effect and I was thrilled that our lodge initiated 18 worthy men that year. Subsequently, I was equally thrilled that so many of them pursued excellence as sincere Masons and a number of them are now past masters.
Specifically for a lodge, where does excellence fit into the picture?
That's a question with obvious answers: Excellence in ritual; excellence in Masonic education; excellence in leadership; excellence in programming; excellence in brotherhood and fellowship; excellence in . . . . and so on! Lodges have to offer something for every member. Some brethren come to lodge for enlightenment, some for participation, some for fellowship, and some for good food. We know it's easy to stay at home and watch television or play with the computer, so it has to be our challenge for our lodges to offer an enticing environment, interesting programming, and compelling congeniality. By the way, that's true not just for lodges, but for all of the appendant bodies and allied organizations in the Family of Freemasonry.
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