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George Washington 1776 Lodge #337, F. & A.M., Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

Our National Anthem

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Our National Anthem


Unless you know all four stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner you may find this most interesting.  Perhaps most of you didn't realize what Francis Scott Key's profession was or what he was doing on a ship. This is a good brush-up on your history.

Near the end of his life in 1992, the great science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about the four stanzas of our national anthem. However brief, this well-circulated piece is an eye opener from Dr. Asimov, who was also a professor of Bio-Chemistry.


Isaac Asimov said, “I have a weakness -- I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem. The words are difficult and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I'm taking a shower I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time.”


I was once asked to speak at a luncheon. Taking my life in my hands, I announced I was going to sing our national anthem -- all four stanzas. This was greeted with loud groans. One man closed the door to the kitchen, where the noise of dishes and cutlery was loud and distracting. "Thanks, Herb," I said. "That's all right," he said. "It was at the request of the kitchen staff"


I explained the background of the anthem and then sang all four stanzas. Let me tell you, those people had never heard it before...or had never really listened. I got a standing ovation. But it was not me; it was the anthem.

More recently, while conducting a seminar, I told my students the story of the anthem and sang all four stanzas. Again there was a wild ovation and prolonged applause. And again, it was the anthem and not me.  So now let me tell you how it came to be written.

In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over freedom of the seas. We were in the right.  For two years, we held off the British, even though we were still a rather weak country.

Great Britain was in a life and death struggle with Napoleon.  In fact, just as the United States declared war, Napoleon marched off to invade Russia. If he won, as everyone expected, he would control Europe, and Great Britain would be isolated. It was no time for her to be involved in an American war.

At first, our seamen proved better than the British. After we won a battle on Lake Erie in 1813, the American commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, sent the message, "We have met the enemy and they are ours."

However, the weight of the British navy beat down our ships.  Eventually. New England, hard-hit by a tightening blockade, threatened secession.

Meanwhile, Napoleon was beaten in Russia and in 1814 was forced to abdicate. Great Britain now turned its attention to the United States, launching a three-pronged attack.


The northern prong was to come down Lake Champlain toward New York and seize parts of New England. The southern prong was to go up the Mississippi, take New Orleans and paralyze the west. The central prong was to head for the Mid-Atlantic States and then attack Baltimore, the greatest port south of New York.


If Baltimore was taken, the nation, which still hugged the Atlantic coast, could be split in two. The fate of the United States, then, rested to a large extent on the success or failure of the central prong.

The British reached the American coast and on August 24, 1814, took Washington, D.C. Then they moved up the Chesapeake Bay toward Baltimore. On September 12, they arrived and found 1,000 men in Fort McHenry, whose guns controlled the harbor. If the British wished to take Baltimore, they would have to take the fort.

On one of the British ships was an aged physician, William Beanes, who had been arrested in Maryland and brought along as a prisoner. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and friend of the physician, had come to the ship to negotiate his release. The British captain was willing, but the two Americans would have to wait.


It was now the night of September 13, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to start. As twilight deepened, Key and Beanes saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. Through the night, they heard bombs bursting and saw the red glare of rockets. They knew the fort was resisting and the American flag was still flying.


But toward morning the bombardment ceased, and a dread silence fell.  Either Fort McHenry had surrendered and the British flag flew above it, or the bombardment had failed and the American flag still flew.

As dawn began to brighten the eastern sky, Key and Beanes stared out at the fort, trying to see which flag flew over it. He and the physician must have asked each other over and over, "Can you see the flag?"

After it was all finished, Key wrote a four stanza poem telling the events of the night. Called "The Defense of Fort McHenry," it was published in newspapers and swept the nation.

Someone noted that the words fit an old English tune called, "To Anacreon in Heaven" -- a difficult melody with an uncomfortably large vocal range. For obvious reasons, Key's work became known as "The Star Spangled Banner," and in 1931 Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States.

Now that you know the story, here are the words. Presumably, the old doctor is speaking. This is what he asks Key:

Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thru' the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

"Ramparts," in case you don't know, are the protective walls or other elevations that surround a fort. The first stanza asks a question. The second gives an answer:

On the shore, dimly seen thru' the mist of the deep
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep.
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream.
'Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The "towering steep" is again, the ramparts. The bombardment has failed, and the British can do nothing more but sail away, their mission a failure. In the third stanza I feel Key allows himself to gloat over the American triumph. In the aftermath of the bombardment, Key probably was in no mood to act otherwise?

During World War I when the British were our staunchest allies, this third stanza was not sung. However, I know it, so here it is:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling.


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,

And this be our motto --"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears. Pay attention to the words and don't let anyone ever take it away ... not even one word of it!


By Dr. Isaac Asimov

Listen as a Mason


How many of you believe that you are powerful listeners?  Raise your hands.  Not that many it appears.  How many of you believe that you could become better listeners?  Thanks, that’s better.


Listening means more than just hearing what another is saying. Listening includes interpreting the speaker’s body language, picking up on clues from his facial expressions, and absorbing the meaning of his message. 


Powerful listeners pick up more nuggets of truth in Masonic teaching, more connection to their customers in the workplace, and more intimacy with family and friends in their home life. 


Poor listeners act disrespectfully through their lack of appreciation for the speaker.  Poor listening demonstrates that you think what is being said does not matter.  It would be better not to have a conversation than to have one without an attempt at good listening habits. 


Experts say that only 15% of communication that is received by listeners is verbal, with the remaining 85% as non-verbal.  For this reason, email memos fail to bring consensus compared with in-person meetings.  We can read sincerity in a speaker’s face that is compelling.  But when a speaker is multi-tasking by giving advice while at the same time opening mail or checking his wristwatch, the speaker demonstrates his inattention to the others in the room. This can be quite disconcerting to subordinates, clients, or to our fellow brothers.


Impatient Listeners


In our quick-paced life, with Picture-in-Picture TV showing more than one channel at the same time, some of us fall into the trap of jumping to conclusions. The speaker starts to tell us about a problem or experience, and we jump ahead to form a judgment on the communication.  We form a response before the speaker ever finishes! 


If you frequently interrupt a speaker, you are failing to be a powerful listener as well as being rude.  You are saying to the speaker, “I know all this already.”  You weren’t really listening.


Imagine that you went to an MD and you told him you had a pain.  If the doctor interrupted you at that point to prescribe medications before he asked more about the nature of the pain, you’d think the doc was a nut.  Ineffective listeners look like this quack doctor. They don’t follow up with questions to find out more.


Some people unfortunately speak without listening.  They seem to want to hear their own voice.  A good rule for listening is to keep your speaking down to 20% or less of the conversation.  Powerful listeners ask leading questions that drive the conversation.  They listen to the responses.  The responses are longer by far than the questions. 


Listen to one of the questions at a press conference by Don Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.  A question can run several paragraphs in length. Rumsfeld tersely replies, “Yes” or “No.”  The reporter demonstrates that he really doesn’t care about the answer; he prefers to show how smart he is by his lengthy comment-filled question.  Instead, you should try to listen to answers.  A good adage to remember is, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”


The Lodge as a Listening Room


A lodge is a safe place for listening.  We are tiled against interruptions.  We have an unusually perfect place for powerful listening.  At home or the office, when powerful listening is needed, it is good idea to provide times and places to listen.  Create the equivalent of a lodge room where a business team or family may safely listen.


At half-time in football game, the team huddles around the coach and other team leaders for words of encouragement and advice. Great teams listen to the advice and go out in the second half to be champions.


How to Be a Powerful Listener


In the art of powerful listening, slowing up the process allows communication to settle in and infuse your mind with the message.  When a question or problem arises, the co-worker can say, “Please, tell me more about that.”  It is a chance to reflect on the issue.  It is a stalling tactic to be sure, but one that permits time and listening to register what is really being said. 


Taking notes in a Lodge or a business meeting has several advantages.  It tends to show that the listener is interested in the issues discussed, he wants to recall them for later use, and he clarifies to himself what are the chief points made by the speaker.


Another related technique, if not used too often, is to restate the question or issue.  “If I hear what you’ve telling me is that…”   This has the advantage of reassuring the speaker that you are on the same wavelength and it acts as a stalling technique so that the response is more likely to be helpful.  Slow and easy is just as effective in love-making as it is in listening.


Listening to Different Genders and Age Groups


Men and women converse differently.  Women want to see and hear clues that what is said registers on others. When women speak together, they touch each other, and they say, “yes, I know,” as frequently as members of a charismatic church say “Amen” after each sentence from the minister.  But if two guys are talking, the first guy says, “Do ‘ya want ta go fishin’?”  The other guy grunts, “Yup!”  That’s enough for guys.  The lesson then is that when we listen to women, we need to be ready to interject clues that we are listening.  Add a few, “Yes, I see,” or, “Tell me more.”


Different generations have distinct communication styles.  The Gen X-ers think and speak rapidly.  They have short attention spans, but they are often very quick at picking up the main point.  When you listen to their fast-paced, scattered comments, you receive a collage of crisp snapshots.  Can you understand what they are saying?  If you are speaking to Gen X-ers, you also need to get to the point quickly and to move on to the next point.


But those who are older tend to be more patient.  They are comfortable listening to layers added upon layers of thoughts to give a fuller picture of the problem, issue, or experience, like the rich colors woven into a complex tapestry.  A powerful listener will attune his ears to the speaker or the audience. 


When a nine year old runs up to tell you something, you expect him to jump from one thing to another.  You are an effective listener if you can listen to speakers whether nine or ninety-nine with enjoyment and care.


Listen for the Real Message


Powerful listeners find the real message, the intent of the speaker, in a conversation. This is not a conspiracy theory approach, but simply asking why this person is saying this to me.  What is the essence of the message?  What does this boil down to?


Some of the techniques for slowing down the conversation, such as restating the question, can improve one’s chance of learning the speaker’s real message.  As 85% of communication involves body language, use these clues to find out more about the intent. Sometimes what is said is not the real intent, but something else is going on.


By taking the speaker’s intent into account, we create a greater sense of trust.  Whether they eventually agree or disagree with our view, there is greater chance of harmony when we know the other was truly listening.  If a football coach tells a player to block lower, whether the player agrees with his coach or not, he knows that coach’s intent is to create a better team. The communication is received.  If a music director tells a baritone to sing on top of the pitch, the singer knows the intent of the director is to produce greater harmony, and he will try to do it.  And if the Master of the Lodge tells the lodge members that to be a better team, we all need to be become better listeners; the Master’s intent is to create greater harmony and growth as men in Masonry.  The brethren will more likely receive that message and do it.  Let us all display more attentive ears in Masonry as we become powerful listeners.


Dick Marcus, PM

Enthusiasm for our Craft


Enthusiasm builds a winning attitude.  It is a dynamic quality that is essential for all great achievement.  Men with enthusiasm, earnestness of purpose, and fortitude reject temerity and timidity.  They have the courage to match their convictions and goals.  Enthusiasm is a key ingredient in success and teamwork.


Men with enthusiasm, spirit, and passion inspire confidence. They invite action and they generate progress.


If a football team saunters timidly into the field, they appear already to have lost.  They are better able to achieve their goal by running and shouting, “Go, win, go!” 


Is this a false enthusiasm?  Perhaps it is -- but to play without zest, without enthusiasm is to play without joy and zeal.


Some of you know that I am a professional economist, someone who likes to use equations.  Enthusiasm doesn’t nicely fit into an equation, but I think we can make a useful inequality or expression tonight.


Masonic Truth + Enthusiasm > All Obstacles


        Virtues of brotherly love, relief, and truth build character.  But invigorate them with enthusiasm by the working together, they surmount all obstacles. 


What are some obstacles that we tend to face, you may ask?


The first obstacle is the feeling that we can’t recruit new members.  Some think, because we live in an age of the Internet and 150-channel TVs, group activities are waning.


        But if we have passion and enthusiasm for the craft, we will be attractive to those who seek to improve themselves.


The second obstacle is the feeling that we are not relevant for today.  Alas, some of us think this.


But we know that brotherly love, relief, and truth, indeed all Masonic virtues are relevant to building a better world.  To have enthusiasm for these virtues helps to overcome the nay-saying obstacles that we bump into.   


How do we build enthusiasm? 


Well, one way we have explored is making and using a motto.  One church on Good Hope Rd has a neon sign that says Sinner’s Welcome. 


Well, this summer we put up a large Square and Compasses symbol on our East side.  What if we also had a sign that read, Here are the Greatest Guys in the World!  Would that be too boastful?  Or would that be a sign of enthusiasm for the craft?


To build enthusiasm, start with yourself.  Grow your own emotion and sense of excitement. Use positive thinking.  You know you love to come to lodge and to be with your brothers.


To build enthusiasm, if someone greets you and asks how you are, reply Positively Splendid or Better that Terrific or Super-Dupper and How are You?  Why not have enthusiasm and spirit?  Give me one reason not to.


So brothers, let us work as a team.  Let us Go, Win, Go.  Let us have enthusiasm for our lodge and our craft.  Are you positively splendid?  What say you?  


Dick Marcus, PM