A lot of times over the years I have had to answer the question, "What do the guys really get out of attending a Key Man Conference?" My answer is always the same-- "More than we ever expected!" When we switched to the "Reality Model" for the Conference in 2001, shedding the notebooks and much of the academic style of teaching for a more active involvement process, we opened the way for the DeMolays to learn much more about themselves and the dynamics of the Order.
Sure, they get training in how to establish a "real" Chapter, how to select an officer corps, how to ritualistically open and close meetings, how to conduct meetings and take proper minutes, how to earn awards, plan fund-raisers, observe obligatory days and participate in all the other elements of the DeMolay program. They get to see a good "obligating" ceremony at the opening session, and then a complete set of top quality degrees on the last full day of the conference. And they learn how to have fun and fierce competition with non-traditional athletic activities. We EXPECT that-- it is the basic training we want them to experience, while having more fun than they could have imagined!
It is, however, the experience of coming together as strangers with only one commonality-- their membership in DeMolay-- that allows for what happens beyond that traditional experience. Upon arrival, each DeMolay is asked to accept the Brotherhood Contract which emphasizes safety, shared values, positive mental attitude, being yourself, and being open to learning. They then take the Fidelity Pledge, wherein they agree to try to live by the DeMolay virtues in all that they think, say and do, and to take responsiblity for their actions. Each one is asked, individually, to agree to that pledge, and each one makes that commitment to his brothers. It is a powerful thing to be reminded by one of your brothers that you are straying from your pledge. It creates a POSITIVE peer pressure that minimized disciplinary issues all week long.
Even more than regulating behavior, the experience teaches them how to live amicably with others, to learn something new everyday, to trust each other and the advisors who are committed to working with them, to revere history while creating some of their own, to accept their economic, social, racial, chronological, educational and intellectual differences rather than ridicule them, and to experience the true synergy of diversity.
When I listen to these seven closing session speeches I marvel at how much they learned about each other and about themselves. I want these young men in positions of leadership in our community and our nation-- and the sooner they get there, the better off we will all be! I feel so blessed to have the privilege of working with the young men of DeMolay!
EO in PA