Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipfuls, Distinguished Guests, Brethren All. There are few moments in our lives when one stands in awe by the events going on about them and today is one of those days. As I stand here in this time and space, I look out and wonder, how can I possibly be addressing my brethren as the Grand Master? When others comment about being a surreal moment in their life, I now fully understand the feeling. With so much to be grateful for, I must first give all the honor and praise to the Grand Architect of the Universe, who by his grace and his grace alone, made it possible for me to stand before you.
As you travel this road and progress from district to district, your thoughts occasionally reflect on what it will be like to finally reach the end of this journey. My brothers, I can tell you without reservation, none of what you imagine will prepare you for this moment until it finally arrives. As the 167th Grand Master, to say I’m humbled and honored is an understatement. As with all the men before me, I will endeavor to serve this Grand Jurisdiction with dedication to duty and the craft always before my eyes.
Personally, my Masonic journey began some 32 years ago. Most of us recall the phrase "2 B 1 ask 1", well, that was my story. I had asked and lo and behold an application showed up signed by two men whom I just met. These men knew nothing about me other than I was working at the Scottish Rite building. Going through this process, little did I know the profound impact it would have on my life and the amount of time I would devote to it. Growing up, I was not exposed to Masonry as I’m the first in my family to enter our great fraternity. And, in a strange way which I can’t explain, as I reflect back, I somehow always felt that I was being lead on a course which took me here today.
Learning from Leaders
During my years in the craft, I have been afforded many opportunities to serve our Grand Jurisdiction, but that of Assistant Grand Lecturer was genuinely rewarding. The position exposed me to the many brothers on their journey to the Grand East, with each always leaving a bit of knowledge behind. My brothers, in preparation of this year, I have had the benefit of learning from my predecessors. As I stand here today, I stand on the shoulders of giants.........giants of Masonic Leadership. And, as I look to the future of this jurisdiction, I look within myself to use all that I have learned and taken from each of them, and of course I speak of our Past Grand Masters. To the Past Grand Masters, I thank you for continuing to re-appointment me in line, or for taking the time to offer wise council to a brother, and most especially always being there to listen.
To our honored guests, all of you have traveled some distance to be with us today, but whatever the distance, I’m truly honored by your presence here today. To be able to call this distinguished group of men my brothers is a tribute to the vastness of our fraternity and all the outstanding men who have acknowledged and accepted the tenets of our institution and the genuine brotherly love expressed by all who are proud to call themselves Masons.
To my brothers of Roger Williams Lodge. We all have a deep attachment to our mother lodge, and I am no different. Knocking on the door of Roger Williams No. 32, as a candidate was as mystifying as life itself. But as I grew more familiar with the inner workings of Masonry, my lodge and the men therein, I realized how fortunate I was to have been directed there. I now have the privilege to call all these men my brothers. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for me.
Service is Built on Caring Support and Trust
Throughout my life I have been blessed in so many ways, my parents were loving, and nurturing people and I learned so much from them. My older brother and younger sister have always been supportive and a source for guidance. My wife Valerie, she and I have endured many events through our 45 years together, some good and of course some not so good, but we always faced them together and we somehow came out stronger. Masonry was no different, she has welcomed this new way of life I chose to undertake and together we walked the path that ultimately took me here today. I am forever grateful for her support and assistance and I know we have more to accomplish. To my two daughters, Nicole and Alexis, God could not have blessed me with two greater children of whom I’m very proud. I thank God for his many blessings and ask for the knowledge, wisdom and understanding to guide our fraternity in this next chapter of my Masonic career.
It would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t thank each of you for the trust and confidence you have reposed in me by elevating me to the office of Most Worshipful Grand Master. I have always tried to consider my position of leadership throughout my travels as an act of service to our fraternity. I have strived to serve this organization with respect for its principles and by the tenets we live by. As your Grand Master, I will continue on that same course and view this opportunity as a privilege not as an entitlement.
To the three ladies who assist in any way they can. No, it’s not my wife and daughters, but to Maria, Marcie and Diane, our office staff. They collectively under the stewardship of the R∴W∴ Grand Secretary Brother Ron Reed, have provided an invaluable service over the years to me and to this fraternity. Their skill, knowledge and professionalism have guided the day-to-day activities of this Grand Lodge and keep this Grand Jurisdiction on a smooth, steady course. Thank you so very much for all your help. I look forward to our upcoming year together.
It Takes a Brotherhood
My mind at this moment is flooded with so many thoughts it’s difficult to sort them out. There are so many to thank, from my parents and family who have always provided life council and direction, to all those who have willingly whispered good council along my Masonic career. Collectively, you all have in some fashion shaped my life and made me the person I am today, to each of you, I owe a debt of gratitude. Throughout the many years of brotherly love and friendship I have experienced, I must at this time without exception thank Most Worshipful Brother Wyman "Chip" Hallstrom for having the faith and confidence in me to serve our Grand Jurisdiction. Most Worshipful, I hope that I have met and fulfilled your expectations and justified your decision to appointment me in line. Saying thank you will never be enough for setting my feet upon this path. And of course, the odyssey of our five-hour breakfast will forever be ingrained in my memory. To the Grand Marshall. My brothers, all who have traveled this road must of course do it with someone who is also willing to serve not only the fraternity, but as a true and trusted brother to the deputy. Looking for a Grand Master of Ceremonies, I needed to find someone who was dedicated to the craft and had the experience and understanding to do the job. That man was of course the Grand Marshall, R∴W∴Brad Ripley. R∴W∴Brad, choosing you to travel with me was one of the best decisions I made in my Masonic career. You and Lady Millie have been there through the best and the worst of times and always ready to lend a hand or offer support. As a Grand Master of Ceremonies, you were always prepared and made my job so much easier, and your loyalty and support are unparalleled. With one year left to go, I thank you for traveling with me through the years, I’m truly honored to call you brother and friend. And by the way, as it’s been every year, since we’ve been together, I’ll be doubling your pay again this year.
To the installing team, Most Worshipful Brothers, Hallstrom Jr., Hallstrom III, Pothier, and Iacobucci, you fulfilled a wish and that was to have the brethren of Roger Williams Lodge, my teachers, my mentors, by my side, at the most important part of my Masonic career. From my first knock on the door to this very moment you have always been there for me as true brothers should. I thank you for agreeing to make my day special. I will always be grateful to you.
To M∴W∴ Brother Bob Ellston, I recall the day you first offered your assistance to me as the newest District Deputy in line. Your kindness and a sincere willingness to help are truly the hallmark of your character. I will miss the taunting we shared all the way through the districts, but honestly, it was a pleasure to follow you and Keith and I thank you for all the good times. I offer my sincere congratulations for the completion of your term as Grand Master and a job well done.
To the Grand Council, As I watched each of you join the line as deputies, I was mentally assembling my Grand Council, for my year as Grand Master. I could not have hand picked a better team to support me and our jurisdiction. Your continued dedication to our craft and the wisdom you possess will be of invaluable comfort to me as we guide the fraternity. I’m extremely pleased and honored to be working with each of you as we begin our new Masonic year together.
This coming year, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to once again make fraternal visits to all our lodges. My brothers, I can’t describe how grateful I am to be in this position, but if you ask any of the deputies and those who have traveled this road, being in the districts is an experience of a lifetime. Mingling with the brethren, getting to know them one on one, are the genuine wages of a Master Mason and if that be the case, I’m truly rich.
Over the years, they have been called many things, more frequently, the workhorses of the jurisdiction, they are of course, the R∴W∴ District Deputy Grand Masters. The decision to reappoint each of you was not a difficult task, you each have demonstrated the dedication and fortitude needed to serve our Grand Jurisdiction. This year, I will be calling upon you to up your game a notch, to bring the energy, to re-ignite a desire within our lodges that’s been suppressed by the recent pandemic. I thank each of you for serving, my brothers, I know you’ll do a great job. Our ride together begins.
To the Grand Lodge line officers, you each have been selected because in your own way you have contributed throughout the years to my Masonic growth and have been and continue to be a good friend and brother. Thank you for accepting the position and taking the time to travel with me this year.
My appointment. Selecting someone to join the line is not a decision I took lightly. Yes, there are many good men who are fine ritualists, but can they someday have the leadership skills necessary to lead our fraternity as Grand Master. My brothers, congratulations are in order to our newest R∴W∴District Deputy Grand Master of the Southern District Brother Michael Cunningham and his Worshipful Grand Master of Ceremonies, Merrill "Mick" Torgan. Right Worshipful, selecting you was as they say "a no-brainer" I think, I will always remember the look on your face when you politely asked who my appointment would be, and I responded you! It was probably the same look I had on my face when M∴W∴Chip, asked me to join the grand line. You have certainly distinguished yourself throughout your Masonic career, and as you both start your journey through the districts, I have no doubt you will both be outstanding representatives of our Grand Lodge. Welcome to the grand line, I wish you both the very best in your travels. We all stand ready to assist you in any capacity we can.
The Power to Succeed is in the Master’s Hands
To the current Worshipful Masters and soon to be Worshipful Masters during my term of office, congratulations, you’ve just been dubbed the CEO, of your franchise. The question now becomes, will your lodge succeed or will it fail. The answer to that question lies within each of you. Because when all is said and done at years end, when you give your Master’s report, will you show a profit or will you show a loss. The power to succeed lies in your hands, you will deal with the very same issues a small business deals with, it’s up to you how you direct your resources. This year I’m encouraging, no, empowering you to think out of the box, be creative, your limit is limited only by your own imagination. Make a plan, set goals, and have a direction, because if you don’t know the road to travel, how can you possibly get to your destination?
My brothers, Masonry in today’s world is constantly being met with ever-changing challenges. As Masons, we must continue to evolve to meet those challenges and prepare for what may come our way. All this must happen while maintaining our protocols, rituals and Masonic way of life. The proper maintenance of these items encourages us to work in harmony thereby demonstrating to the world how Masons profess brotherly love, relief and truth and continue to be the leaders in our society. More than ever the principles we hold dear are simply what the world is lacking. Our forefathers developed this plan long before they knew what the world would become. The best part is that we are ahead of the strife and confusion that plagues our communities. By living our lives agreeable to our tenets, we communicate to the outside world that we are the answer to the bitterness and hostility.
My brothers, this year, I’d like to think that I and your Grand Council will lead with passion. I view myself and this council as servant leaders, someone who leads for the benefit of others. It is a trait that each and every one who assumes the office of Worshipful Master of a lodge, or holds a position on a committee, should possess and each of you as members of this fraternity should expect nothing less. Leadership is not about title; leadership is about purpose and a vision. When you have a purpose and a vision that benefits the greater good, then and only then have you become a servant leader and that is what this council will be focused on this year.
Have Courage to Follow Your Dreams
As we move into this new Masonic year, there is still much work to do. I will move with eager anticipation toward what is possible. I will not get into the intricacies of what’s planned, but please stay in touch and participate when possible, where hoping for a year of hard work and good fun. My brothers, we all have dreams and when we have the courage to follow them, we almost always discover something of value, and if those dreams encompass our fraternity, we will benefit. Life is full of changes, we all have the power to change things around us, but it will take effort, we must move forward with a "can do" attitude if we are to approach those changes and succeed. As with most Grand Masters, I have goals and ideas and if I’m fortunate to have your help, we will accomplish great things together. The fate of our fraternity rests with each and every one of us. We all have a significant part to play. Can you imagine if we all had an attitude of "someone else will take care of it," I suspect the outcome would not be positive.
Finally, there are many opportunities within our great fraternity and one never knows when they will surface. We need to identify and embrace them, making our fraternity what our forefathers perceived it to be, and that is a place of concourse for good men which promotes peace and harmony throughout the world until "Time Shall Be No More."
My Brothers in conclusion, on behalf of myself, this Grand Council and our ladies, I hope to see you this evening for what we hope will be the first of many good times we’ll share together.
May kindness, brotherly love and affection distinguish our conduct as men and as Freemasons. May the Good Lord bless each of us and our families, our great fraternity, our veterans defending freedom, and may all our undertakings meet with success.
Robert A. Palazzo, Grand Master
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