Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Substance Abuse---DeMolays---Impossible!

What do you really know about your DeMolay members?

This may not, at first, seem like a DeMolay blog post.  But, stick with it... it is VERY relevant to what you are doing in your DeMolay Chapter.

The annual Pennsylvania Youth Survey is conducted by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Since 1989 the Commonwealth has conducted a biennial survey of youth in the 6th, 8th 10th and 12 grades to gather information about their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.

The survey is administered in individual school buildings and all questions are optional... youth are able to skip any questions they don't want to answer, or opt out of the survey entirely.  All answers are anonymous and confidential.The 2013 survey was administered to nearly 201,000 youth in over 400 school districts and counties. Statewide, this was a total of 69% of the 288,632 youth surveyed. 50.3% were female, and 49.7% were female.  75% were white, 6% African American, 3% Asian, 3% Hispanic and 11% multi-racial.  (There IS a skew in these numbers in that the inner-city schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have consistently and inexplicably chosen NOT to participate in the survey.)

Regardless of the lack of big-city representation, these numbers are very telling.  Here are some statistics to consider:

Exposure to and use of "gateway" drugs during their lifetime:

 6th Grade      13.3%
 8th Grade      35.1%
10th Grade     61.5%
12th Grade     74.2%

 6th Grade        2.4%
 8th Grade      10.2%
10th Grade     21.2%
12th Grade     35.2%

Smokeless Tobacco
 6th Grade       1.0%
 8th Grade       4.6%
10th Grade     10.9%
12th Grade     18.9%

 6th Grade        0.8%
 8th Grade        6.4%
10th Grade     25.8%
12th Grade     40.3%

 6th Grade        5.3%
 8th Grade        6.9%
10th Grade       6.4%
12th Grade       5.9%

Other             cocaine                  crack          methamphetamines
 6th Grade        0.2%                     0.2%                        0.1%
 8th Grade        0.6%                     0.4%                        0.4%
10th Grade       1.5%                     0.9%                        0.8%
12th Grade       3.1%                     1.3%                        1.2%

The participating school districts receive their District's numbers in comparison to these statewide numbers, a national "norm" and multi-year comparisons within their home county.

They are then guided through a method of evaluating the statistics to prioritize programs that target specific goals, to evaluate the success of programs already in place, to determine community standards for "acceptable" levels, identifying risk factors and understanding large shifts in the data from year to year.

The survey touches on other subjects beyond drug awareness and use.  It also includes questions on gambling, gang involvement, texting while driving, other anti-social behavior, bullying, internet safety, depression and suicide risk, family separation, trauma and grief, transitions and other stressful events, perception of parental and peer disapproval.  We will review some of those topics and numbers in the future.

Discussion points:

1.   What conclusions can you draw from these numbers about YOUR DeMolay Chapter?

2.   Does your Chapter have a substance abuse "presence?"

3.   Does it have a substance abuse "problem?"

4.   How many members in your Chapter are "likely" to be knowledgeable and experienced users of one or more controlled substances?

5.   Does this worry you?

6.   Are you prepared to deal with it, if you learn of it in relation to your Chapter members?

7.   Is PA DeMolay's Zero Tolerance policy practical, or unrealistic?

8.   Are there potential youth protection issues created by our initial response to these statistics?

9.   Does DeMolay's program of traditional values help our members respond to the pressures and opportunities presented to them by their peers?

Friday, March 13, 2015


What's the "secret?"  
by "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh, Executive Officer

Often I have been asked, "Why is the PA. DeMolay Key Man program so successful?"
I don't think it is any secret that the strength of all of our programs is in the leaders who drive them forward. The program grew out of necessity, as the DeMolay International Leadership Training Conference program had effectively shut down through DI's financial difficulties of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  After hosting three DeMolay LTCs at the Patton Campus, two pre-renovation and one after the new facility opened, PA DeMolay was faced with the cancellation of the DLTCs and the loss of this vital training opportunity for its members. Rumors of several regionally coordinated LTCs started to circulate, and it didn't take much coaxing for PA to start looking at the same thing.

In 1986, under the leadership and vision of Bro. and "Dad" Samuel C. Williamson, (R. W. Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of PA, and then Executive Officer of DeMolay in Pennsylvania,) the Key Man Conference was born, specifically to train Chapter Councilors and new members. As with anything new, the first three years had smaller enrollments, and through "Dad" Williamson's relentless leadership, the Chapters in PA learned how important it was to support and attend the conference.  In 1989, NJ DeMolay committed to sending a large number of participants, Jurisdictional Officer training was added to the curriculum, and the program grew rapidly from that point on.

The Key Man program, (Conference/University) has always been designed to be a top quality leadership training experience.  It has always been held at the Masonic Conference Center--Patton Campus-- a first class location with incomparable facilities.  And it has always been supervised by the best volunteer staff available to mentor DeMolay members.  I won't mention the names of individual staff members or Conference Directors for fear of leaving someone out, but we have had some of the most dedicated, creative and focused leaders in the country bring their talents to the early development of the Key Man program.  Clearly, the program was a work in progress and went through a number of schedule changes but the basic DeMolay International Leadership Training Conference got a talent and resource boost in the Key Man program.   The DeMolays were very goal-oriented and competitive in ritual and in sports. An additional element of TV game shows used as teaching tools added fun and excitement through Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, $10,000 Pyramid and The Match Game, all adapted to enhance DeMolay knowledge.  "Winning" and "success" and a feeling of group-based "achievement" was everything.

Key Men were divided by levels of experience, and the program was specifically designed for new members, for Councilors, and for Jurisdictional Officers.  They were assigned to Chapters to mix the age-groups and to equalize sporting event performance.  We measured our success by the number of Key Man Chapters that met their participation goals and earned a variety of recognitions during the week.  Generally, one advisor per chapter worked with 10-14 boys, but a large support staff to handle specific assignments gave us our 1:5 adult to youth supervision ratio, and the program grew very popular during its first 14 years of operation.

I remember that in the early to mid 1990s there was a failed effort to start up the DLTC's again under DI supervision.  After that, DeMolay International's DLC committee, having no program to supervise, determined that they would "certify" all of the regional leadership training camps if they met certain standards established by the committee.  With a successful program operating smoothly, we couldn't see a need to submit our Key Man Conference to the touchstone of those who couldn't produce a conference, but could only critique.  Informed of the certification process, "Dad" Williamson stated that when the DLTC committee established standards that came up to par with OUR program, he would consider certifying THEM as authorized Key Man Conferences. That was a conversation-stopper.

In the year 2000, the Key Man program made a quantum leap in its curriculum and process when "Dad" Brent Richards conceived of the "reality concept," applied to all activities at the Key Man Conference.  Every scheduled experience was tested with the question: "How is this any different from what really happens at the home Chapter level?"  Each experience, from registration, to organizing their week-long chapter's officers and committees, to a real prospect party, fund-raisers, and obligatory day observances became models of how to establish and grow a Chapter at home.  Success became a secondary goal-- planning, execution and evaluation of success and failure, and how to improve for the next time, was the primary lesson.

Late in this program came the development of  the Brotherhood Contract and The Fidelity Pledge-- concepts "adapted" (some would say, stolen) from the "Full-Value-Contract" of the PMYF's Lifeskills Conferences also held at the Patton Campus.  The Brotherhood Contract states:

All Conferees agree to conduct themselves according to these basic ground rules:


Each of these are explained in detail in the contract, but the general idea is that if we agree to keep each other safe, to value each other's participation, to stay positive and open to new ideas, and to strive to achieve, anything is possible.  The Fidelity Pledge, well enacted, is a great way to get all the participants on the same page at the beginning of the program with the ideas of living up to the DeMolay Virtues, taking personal responsibility for our actions and practicing forgiveness and tolerance, as the basis for success in the program and success in their daily lives.

The Fidelity Pledge

I promise that I will try
to live by the DeMolay Virtues
in all that I think, say and do,
and will expect the same effort
from my brothers and Advisors.
When I fail to do so,
I will take responsibility for my decisions,
make appropriate amends, if possible,
accept the consequences of my actions,
and be as forgiving of my brothers
as they are tolerant of me.

We measured our success by the number of LCCs, RDs and Obligation Cards were earned, and the number of new ritual parts that were learned during the week, and also in the the ways the Key Men translated what they learned into valued behaviors that helped their home Chapters grow.  This latter item was not an easy thing to measure, except through anecdotes and testimonials by their advisors.  The "Reality Key Man" concept carried us for another 14 years, under the leadership of another corps of outstanding directors and adult volunteers.

In 2014 we decided it was time to take the whole program in a different direction to see what we could learn by giving the young men more choice and more freedom to select their area of academic and participatory concentration.  Thus arose the Key Man University concept, wherein the DeMolays choose their major course of study, and a minor course of study, and graduate at the end of the week with a base of knowledge they wanted, plus a smattering of "general education" courses that all must complete.  The areas of major and minor concentration included Ritual, Chapter Leadership, Event and Program Planning, Education and Personal Development, Brotherhood and Membership, Communications and Media, Jurisdictional Officers and Sweethearts.

Making individual schedules was much more complicated,but the DeMolays had control over what they did, and they had more personal freedom with open study periods, optional breakfast times and the inclusion of a Sweetheart program.  The DeMolays got a taste of what college could be like, while learning useful skills that they could practice in their home Chapters. Key Man University was a great success, and like every new concept, will undergo a process of refinement over the next few years that will balance all the elements of the program to the benefit of the Key Men.

So, what's the secret?  Why does this program continue to grow and improve over the years?  Consistent leadership.  Reliable and recurring volunteers.  Fantastic support from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, its Lodges, and the members of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. An uncompromising commitment to excellence.

And the next "big idea?"  It may come next year or the year after, but, if patterns mean anything, 2028 should be a really interesting year for Pennsylvania DeMolay!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Legion of Honor = Responsible Leadership!

Legionnaires United to Educate Key Men
by David W. Berry, Executive Secretary

For the 8th year, Pennsylvania DeMolay has reached out to the Pennsylvania members of the DeMolay Legion of Honor, asking them to donate to the Pennsylvania DeMolay Key Man Scholarship Fund.  This will allow PA DeMolay to offer partial scholarships to the outstanding leadership training conference known for helping leaders develop and grow.

Key Man University will be held August 2-8 at the Masonic Conference Center- Patton Campus in Elizabethtown.  It will be attended primarily by DeMolays from Pennsylvania with visiting DeMolays from up to a dozen other states and Canadian Provinces.  It is an international leadership training conference that is recognized for its outstanding curriculum and enthusiastic volunteer staff.  2015 marks the 30th year for the Key Man Conference.

The cost for a Pennsylvania DeMolay to attend is $225.00. In order to offer additonal scholarships to deserving young men who are members of the DeMolay Chapters in Pennsyvania, PA DeMolay annually puts out a call to all of the Active and Honorary Legion of Honor recipients, asking them to donate to this outstanding cause. These Legionnaires always open their hearts and their wallets to support the cause in a big way.  Within 5 days of mailing out the 2015 funding request, twelve Legionnaires have already contributed a total of $1,000.00 to the cause.  They are the stalwart leaders in our past who are still leading us, today.

Last year, the Legionnaires - and, through their efforts, a number of Lodges and Masonic-related organizations - contributed a total of  $5,875.00, which helped 39 DeMolays attend the 2014 conference.  Depending on the amount of the donations received, scholarships are traditionally offered in amounts of $75.00 to $175.00, determined by the need of the DeMolay who attends the conference.

Pennsylvania DeMolay gives a heartfelt thanks and hearty pat on the back for our Legionnaires who are so generous in their support of our DeMolays through their donations to the Key Man Scholarship Fund.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Got Yer Ears On, Good Buddy?

Old Lessons Still Ring True
by "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh

"Breaker 1-9 to the eastbound Buster Brown. What's yer 20? Got yer ears on? This is the westbound Cheshire Cat shoutin’ at ya— come back, good buddy! Did you see any rolling gumball machines behind you?"

"Breaker 1-9 to that there Cheshire Cat. You'd better cool yer jets or you'll be bear bait fer shure!"

"That's a big 10-4, Buster Brown.”

In the “old days” when I was active as a State Officer in NJ DeMolay, we didn't have cell phones, but the thing that every teenage driver HAD to have was a Citizen’s Band (CB) radio. We could travel as a convoy, and talk to each other while driving, if within a range of a couple of miles, and if nobody else was on the same channel with a stronger signal. 

Every interstate trucker had one, of course, and they communicated with one another for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to alert fellow truckers to the locations of “Smokey Bear” and “PYT’s” (pretty young things.) 

Some popular movies of that time made lots of money off the CB craze including “Convoy,” “Every Which Way But Loose,” “White Line Fever” and “Smokey and the Bandit” (parts 1, 2 and 3.)

Everyone had a nickname, called a “CB handle,” and mine was "The Cheshire Cat." (I can’t really remember why, but this was at a time when I was very content to melt into the wall or remain in the background, listening intently, saying nothing, and covering my awkwardness with just a smirk on my face.) But I liked it at the time and had personal letterhead made with the Disney cartoon image, and used it for letters to friends. 

My Dad’s CB handle was interesting to me— he was dubbed “Old Reliable” and I can only guess why, but I think my guesses are pretty good. In his work-life, he was an Electrical Engineer, and at some time in his career he was given the title of Reliability Engineer, either for the Bendix Corp, or the Conrac Corp., or Lear Siegler, Inc., or Smith Industries.

For the longest time, he couldn't tell me what he did for a living, because he worked on government contracts for the military and for NASA. He finally was able to tell me that one project his team worked on was the auto-pilot for the Gemini spacecraft. I remember asking him what a Reliability Engineer was, and he told me it was his job to break things… to test their limits… specifically to push aircraft instrumentation to the breaking point so that there would be zero chance of a failure when in flight. At that moment, my Dad became pretty cool, to me and I delighted in telling people he got paid to break things! But I also understood that he took his work very seriously, because his reputation, his company’s reputation and the lives of pilots and others relied on his work every day.

In his personal life, he also had a reputation for being reliable.

If Everett Labagh said he would get something done, it got done. If he said he was going to be somewhere, he was there. If he said he would complete a project, or learn a ritual part, or chair a DeMolay Advisory Council meeting, or drive us on a visitation, he did it, without fail. His word was as good as his bond. He was organized, detailed, and methodical. He kept an appointment calendar with him always, so he would never miss a commitment, and would be able to answer requests to help others on future dates. He kept careful notes on what was said at meetings and who promised to complete which tasks. He kept file folders on every activity and updated them frequently, so that nothing was left to his memory. To everyone he knew, he truly was “Old Reliable.”  

He seldom sat me down to specifically teach me a lesson or talk to me about what I should do, or how I should do it. He just set a great example for me, and for his peers, and every time I gave the first DeMolay ritual part I ever learned, the Fifth Preceptor, Fidelity, I thought of my Dad.

As DeMolays and as leaders, we should ALL be worthy of being called “Old Reliable.”

"This is the Cheshire Cat, KAMT1459, I'm 10-10 on the side."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Outdated Virtue?

How Can It Be Relevant If I Can't Pronounce It?
by "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh

Filial Love?  What's that?  What kind of a word is filial?  How is it pronounced?  What does that mean, anyway?  And why do so many Chapters have a Preceptor Cloth that says, LOVE OF PARENTS instead?  

Let’s go back to English Class for a moment:  The root of many of our words is Latin, and the Latin word for son is “filius.”  Filial Love is simply Love that is befitting, or worthy, of a son or daughter.  It is a love that is both automatic upon birth, and essential to the success of any civilization.  Yes, it is Love of Parents, but it is SO MUCH MORE than just an emotional attachment.

Filial Love, for DeMolays, is the PRACTICE of courtesy, affection, and obedience in the home.  We CANNOT SAY that we love our parents if we do not treat them with the same respect we demand from them for ourselves.  We CANNOT SAY we love our parents if we shrug off THEIR natural tendencies to show affection—those darn hugs and kisses in front of our friends—YUCHHH!—especially when we need to give those hugs and kisses back to Mom and Dad.  And we cannot say we love our parents, if we look for every way to thwart their rules, their curfews, their chores, their demands, and worst of all, their expectations of our success in school, work, sports, church, and yes, even DeMolay.  SAYING we love our parents, or even SAYING, “MOM… DAD… I LOVE YOU… isn't enough for DeMolays.  We must show it in our daily actions.

Sometimes, I wonder about the relevance of this virtue.  If you think about it, it is a strange virtue in today’s times, because, statistically, it doesn't have much meaning to many of our DeMolay Brothers!  So many of our members do not come from “traditional” families with “a Mom, and a Dad, two kids, and a dog.”  Recently, watching an the Initiatory Degree, I couldn't help wondering how many of our new brothers standing there COULD NOT RELATE to the simple concept of “HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER.”  

How many don’t have traditional parents, or even one parent at home, but rather, live with extended family, or a blended family, or in a foster home, or even an institutional home?  How did they feel when hearing this quaint language about the “home-loving, mother-loving, father loving young man?”  How did they relate to this Preceptor?  I could see some of their faces and could almost hear some of them say, “This doesn’t have any meaning for me….” or even worse… “Don’t these people know how much it hurts me to stand here and listen to this?”  And so I worry that we turn them off, and send them away with a view of our Order as simply out of sync with the times… an Order that has no meaning for them.  

Or, does it?

The Seven Cardinal Virtues are not  standards we all MUST REACH, or risk calling ourselves losers. They are, rather, IDEALS that we strive to promote and perpetuate. Because they are ideals, I would suggest that Filial Love is perhaps the most IMPORTANT of our Virtues, and we should give it most of our attention!  Here is why—-  sociologists give great weight to the strength of a family unit in the ultimate success or failure of a child to become a useful, productive and happy member of society.  Children who grow up with both of their parents statistically have the greatest chance at success.  The more traumatic a childhood has been, the less likely the probability of success, and NOTHING can be more traumatic than the loss of one or more parents, for whatever reason!

Here is where DeMolay can make a huge difference in the lives of its members!  Children-at-risk are most often those who come from non-traditional families—NOT ALL—I don’t mean to generalize—but statistically speaking, this is the truth.   DeMolay does two things in this situation—we talk about an ideal that we can all look at and strive to enact in our own families when we are old enough to have them.  Even more pertinent, we provide “surrogate” Moms and Dads who become role models and who give the personal attention to each and every member that ensures a successful Chapter, and perhaps, a successful life!

Do you remember how DeMolay started?  Dad Land’s heart bled for the quiet suffering of Louis Lower and his three siblings, whose father had died of an infection in his leg.  He reached out to Louis, gave him a job, became his friend, helped him finish High School, and ultimately felt that Louis was as close to a son as he would ever have.  He filled a void in Louis’ life at a time when that young man needed adult guidance and acceptance.  He modeled the Order of DeMolay’s future purpose—to become a family unit for those who needed Dads, Brothers, Sisters and Mothers. 

The First Virtue wasn't given its place by accident.  The language of the First Preceptor is not out of touch.  If someone hasn't grown up in a traditional family, how can he know its value?  How can he understand the emotional strength provided a son by both a father and a mother?  How can he say, "I want MY children to grow up in a better environment," if he cannot see or experience this model for life?  

In DeMolay, we offer a FRATERNITY FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY, wherein all CAN learn to value something that they may never have experienced in their own family life.

Filial Love, for DeMolays, is the practice of courtesy, affection, and dutiful obedience in our homes, with our parents or the adult care-givers we are fortunate to live with, and in our extended DeMolay family.