I just pulled this from "Spirit Daily" Website. The article is a bit dated (1998), but gives some info we may need.
Bill Clinton's Big Inspiration
Where did the most powerful man in the world get his inspiration from?
In 1961, when President Kennedy was in his Camelot and the Cold War got colder as the Berlin Wall was erected, a 15 year old boy walked into the Masonic Temple at 311 West Grand Hot Springs, Arkansas. There, he was inducted into a youth organisation which had formulated its principles on the life and death of the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, roasted alive in Paris in 1314.
This teenager had been born William Jefferson Blythe on 19 August 1946, in the small town of Hope, Arkansas. He was named after his father who had been killed in a car accident three months before his son was born. Later, his mother re-married and he took his step-father’s name of Clinton. The rest is history. As the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton is now eager to point out that he owes a great deal to an Order which was founded by American Freemasons and is run under the auspices of the Craft.
Yet, mysteriously, the world-wide Order of de Molay, which also includes in its Hall of Fame such luminaries as John Wayne, Burl Ives, Walt Disney, Mel Blanc, Bob Mathias, Walter Cronkite, John Steinbeck, US astronauts and US senators, has never made a foothold in the United Kingdom; even though over one million young men have passed through its portals. Many have gone on to join the Craft.
The Founding of the Order
In the year 1919, Frank Land answered his telephone and recognised the voice of Sam Freet, newly installed Senior Warden of Ivanhoe Lodge in Kansas City, Missouri. Freet asked if Land could find a part-time job for the eldest son of a mason who had died a year before. After he met the youngster, Land was impressed and began to mull over the idea of an organisation for young men meeting at the Missouri Temple - young men in need of uplifting influence.
A week later, nine youths and Land met in one of the meeting rooms of the Temple and agreed to meet again as a club. It was decided to make the eligible age group from 15 to 21. But what about a name? They turned to Land for suggestions. He pointed to a recent series of prints on the wall which showed the adventures of Sir Galahad and the Knights of the Round Table. There was a negative shaking of heads. The greatest of wars had ended only a few months before, and the adventures of knights of old seemed far away. Names were mentioned from history and the Bible and Land was asked to tell them something connected with Masonry. He mentioned Jacques de Molay and the story around him; the name caught the boys’ imaginations. Here was a great example of loyalty, of courage, a theme of knighthood and chivalry and the name of a martyr to fidelity and toleration. In 1305 Philip the Fair, King of France, set about to take control of the Knights Templar and seize their wealth. The year 1307 saw the beginning of the persecution of the Knights and De Molay, along with hundreds of others, was seized and thrown into a dungeon. For seven years, he and others suffered torture and inhuman conditions. Nevertheless, De Molay continued to be loyal to his friends and Knights.
Bill Clinton’s Memories
What does William Jefferson Clinton think of his De Molay experience? “I have a lot of memories of De Molay. Really rich ones and all good. I enjoyed learning all the parts of the ritual... it meant a lot to me. I think it helped me develop my mind and helped me to develop my speaking ability. I remember the projects we did and the work that I did as a member of the team. Since I was an only child until I was aged ten and came from a small family, working with other people was a very important lesson I learned. A lot of my close friends today are people I met when I was in De Molay.”
During his period with the Hot Springs Chapter of De Molay, the future President served as a Master Counsellor and later, in 1964, he received his Degree of Chevalier : the highest honour an active De Molay can receive. He is remembered by one member of De Molay at the time (now a successful banker) as “earnest and determined. It was obvious that he was proud to be a De Molay and it was equally obvious that he would get on in life. I don’t think any of his friends appreciated just how far he would get, but I for one am not surprised!”
Clinton’s words of praise for the Society are not Political Speak, they are genuine words of affection. One action epitomised this when, during a visit to the Philippines in November 1996 for the Apec Summit, Clinton sent his security men into a flap when he decided to make an unscheduled helicopter flight to a De Molay meeting. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported : “In a clear breach of protocol, Clinton - the most watched and tightly guarded man during the summit - made an unscheduled stop, flying in from Subic at the Quirino Grandstand to receive an award from the local chapter of a Masonic group of which he was once a member. Clinton met a group from the Order of Molay of the Philippines to receive the Grand Master’s Maltese Cross Award for his outstanding service and continuing concern for the welfare and development of youth.”
Clinton believes it is far more difficult to be young today, and sees “self destruction” as the greatest threat to young people. “In our country, we waste more people than any of our competitors. From infant mortality and low birth weight, to kids showing up for kindergarten and not being prepared to learn, to people dropping out of school and people basically shooting themselves in the foot by doing things or picking up habits they don’t need. That’s why De Molay is so important. That’s why it will always be important. We’ve got to find a way, particularly with kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to pierce this fog in which so many of them live and the way they kind of wander through life with no direction and fall into these terribly destructive traps.”
He continued : “That can only be done one on one. Some adult has got to be able to look into the eyes of a child and say, ‘I care about you. You are an important creature of God. You’ve got to get a hold of your life and do what’s right.’”
The President is convinced that America has to continue to develop leadership : “Every generation needs to have a group of people who really understand what’s going on and can summon others to make the sacrifices and decisions, to take the action that has to be taken at that time to sustain the country. So, both of these things are things that De Molay responds to.”
A De Molay in the White House
On hearing the outcome of Clinton’s election as President, De Molay Grand Master Jerold J Samet siad : “I am proud to be an American and I am proud of the fact that we have, at long last, a Senior De Molay in the White House.”
President Clinton believes in the spiritual value of De Molay for a full life : “Life is an exciting adventure and very much worth living. Part of what makes it exciting and worth living is the pain, the failure and the disappointment that go along with the victories and the elation of getting what you want. I think it’s terribly important that we take life in all of its aspects. If you want joy, you’ve got to have the burdens of failure. You have to kind of keep your eye on the prize; you have to keep looking ahead and always looking toward tomorrow. Particularly young people, try to forget about yesterday. There’s always tomorrow. If we can convince enough young people that their goal is tomorrow then we’re going to be just fine. I’d also tell them that I got to be Governor when I was 32. I grew up in a family with no money and no political influence. My mother was widowed when I was born. I had a lot of breaks. A lot of people helped me. So, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are when you start. It’s where you wind up in the finish. De Molay, I think, helps that. It trains people to believe that if your values are good, you develop your mind, you work hard - wherever you start, you can finish in a very good place.”
Doug Pickford would like to thank Jeffrey Speaker, Executive Director of the De Molay Service and Leadership Centre, Kansas City, for his help in producing this article