Washington’s Birthday

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor

Celebrating the birth of American Freemasonry’s most famous Brother

Today, Freemasons and Americans all celebrate the birthday of the man, the military hero, the Freemason, and the legend - George Washington. Author Ron Chernow once estimated that more than 900 books have been written about George Washington. A majority of those books detail his life, his military service, and his time in office as the first President of the United States. Master Mason’s in good standing with the Grand Lodge of the State of New York have access to the Livingston Library, as they seek additional Light in Masonry. There are 17 reading courses, each containing 5-6 titles selected by the Library. Washington is prominently featured throughout the reading list either as a subject or topic. At his visit to Mount Zion #311 in Troy, New York, our DDGM RW Ken White focused his remarks on Washington. I reached out to RW White afterward to share some of his insight into His Excellency, Worshipful Brother George Washington on his 284th birthday. Below are his thoughts.

Washington’s lesson in leadership

The symbol of the Leader of the Free World is the President of the United States. To date, we have had 45 Presidents all of which have had diverse backgrounds in age, creed, education, careers, wealth and family. Fourteen of these men were Freemasons, we can call them brothers. Fourteen out of 45. Just under 33 percent (31) or one-third of all our Presidents. That’s a pretty good batting average and in the sport of baseball that gets you into the Hall of Fame!

Of course, when thinking of our Masonic Presidents, the Hall of Famer in my mind is George Washington. There’s no need to dive into detail on all his accomplishments for they are well known. He set the bar for the position as well as an example for all Brothers to follow in the Craft. Just think his character, how our Founding Fathers not only chose him to lead the troops but later looked to him lead our country’s fledgling government. He was the rock star of his time who made such an impression, we named our children, schools, states, towns and whatever else we could find to honor him. Think of what a person would have to attain nowadays to reach such admiration.

There are four known leadership types, and all have different attributes. The first is the creator or the artist. He is clever and creative. They envision change, so their influence is based on anticipating a better future in generating hope in others. Being original is highly prized. They express themselves in spontaneous, creative responses to their surroundings. They are imaginative, able to handle a high degree of ambiguity and are comfortable with abstract ideas. Success for this type is defined by expressing new ideas and prototyping those ideas when possible. Washington subscribed to a fundamental belief in creating a new nation from the tyranny of England. He showed spontaneity and creativity with his surprise crossing of the Delaware River. Washington embraced the idea of being original, serving as the prototype of a new government position - President of the United States, not a king but a leader for the people.

The second leadership type is the competitor or the athlete who is aggressive and decisive. This leader actively pursues goals and targets and is energized by competitive situations. Winning is the principal objective. These leaders are hard drivers and producers, very demanding of themselves and others. Speed, stealth and discipline are keys to their approach. Success for this type involves energizing and expanding opportunities for problem-solving by deploying resources. Washington displayed these characteristics as General of the American forces during the War for Independence, continually having to improvise his tactics to remain competitive against the dominating British Army. As a gentleman farmer, in his letters home, he frequently asked about his crops keeping detailed records of their growing patterns. Washington was also a land speculator who believed that America’s destiny lay in expansion to the west. He shared his dream of linking the Potomac River through a series of canals and roads to the Ohio River - opening trade and commerce.

The collaborative or Sage leader is caring and empathetic. This third type of leader is keenly aware of others and cares for the needs of individuals. They are skilled in building a community of people and sharing knowledge between them. They seek interactions among community members and allies and use processes by conflict management and consensus decision-making. Their success is defined by the creation of healthy relationships to dialogue, trust, and understanding. Outcomes of these collaborative practices are shared values and commitment. They use their team orientation and cooperative nature to accomplish their goals. Morale and commitment or actively pursue. Masonically, we can trace the traits displayed by Washington in his ability to build consensus among his officers. He presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which addressed the weak role of our new government in federal and state issues, much like a Master would rule and govern his lodge.

Lastly, the controller or engineer is a well informed technical expert. These leaders are diligent, meticulous, and function based. They influence others based on the control and management of information. Improving efficiency through process redesign and the implementation of reliable technology is a hallmark of the engineer. Success for this type is improving quality through the use of procedures. This leader is risk-averse and seeks to take variation out of the system, valuing standardization consistency. Measurement is used as a tool to achieve these values. It may seem hard to imagine Washington behind a surveyor’s scope, but he began learning how to measure land during his teenage years. He carried that skill professionally during his expositions out West both personally and as a professional soldier. All good Masons would also recognize that in his Masonic portraits, Washington holds the trowel, the perfect representative of his character.

As we remember Bro. Washington today, let’s pause to review his lesson on leadership. Masons work to improve ourselves, our Lodges, and our communities. Good leaders keep an open mind and know their weaknesses. Good men respect that everyone has a worldview and therefore a bias towards a particular strategy or perspective. Leaders partner with others that challenging them. Sages and engineers challenge each other, as do engineers and artists. Great leaders will develop the appropriate culture and competencies in their organization is to produce the desired value proposition. Finally, my Brothers, let’s embrace the portrait of Washington with the trowel, ever remembering that we have obligated ourselves to lead a good and responsible life, using the trowel to cement ties between each other, and spread Brotherly Love.

RW Kenneth M. White is District Deputy Grand Master of the Old Seventeenth District representing the MW William M. Sardone Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York. Ken is a First Vice President of Wealth Management and Senior Portfolio Manager for UBS Financial Services. As a youth, Ken was an Eagle Scout and has carried those ideals into his adult life by being active in many community activities. He is a member and past master of Wadsworth Masonic Lodge #417, Albany, NY, a member of Ancient Scottish Rite Valley of Albany, and a member of Cyprus Shrine.

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