Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33

To restore America’s traditional core values today, we must find and release those same values in ourselves and in our lives.

Everything in America today points to the desperate need to restore core values. We fear rather than love our neighbor. Social trust is crumbling or gone. Civic institutions, once deemed effective ways to remedy society’s woes and deserving of our support, are disrupted by scandals and made ineffective by bureaucracy. Civil debate has disintegrated into hurled insults, negative campaigns, and 30-second television spots. At the same time, there is a deep longing for high, clear, shared moral standards and leaders who embody them. Where are we to find this brave new world?

In truth, our values, institutions, and leaders have failed us only because we have failed them and ourselves. Any new foundation, any return to a civil and civic society must begin with us, with each person. Too often, however, the individual today is self-absorbed. The nation, therefore, is in danger of becoming an ever more rapidly disintegrating collection of isolated interests. Glued to our television or computer screens, isolated from any group action or interest, we tend to ignore others and forget that what made this nation great was shared experience and mutual commitment.

Led by men who expressed our highest values, we supported, as a people, the birth, development, unity, and global influence of America. These men, like Brother and President George Washington, represented our best ideals. We supported them because they portrayed our beliefs and aspirations. To create such leaders and so restore the core values of America today, we must find and release those same values in ourselves. Shifting the focus of institutional power and responsibility from centralized, bureaucratic government to state and local governments is a start. But the transformation of America must not stop there.

To reverse America’s loss of heart, we ourselves must take heart and find in ourselves the moral responsibility, communal purpose, and personal commitment we desire in others. Our churches, community organizations, and political parties cannot do this for us. But each can be a guide if we seek in each the core values we know are right. They are, not coincidentally, the same values that made America great: belief in God as the Father of us all; patriotic love of and service to country; the work ethic and the dignity of labor; respect for one’s fellowman as for one’s self; the value of education and knowledge; liberty of conscience and, with it, religious, political, social, and economic freedom.

A tall order to be sure! Yet I submit there is one great institution, Freemasonry, that embodies all these values and which, if followed, could restore America’s declining moral, social, and civic capital. Each Brother learns the above ideals at Masonry’s altar. He pledges himself to them, and they become the fabric of his Masonic bonds with all the Brethren. Truly live these bonds and expand them to the world at large! That is a challenge which, if accepted, would revolutionize our nation today. To develop the “I” into the “we” in our Fraternity, in our country and, with time, in every corner of the globe-that is our mission as Freemasons and one which can truly transform the world.