Making a Speech

W. Bro. David West, PPJGW


Handling your nerves

Mentally rehearse
Relaxation techniques
Use a mnemonic


Finding a hook
Sources of hooks
Developing the hook – the theme

Getting the speech going

The length and progress of the speech

Using jokes

Sources of jokes

Back to the theme

The ending

Specific toasts

The toast to the Worshipful Master
Replying to the toast to the Worshipful Master
Toast to the visitors
Replying to the toast to the visitors

Famous speeches

I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King (abridged)
Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln
We shall fight – Winston Churchill (excerpt)
Finest hour – Winston Churchill (excerpt)


It is reputed that the first after dinner speech ever was given by Christopher Columbus, who started with the words, “Brethren, a funny thing happened to me on the way to India.”

Now this joke illustrates a couple of points about Masonic toasts or indeed any form of public speaking.

  • Did you know, for example, that Columbus actually set out to find the route to Cathay – India and China? His discovery of America was thus in some sense a mistake. If you know this, then the joke is rather funny. It you do not, the joke falls totally flat. It is important to speak of things within the knowledge or experience of your listeners.
  • Was Christopher Columbus a Freemason? Of course he wasn’t. That does not stop you putting the word “Brethren” into his mouth! Your audience immediately imagines Christopher Columbus standing up at the Festive Board just like you are doing. It is part of the joke. For as long as it is a joke, never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

Here are some other tips on how to make a Masonic speech and toast. Speaking well can be a delight and a good speech gives your Brethren pleasure, so it is worth working at it.

Handling your nerves

We are all nervous when we stand to speak. I have spent most of my life speaking in public; lecturing to university students; training managers; giving “motivational” addresses (which I hate!) and so on. The largest audience I ever addressed was 3,000 – but even I still get a bit nervous when I stand up to speak, even in my own Lodge.

Remember, in all aspects of life, you have two choices. You can learn to handle the pressure of winning or you can back off. It is always easier not to try because if you don’t, you cannot lose – giving in is easier. In effect, you define yourself as someone who does not win – and perhaps you learn to be happy about this.

You set your sights lower, find other and less stressful things to do with your time. Fair enough but you can conquer nerves and stress and go on to do great things.

Ready to learn to do so?

To start with, understand the nature of nerves and stress. Psychologists tell us that some stress is necessary for performance. We have all heard of actors who need to be (a bit) nervous before they go on to the stage. The nerves give their performance an edge. The problem comes when nervousness gets too much. Performance then starts to deteriorate as we begin to doubt our ability to cope.

So we need to overcome any excess of nerves, not stop any nerves at all. There are some techniques, that actors as well as sports people use, that will help.

Mentally rehearse

This is the technique I use most.

If you watch athletics on the TV, take note of the close ups of the sprinters. You will see them at the start line, staring down the course, imagining the whole race.

Work through the speech in your imagination – from the opening right through to the fire. In your imagination, see yourself doing well. This process increases your familiarity with the speech and also gives you some good positive feedback. Your imagined performance felt good. Now do the real one just as well.

Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping. Realize that people want you to succeed. They’re rooting for you.

Relaxation techniques

You do most of this at home before you leave for the Lodge.

Sit comfortably upright and close your eyes. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. Become aware of the rate and rhythm of your breath. Breathe in and out slowly, smoothly and deeply through the nostrils without noisy jerks or pauses. Note which hand is moving with your breathing.

Consciously pull in your abdominal muscles when you exhale and push the abdominal muscles gently with your hand. When you breathe out be aware of the abdominal wall pushing out.

Once you have practised this, you can remind yourself of the relaxation you felt, even at the Festive Board by placing your hands by your side, breathing in and out and thinking only about your breathing movements, being aware only of your abdomen rising and falling.


You can do this almost up to the point at which you are to speak.

Choose a ‘cue’ word – by this is meant a word that whenever you use it, will call to mind the images that will help you relax. Say your cue word to yourself and then say, “I am calm. Re-lax. I am calm and relaxed.” Repeat this.

Choose colour or an image. Make it vivid and something that means something to you. It might be clouds drifting in a blue sky, a stream splashing through a forest, gentle waves rolling onto a sandy shore or a peaceful garden. Focus on this image to the exclusion of anything else. Say your cue word again.

Use a mnemonic

Something to remind you of what to do.

Richard Butler, who has worked with the British Olympic team, offers the mnemonic “P.R.E.S.S.U.R.E”

Prepare – psychologically prepare for the occasion
Relax – to reduce the feelings of anxiety
Externalize – view any problems as a matter of the speech not as a deficiency in yourself
Stay Positive – have confidence in your abilities
Single Minded – stay focused on the task at hand
Unite – support and feel supported by your Brethren
Re-evaluate – nothing is the end of the world

and finally, and most importantly:

Extend yourself – Give your best performance every time


Many of us have had the experience of being asked at the last minute to give a toast. The shortest notice I have had was when the Master said, “Brethren, the next toast will be given by W. Bro. David West.” I assure you that I had no idea until that moment! Some time for preparation helps!

I was asked to do what some Brethren were kind enough to describe as the best Masonic speech they had heard in a long while, when I entered the temple building. I did have a little time to prepare and I took advantage of that. I kept a sheet of paper on the chair next to me during the meeting and jotted down notes, somewhat surreptitiously, as the meeting proceeded. That gave me the raw material which I cobbled together between the meeting and the Festive Board. (I don’t drink!) However, I was lucky that I had been chatting about Masonic history with two Brethren in the car on the way there and some themes were fresh in my mind.

They say it is a matter of the four p’s: no preparation yields piss poor performance. If you are asking a Brother to give a toast, then it is only polite to give him a good bit of notice.

Once you know you are going to give a speech, start working on it right away. Do some research. If you are giving a toast, find out who will reply. You can even phone that Brother and discuss things so you come up with a common theme or ensure that you don’t say the same things – or worse still, tell the same jokes. If you are replying, the same applies vice versa.

Finding a hook

What you are looking for is what is called a ‘hook’ – something to hang your speech on.

Perhaps the most famous hook was used by Martin Luther King in his “I have a dream” speech. He adapted the opening lines of another famous speech, that given by President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. Lincoln opened his address with the words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Martin Luther King opened his address with the words,

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.”

By these words he brought into the minds of his listeners the words of Lincoln and then contrasted them with the reality of today. He went on,

“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

(Note how Martin Luther King repeats the phrase, “One hundred years later”. Repetition is a tool of oratory.)

Sources of hooks

Reminiscing – do you have something in common with the previous speaker? After dinner speeches are a great time for reminiscing.

Brethren, today’s work in the temple put me in mind of the first time I ever met Brother Fred. It was in the old temple before the central heating was put it. Boy! Was that cold in January! Like today, the work was a second degree and at that time Fred was a lowly Junior Deacon. (Look at him now!)”

A difference in the ritual – something that the lodge does that your Lodge does not. There is pleasure in seeing something different. “Brethren, I note that this Lodge places the tracing boards in the centre of the Lodge and not at the Junior Warden’s pedestal.”

Use a joke – which can perhaps be used later as a serious point.

Brethren, your WM is a man always ready to take a risk. I remember back in 2007, in fact July 7, 2007 – the 7th day of the 7th month, 2007 – he awoke at 7 minutes past 7. At breakfast he noted that there was a 7 o’clock at Windsor races and that there were 7 horses in it. Obviously a sign! He went straight round to the bookies and put £777.77 on the horse number 7 to win. Brethren, he should not have been surprised that the horse (pause to let someone answer if they can) came 7th.”

(This story is taken from Yasha Beresiner’s little book, The Freemason’s Handbook of Toasts, Speeches and Responses. Well worth the £5.99 it costs.)

The meaning of your toast – you are proposing the toast to the visitors – so think about visiting. Why? Where does the tradition come from? Why do we enjoy visitors? Why do we enjoy visiting?

The location – have you been there before? Has it changed a lot?

Something in the news – steer away from politics or religion of course but less controversial matters can be useful – sometimes serious matters and sometimes less serious. “Brethren, when I heard about the transfer of Bobby Roberts to Chelsea for £20 million, I felt sure that it was your Inner Guard that they were talking about.  Now I know that young Brethren are highly sought after, but £20 million Brethren? We could have let you have two deacons for that amount.”

Developing the hook – the theme

Once you have established the hook, now develop it into something Masonic. This is your theme; what you want to talk about. Your speech should offer something to think about.

Here are some examples using the hooks above. (I am not suggesting that these themes are ones you will necessarily want to use. They are just examples of how hooks develop into themes.)

  • Reminiscing

Of course Brethren, while it may be cold outside, what visiting is about is the warmth of our welcome

Of course Brethren, we are all taught to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge

  • A difference in the ritual

That of course reminds us that the TB is the relic of the “Lodge” as it was then called, a drawing on the floor of the room. Ritual changes but slowly, rubric changes a little more quickly, but one thing that never changes is the warmth of the welcome here at …

  • Use a joke

Brethren, while not exactly advising the Lodge to go out and put its shirt on a runner at Windsor, Epsom or any other racecourse, I do wonder whether we play too safe in Freemasonry. Should we not, especially at our Festive Boards, try to do something occasionally a little different …

  • The meaning of your toast

In the very early days of Freemasonry, visiting was commanded as a way of building up relationships across Lodges and indeed to cement the feeling of one-ness under the then brand new Grand Lodge …

  • The location

Of course while places change, the meaning of Freemasonry does not …

  • Something in the news

Younger Brethren are the future of Freemasonry and while I do not really suggest we go out and buy them, we do perhaps need to make special efforts today …

Getting the speech going

The hook and the theme are the body of your speech but you do have to get it started first.

Now, whatever you do, NEVER, EVER start by saying that you are a bad speaker, that you have no skill in speaking, or you don’t know what to say. Why should anyone listen to you if that is true? Don’t tell your audience, before you have started that your speech will be a bad one!

It sounds as if you want people to make excuses for you before you start! Remember we are all nervous when we stand to speak. Remember your mnemonic. Go through your relaxing routine. You can – and will – win!

Now – speak slowly, enunciate clearly. Speak to the person farthest away from you. This means you will automatically set your voice loud enough so everyone can hear.

One good trick is to use a very formal opening salutation. The full one in the Province of Essex would run:

Worshipful Master, Grand Lodge Officers, Officers of District and Provincial Grand Lodges, Holders of Metropolitan* and Overseas Grand Rank, Officers and Brethren.

* I am assured that this is the right way and that holders of Senior London Grand Rank and London Grand Rank are included in this.

This takes some time to deliver and thus gives you that time to get your breath. You will almost certainly feel a little more comfortable. You have broken the ice and got going.

Some people advise the use of a pause before moving into the next phase of the speech. Having given the formal salutation, they advise, pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One thousand, two thousand, three thousand.”) Now begin.

You can start by talking about speechmaking but do be careful that what you say is interesting. Here are a few examples that might help you.

The amazing thing about the human brain is that it starts working as soon as you are born … and stops working as soon as you stand up to make a speech.

As Winston Churchill said, “There are only two things more difficult than making an after dinner speech – climbing a wall which is leaning towards you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you.”

Speeches are like babies – easy to conceive but difficult to deliver.

Remember that any of these openers are not the speech itself. They are just ice-breakers – to get you going. Then you move into your hook and theme

The length and progress of the speech

How long will your speech be? 8 to 10 minutes is a fairly long speech. Written out, it would come to something around 800 to 1,000 words. Sometimes even 2 or 3 minutes will do. It depends on what you want to say.

Speeches usually have a common course. They progress in similar ways.

  • Openers
  • Hook
  • Theme
  • Diversion
  • Theme again
  • Conclusion

So you open and get going, you go into your hook and develop it into your theme. However, a good speech somehow always takes a diversion. In fact such a diversion serves to emphasise your theme when you come back to it. What is a diversion? Well, often it is a joke.

Using jokes

Always use a joke that fits the mood of the event – and never one that belittles the event or criticises someone. Do not use smutty jokes on Masonic occasions. Test your joke out on your friends and family first. If they are not amused, choose a different one. Be prepared to leave out your joke if you feel your speech is not really capturing your audience. Delivering a joke on a ‘flat’ audience will create a forced laugh – not one you really want!

The joke is a diversion but introduce it as if it were part of the theme. Bridge to the joke. (A bridge is a term that DJs use on the radio. It means a way of leading into the next item.)

Never telegraph a joke. Let it be a surprise. Never make a series of unrelated jokes unless you are in fact doing a comic turn. If you are, you had better be good at it. Most people aren’t. (Listen to Bob Self if you wish to hear a master at work.)

In Yasha Beresiner’s book, which I have mentioned, you can see how he uses jokes within the theme of the speech. Here is one example, slightly modified:

Visiting has continued as an important part of Masonry since those early days in all Lodges, those fully open to all and those that draw their membership from a particular school, university or profession. The Bank of England Lodge, however, is having its problems in the present economic climate. As a visitor I was listening to two of the Brethren talking and one said, “We are looking for a new bank manager.”I thought you employed a new bank manager just a couple of weeks ago,” the other replied. “Yes, we did, “said the first, “He is the one we are looking for.”

It is a gentle joke but what makes it work is the way that it appears in the speech. Where do you think the joke begins? When would the audience have been first aware that a joke was being told? Possibly not until the punch line.

Sources of jokes

There are websites for jokes, books galore. Be careful to select your joke carefully and then re-word it so that it fits your speech pattern.

One evening a business man on a road trip called in at a bar. He asked the barman for a pint and then turned to view the room. Over in one corner was a group of men having one hell of a time. One would call out a number and everyone else would roar with laughter. Someone else would call a number and again they would all laugh – and so it went on.

The business man turned back to the barman and asked, “What’s going on over there?” Ah,” said the barman, “They’re a bunch of commercial travellers. They all know the same jokes so to save time, they’ve given them numbers. One of them calls out a number; they all remember the joke and they all laugh.”

Good lord,” said the business man. “Do you think they’d mind if I joined them?

Not at all. They’re very friendly chaps. You go over and I’ll bring your pint.”

So the business man went over, was welcomed and sat down and the commercial travellers went on as before. After a bit, the business man felt a bit left out and so decided to join in. He called out “Number 57”. Silence. “Number 49”. Silence again. In desperation, and remembering that the best jokes are the old ones, he called out “Number 5”. In the silence, he went back to the bar.

I thought you said they were friendly. I called out some numbers but they didn’t laugh.”

Well,” said the barman, “They don’t like the way you tell’em.”

Telling a joke is never really about the joke itself. It is the way you tell’em. Work at it. It is a matter of timing. The way to learn it is to say the joke over to yourself many times, imagining your audience.

Back to the theme

There used to be an adage in the training world which went: Tell what you are going to say, tell them, then tell them what you said.

So now you re-state your theme, even with the words, “Joking aside, Brethren, what really matters is …” You keep this re-statement brief. If anything, this is the most serious part of the speech. It is the bit that you want your audience to remember.

The ending

Then thank your audience for listening to you. A thankyou goes a long way and this is also a signal to your listeners that you are coming to the end. You are going into your final sequence.

A warning. Never be tempted to extend the speech at this point. As I have said, the audience has received the signal that you are reaching the end – and will get very restive if you delay that ending.

They say a speech is like a love affair. Any fool can start one – but to end it requires skill! As one Brother who was hard of hearing said to his neighbour during a speech, “Hasn’t he finished yet?” To which the neighbouring Brother shouted loudly in his ear, “Yes, he has finished. He just doesn’t seem able to stop.” That brought the speech to a conclusion!

However, while you are coming to the end, you have not reached it yet. Freemasons are a sentimental lot and you need something heart warming to finish with. If this can be funny, then so much the better.

Here are some “blessings” that you might want to use. You can use a couple with the introduction, “And finally Brethren,”

May the roof above us never fall in and may the Brethren below it never fall out.

May your right hand always be stretched out in friendship but never in want.

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.

We drink to your coffin. May it be built from the wood of an hundred year old oak tree that I shall plant tomorrow.

May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.

May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head. May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.

May your heart be light and happy,
May your smile be big and wide,
And may your pockets always have
– a coin or two inside!

May Brethren respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

… and then sit down!!!!!

Specific toasts

The Toast to the Worshipful Master

This toast can be difficult as it is made by the same person to the same person on every Lodge night in the year. The answer is to see the speech as having two distinct parts – one is about the WM and the other is about something else. The former leads into the other. Indeed, the bit about the WM is the hook while other bit is the development. Of course, you return to the bit about the WM at the end.

What has the WM done that you can congratulate him for? This is easier at the end of his year than at the beginning because you have the whole year to talk about. For example, in W. Bro. Ed Fehler’s year, one would have talked about his outstanding leadership during the year – perhaps as follows:

Brethren, what a year!  When Bro. Ed agreed to become Master, he made it clear that ritual was not his thing. With a year such as he has given us, one might be tempted to cry, “Who needs ritual?” Look at what the Lodge had achieved under his leadership.

We have had outstanding attendance at the LOI leading to the rapid development of our newer Brethren. We can all see what Bro. Matthew, Bro. Jonathan, Bro. Mark and Bro. Rupert have achieved.* We had that wonderful 75th Anniversary meeting – with 80 Brethren to witness the initiation of Bro. Graham and more dark blue that a Chelsea football crowd. W. Bro. Kevin ran another superb Charity Golf Day, raising over £2,000 for charity. *

We published our own Ritual Book and the St Laurence Handbook. We had enormous fun at the October meeting with the entertainment Catechism! and the great Quiz led by W. Bro. Derek. We achieved Grand Patron status for Essex Festival 2011 and the wonderful Charity Ball raised another £1,200 for charity. Then we topped off the year with the seasonal meeting in which Bro. Graham was thoroughly passed to the second degree and we had that lovely soprano to lead us in carols at the Festive Board. What more could a Lodge ask for?

* The principle of success in writing for the local newspaper is said to be (1) Always get the colour of the Bride’s Mother’s dress right and (2) mention as many names as possible. The same might be said of a Masonic speech – without the problem of the dress.

At the beginning of the year, you can look forward to what is planned. In the middle of the year you can look back and forward. However, the speech, unlike the toast, is not all about the WM.

So Brethren, what we see in W. Bro. Ed’s year is the power of leadership at work. Bro. Ed is absolutely the last person I know who fulfils what Douglas Adams (who wrote the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) said,

“It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made Prime Minister should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

Leadership is about energising others. The writer John Buchan once said that “the task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.” Clearly in the Lodge, greatness already exists.

As we all know, Brethren, leadership does not need yes-men despite the time when a newly appointed Provincial ADC was overheard on the phone to the Provincial Grand Master.

The ADC was heard to say, “Yes, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master,” then again, “Yes, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master,” and then after a considerable pause, “Certainly, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master.” Suddenly he was galvanized into emotion. “No, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master,” he barked, “No. Definitely no. A thousand times no, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master!”

The brother who overheard this got very excited. Here was someone was daring to oppose the most powerful Mason in the Province. He approached the ADC and said as calmly as possible, “Brother, I could not help but hear you say at one point, “No, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master.”

The ADC turned cold eyes on the Brother and said, “What of it?”

May I ask,” said the Brother cautiously, “What the subject under discussion was at that time?”

You may,” said the ADC. “The Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master asked me if there was anything I disagreed with in what he said.” *

Brethren, our WM is no dictator – any more than in reality is any Provincial Grand Master. Our WM has been and continues to be an inspiration.

Thus, get back to talking about the WM and propose the toast to his health.

* This story exemplifies another point about jokes. The story is originally about Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister – and the original name in the ‘Molotov cocktail’ – overheard talking to the dictator Stalin. I have just changed the event to make it a tale in a Masonic speech.

Replying to the toast to the Worshipful Master

The key to the start is humility – as long as you have something to be humble about! If the IPM has said lovely things about you, consider using the old formula:

Brother … Many thanks for those kind words. Brethren, I shall now have to pray for forgiveness twice. First for Bro. … telling so many lies about me and secondly for enjoying them so much.

The WM speech is perhaps the easiest to make. It is largely about three things – thanks, plans and exhortation.

  • You can and should thank, for example, those who assisted with the work in the temple, those who have managed a good charity event and those who have done something out of the ordinary for the Lodge. In fact, you should go out of your way to find people to thank.
  • You should talk about what the Lodge is going to do next, ‘advertising’ its activities and motivating the Brethren to participate.
  • You should exhort the Brethren to greater efforts, for example, in charity, in the ritual, in recruitment and in visiting and inviting visitors.

All the time, you should exude Brotherly love for the Brethren of your Lodge. What should come over is not a series on commands, and certainly not a series of complaints but a concern for keeping up standards and constantly improving the good name of your Lodge.

Keep it simple, concentrating on thanks, plans and exhortation and you can’t go far wrong. The speech should not really contain jokes and witticisms. It is a serious one.

Toast to the visitors

Do please get one thing crystal clear about this speech! It is about the visitors. It is decidedly embarrassing when a member of the Lodge starts praising the work in the temple or the festive board.

It is impolite to ‘blow your own trumpet’ and it is very impolite to treat the visitors as no more than adjuncts to the Lodge. So never – ever – say anything about the work in the temple or the festive board except to express the hope that the visitors have enjoyed them.

The toast is about welcoming the visitors and thanking them for their attendance. If the work in the temple was good, then it is up to the Brother replying to your toast to say so. (If he doesn’t, then be more careful who you ask to do the toast in future!)

You can of course make some jokes about being a guest, even some negative ones for as long as you top and tail them with a remark – for example, thus:

One would never say of our guests here this evening that they should remember that Santa Claus has the right idea. “Visit people once a year.” We’d like guests to visit very often indeed.

Quotes are quite proper in delivering this toast which should be short.

The ornaments of your Lodge will be the guests who frequent it and a visitor’s footfalls are like medicine; they heal the sick. Though I am not convinced that the Russian proverb that “If you are a host to your guest, be a host to his dog also,” applies in Masonry.

So important is visiting that it has been said that a dinner invitation, once accepted, is a sacred obligation.  If you die before the dinner takes place, your executor must attend.

So, a few short quotes and sayings about visiting and its importance; a few quotes and sayings on how welcome the guests are – and then propose the toast.

Don’t forget the ‘fire’ and after allowing a short pause for the Brethren to applaud you (not too long, but then not too short either!) say, “Brethren, I claim a response from Brother … of the … Lodge, number …”

Replying to the toast to the visitors

Now this is where speech making can let rip a little. Being invited to give this toast is an honour – if they ask you ahead of the meeting. (If they do not, then assume they meant to!)

You can start this speech with one of those formulae (the plural of formula!) which can help you settle those nerves as you stand up.

WM and Brethren; thankyou Bro … for the way you proposed that toast and thankyou Brethren for the way you received it.

It is proper then to thank the Lodge Brethren for the pleasure they have given you and the other visitors both in the temple and at the festive board. This is just ‘the sort of thing that is expected,’ for the work in the temple may have been dreadful.

However, you must find something good to say and something to congratulate the Lodge on. Never, of course, say that the work was dreadful. Firstly it is impolite and secondly the Lodge knows this already.

In congratulating the Lodge, it is good to pick on some specific events, those that other people may not notice. This shows that you have been paying attention and that you are a discerning member of the audience. The sort of thing I mean can include:

  • The work of the relevant Deacon, especially in the examination at the SW’s chair (always a tricky moment.)
  • The smartness of the rubric and the way the Deacons, DC and ADC move around the Lodge.
  • The clarity of the IG in announcing the candidate or a visiting ‘grandee’. (The IG is usually an inexperienced Brother and if he does well it is all the more praiseworthy.)

As I have said already, it is a good idea to keep pen and paper by you in Lodge so that you can make a few notes on things to comment on in your speech.

Of course you will comment on the WM (or his stand-in) and you will either congratulate him on the skill of his ritual or on his sincerity. Be careful, the latter usually means the ritual was poor! If there are several candidates in the pipeline of the Lodge, congratulate them on this and so on. Look for things to say “well done” about.

Now remember that you are also there to entertain. This toast has much more freedom than any other for as long as you do not go on too long. You do not have to be so circumspect with your stories and quotes about visiting. However, while you need a good story or two or at least some one-liners, they must be relevant and must appear within the context of your speech.

Personally, WM, I always feel that I have two duties to perform with a parting guest:  one, to see that he doesn’t forget anything that is his; the other, to see that he doesn’t take anything that is mine.

After all, WM, visits always give pleasure – if not the arrival, then the departure.

Masonic hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.

You might talk about inviting guests and how refusing an invitation can be difficult.

The solution of sending a telegram …

Very sorry can’t come.  Lie follows by post.

… is no longer available since telegrams were discontinued. Her Majesty the Queen once sent them to subjects celebrating their 100th birthdays. Now, she sends a card. How sad!

Adapt a story to fit your subject. Here’s an adaptation:

Of course, Brethren, visiting can be overdone. I well recall one of our Brethren went to visit a Lodge in the Midlands and was a great success with his reply to the visitors. So successful was he that he received invitations to visit other Lodges on the following day and the one after that.

When he finally arrived home home, he was confronted by a very angry wife and a tirade befitting his actions. “How would you like it if you didn’t see me for two or three days?”

Unfortunately, Brethren, he gave the wrong reply.

The next day went by and he didn’t see his wife; then the next and then the next. However, by the end of the fourth day, the swelling had gone down just enough so he could see her out of the corner of one eye.

You can make leadership a theme, especially if the Lodge is doing very well with its charity or has held a particularly successful event. This time you can include a joke or two about leadership, again being sure to top and tail it.

Many people, Brethren, get the wrong idea of leadership. An Indian walked into a cafe with a shotgun in one hand and a bucket of buffalo manure in the other. He ordered coffee.

“Sure chief, coming right up”, the waiter replied. He gave the Indian a tall mug of coffee which the Indian drank down in one gulp. He then picked up the bucket of manure, threw it into the air, and blasted it with the shotgun. Then he just walked out.

A week later, the Indian returns, shotgun in one hand and bucket of in the other. He walked up to the counter and said to the waiter, “Coffee”. The waiter said, “Just wait a minute, Tonto. We’re still cleaning up your mess from last time. What the heck was that all about, anyway?”

The Indian smiled and said proudly, “Me in training for senior management. Come in, drink coffee, shoot the shit, and disappear for the rest of the week.”

Leadership and hard work, as a theme?

Of course, Brethren, leaders are not born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.

Vince Lombardi, the legendary American Football coach said that – and of course it is something this Lodge acts upon.

You can close your speech at just about any time, simply by saying, “But that is enough from me. Brethren, on behalf of all your visitors, thanks for inviting us – and please do so again.”

You might make a joke of it.

Brethren, people have asked me how I time my speeches. I usually answer that I stand up when they nudge me and sit down when they tug the hem of my jacket. I can feel the tugs now so I will close by saying …

Famous speeches

I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics – will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us: that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Excerpts from Winston Churchill

We shall fight …

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government – every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end; we shall fight in France; we shall fight on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our Island whatever the cost may be.

We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender –

– and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Finest hour …

The House will have read the historic declaration in which, at the desire of many Frenchmen – and of our own hearts – we have proclaimed our willingness at the darkest hour in French history to conclude a union of common citizenship in this struggle.

However matters may go in France or with the French Government, or other French Governments, we in this Island and in the British Empire will never lose our sense of comradeship with the French people. If we are now called upon to endure what they have been suffering, we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains, aye, and freedom shall be restored to all. We abate nothing of our just demands; not one jot or tittle do we recede. Czechs, Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians have joined their causes to our own. All these shall be restored.

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire.

The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”