Friday, May 8, 2015


Brief History of the DeMolay Awards for Heroic Action

(A Personal Rant by "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh, Masked as Informative History)

You have probably heard that a camel was created by a committee whose task was to design a horse.  The basic premise is that poorly-led decision-making by a group can lead to very bad decisions.  The humps of a camel, its very slow pace, its poor temperament are all taken to be deformities that resulted from a bad design for a horse.  Sort of like the Ford Edsel was a bad design for a car.  Or a Ford Pinto. Or the Pontiac Aztek.   Or the AMC Gremlin.  (Well, pretty much ANY car produced by the American Motor Company.) You get the idea.

DeMolay International is not immune to the vagaries and vicissitudes of committee-think. Committees change.  Often.  The are appointed by the Grand Master, who can reappoint or totally replace a Committee and its leadership at will.  Sometimes they change dramatically each year, as a result of political appointment, or disagreement over the direction of a previous administration or disappointment with previous committee action (or inaction.)  Sometimes they stay stable for a long period of time, which could also make them very static, un-moving, mired in tradition, or unoriginal. (After a 10-year run as Chairman of the DeMolay International Ritual and Regalia Committee I have requested to be replaced by the incoming Grand Master-- it is time for new leadership and new ideas.)   

An Unofficial History of DeMolay International's Awards for Heroic Action
DeMolay history has to be written from a collection of diverse sources, since there has been no official Historian tasked to keep adequate records.  Much can come from the Proceedings of the Grand and Supreme Councils, where available, and from publications throughout the years, and random committee files that may still be in existence.  So, in trying to come up with a history of the DeMolay Awards for Heroic Action, I had to rely on some very different sources that were not terribly accurate, at times. But they gave me enough information to reveal some interesting facts  The sources are italicized.

Article 10 of the Grand Council Bylaws and Statutes includes the creation of the Medal of Heroism for one who has voluntarily risked his life in saving or attempting to save… or sacrificed himself in an heroic manner.  Three were immediately approved, with Arthur Whitehead, Old Colony Chapter, Quincy, Mass as the first member elected to receive the DeMolay Medal of Heroism (from the C. A. Boyce history of DeMolay) 

(Image from the 3rd Ed. of the Members Record Book)

Members Record Book reported that less than 30 Medals of Heroism had been granted since 1925.

Members Record Book reported that fewer than 45 Medals of Heroism had been granted since 1925.  This also depicted the old medal design. 

DeMolay Handbook depicts the new design for the Medal of Heroism and the Medal of Valor, and reports that less than 50 Medals of Heroism had been awarded since 1925.  (CHANGE #1- ADD NEW MEDAL OF VALOR.)

The 1969 Members Record Book reports that at the 1964 Annual Session a special Certificate for Saving A Human Life was authorized.  Also, that “fewer than 45” had been awarded – (the 1969 number was obviously not updated since 1960.)   (CHANGE #2 - ADD CERTIFICATE FOR SAVING A HUMAN LIFE)

DeMolay Handbook still reporting less than 50 Medals of Heroism had been awarded since 1925.

Article X of the Statutes of the International Supreme Council includes the “Medal of Valor” for circumstances of valor not justifying the “Medal of Heroism: and a “Certificate of Merit for Saving a Human Life”  

A reorganization – Statutes of the International Supreme Council  Statute 211.6 Defined the Medal of Heroism; statute 211.7 Defined the Medal of Valor; and statute 211.8 Defined the Certificate of Saving A Human Life

Also,– Statutes of the International Supreme Council– section 211.8 became a MEDAL for Saving a Human Life  (Statutes)  Also reported in the 1970 DeMolay Handbook that the Medal had been approved at the 1969 ISC Session.  (CHANGE #3 - CHANGE CERTIFICATE TO A MEDAL)

DeMolay Handbook still reporting that fewer than 50 Medals of Heroism had been awarded.

DeMolay Handbook still reporting that fewer than 50 Medals of Heroism had been awarded.

The Committee on Medals of Heroism and Valor recommended that all 3 be combined into one medal for saving a human life. This was rejected by the Supreme Council. (Proceedings 1983)

Legislation was approved to eliminate the Medal of Valor and to Award the Medal of Heroism to one who risked his life; and the Medal for Saving a Human Life for one who saved a life, without personal risk (such as a CPR rescue.) This is the way it stood until 2013. (Proceedings 1984)   (CHANGE #4 - ELIMINATE THE MEDAL OF VALOR AFTER 24 YEARS OF EXISTENCE.)

Rules and Regulations 206.6 was amended to eliminate the Medal for Saving a Human Life, and to reinstate the Medal of Valor, and broaden its requirements to include “ one who has “performed an act of saving or ATTEMPTING to save a human life.”  (Proceedings 2013)  (CHANGE #5 - REINSTATE THE MEDAL OF VALOR AFTER A 20-YEAR ABSENCE, AND ELIMINATE THE MEDAL FOR SAVING A HUMAN LIFE)

The humorous part of this is that, of course, DeMolay International already has a bunch of Medals for Saving a Human Life in stock, which they cannot now use, (or even sell on eBay) and it does NOT have any Medals of Valor, since it had been eliminated 20 years earlier.

A good program, left alone, was used sparingly, but consistently from 1926 to 1960.  (Remember that Dad Land died at the end of 1959.)  But then the Committee got loosey-goosey with the criteria for the awards, and decided to lessen the blow of a rejection by first giving out a certificate, and later a medallion for good intentions and effort.  Since the death of Dad Land, committees have made no less than FIVE MAJOR CHANGES in the program.   


What was SO IMPORTANT that they had to monkey around with the standards for one of the most unique and prestigious awards granted by the Grand and later the International Supreme Council?

Committees acting on whims, or misunderstandings, or a lack of historical perspective, have made these 5 significant changes to the program, such that, now, if you see a Medal of Heroism, or a Medal of Valor, or a Medal for Saving a Human Life, the only one that has a standard you can count on is the last one, for it specifically is given for SAVING A HUMAN LIFE, whether at personal risk, or not. The rest of the awards have been rendered meaningless by this unnecessary ping-pong game with award criteria.  And now, in 2015, we have legislation before us to "clean up" the DI Bylaws, Rules and Regulations from the 2013 change.

When will the madness stop?


So, what can we learn from this?

Fraternities are institutions run, generally, by well-meaning volunteers in a variety of committees.

Committees generally make quick decisions, under the leadership of one or two really well meaning volunteers.

Committees generally act in good faith, but occasionally can be mis-led.

Committees can get bored with certain subjects, and can make snap decisions rather than informed decisions.

But without committees, we'd have dictators, manipulators and controllers who would make decisions on their own, without input or understanding of the will of the people.  

Governments are run by committees. Religious congregations are run by committees. Businesses are run by committees. Athletic leagues are run by committees.  Fraternities are run by committees.  And yes, DeMolay Chapters are run by committees.  Or at least, they are supposed to be.

Who runs YOUR Chapter?  The Master Councilor?  The Chapter Advisor?  The Advisory Council?  Or the members, through the use of carefully selected committees?  The DeMolay Method is to teach the committee process in all Chapters, to help equip the members for effective service as an adult in business, government, and any group where decisions need to be guided and carefully considered.

Remember that as bad as committees can be, they are still a better solution than surrendering all decision-making powers to a self-appointed committee of one.

TRL Notes:
Originally published 5/8/15
Revised 5/23/15 to add image of original Medal of Heroism

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