Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Value Of "Oh Crap" Moments

"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."
 
~Benjamin Franklin

We've all been there at one point or another.  We discover we've forgotten to do something.  We've failed to plan properly.  Some unforseen circumstance arises and blows up our project.  We've stuck our neck out too far.  We said or did something incredibly stupid.  We've spread ourselves too thin, and our projects didn't get the attention they required.  It's that moment when it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

It's embarrassing.  It's humiliating.  But it's life, and it's going to happen to all of us at some point or another.  Once it's happened to us once, we tend to be very careful never to suffer that fate again.  But what we forget is that this is how we learn.

One thing I noticed when I was putting together quotes for my book A Freemason Said That? is that there are a lot more quotes about failure, than there are about success.  Ben Franklin, FDR, Teddy, John Wayne, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill . . . the list goes on and on.  They all talked more about failure.  They all understood that it was a big part of success, in fact, it's almost impossible to enjoy success without having survived any number of these "teachable moments." 
When you're doing big things, there are a lot of little things that can go wrong.  You shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes, you should be more afraid of playing it safe.  As John Paul Jones said, "Those who will not risk, can not win."  Success isn't the opposite of failure--success is one of the results.

Next time you stumble and fall flat on your face, remember that those that go through life without making mistakes aren't doing very much.  Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, figure out where you went wrong, and learn something from it.  Then try it again, and again, and again, and again . . .

~TEC

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Uncle Joe Cannon's Famous Shoplifting Case

Originally posted in March 2012


"Uncle Joe" Cannon political cartoon
Tempestuous Illinois Freemason, Joseph Gurney "Uncle Joe" Cannon, served a record-long term as Speaker of the House between November 9, 1903 and March 4, 1911. He was known for his fiery rhetoric, and his iron-fisted rule of Washington D.C. That period of Washington D. C. politics is known as "The Age of Cannon."  His record as Speaker of the House stood for fifty-nine years until another Illinoisian, Dennis Hassert, finally broke it.  When Uncle Joe Cannon finally retired in 1922, he was featured on the very first cover of Time magazine.  He returned to his home on Vermilion Street in Danville, Illinois, where he lived out the remainder of his life.

Abe and Sarah Bush Lincoln
But it was one of Joe Cannon's early cases that was the most interesting. Long before moving to Danville, Illinois, he lived in Tuscola, Illinois, and served as state's attorney for the 27th juducial district between 1861and 1868.  During this time he was sent to Charleston, Illinois to defend a woman accused of shoplifting--she had taken a piece of cloth from a local store.  After interviewing the woman, he learned she'd taken a small swatch of material home to compare the color against a piece she was working on--a common enough practice in that day.  Joe Cannon talked to the judge, and was able to get the charges dropped.  It was just a misunderstanding after all. 

That was fortunate, because it wouldn't have looked good for the President of the United States, a man known as "Honest Abe," to have his step-mother, whom he called "mother" and credited with his sense of humor, convicted of shoplifting in Charleston, Illinois.

That's right, the woman that Joe Cannon went to defend was none other than Sarah Bush Lincoln.

I like to tell a story about a local hero every once in awhile, and Uncle Joe is definitely an iconic character in my part of the world--and of course, Lincoln spent some time here too.  Originally, Joe Cannon was made a Mason in Shelbyville, Illinois, he affliliated with Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, Illinois in 1858--that lodge is still thriving.  I was told later, by my friend Michael Shirley (then Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332) that he was also a charter member of that Illinois lodge, where he lived so many years.  He was also a member of Vermilion Chapter No. 82 of the Royal Arch, and the Athelstan Commandery of the Knights Tempar, both in Danville--sadly neither of those are still in existence. 

When I wrote about Uncle Joe Cannon in Famous American Freemasons: Volume II by friend Bob Blacketer, the Secretary of Olive Branch (then and now), went digging through all the musty and dusty records looking for material for the chapter in my book about Uncle Joe--I'd like to thank him again for that. 
~TEC

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Spirit Of Giving

It seems to me we're living in an increasingly more narcissistic society every day.  You've got Facebook, and Twitter, and millions and millions of Americans every day are on there shouting, "Look at me! Look at me!"  And just about every day, I see somebody pronouncing on there just what a fine individual they are, because they just donated their time at an animal shelter, or wrote a big check to a charity, or "paid it forward" by doing some small act of kindness of a stranger.

Now I'll be the first one to promote a pancake breakfast at our Lodge, or try and get people to sign up for our Masonic Charity Trail Run, but when it comes to my personal giving, I'm a bit old fashioned perhaps.  I was taught to do my giving in private--what I do for others, the organizations I support, and the time I donate is private.  It's not about me, and if I'm doing those things to make myself look better, then I'm not doing them for the right reasons. 

Of course no charity is going to turn down help, regardless of the motive for doing so, but it feels so much better when you give your time and money selflessly.  I think you'll find if you do this for the right reasons, you'll be much more likely to do it more often, because instead of seeing it as a resume item, you're doing it out of a desire to make the world a better place in which to live.

~TEC

Thursday, April 10, 2014

1920s Knights Templar Parade in Danville, Illinois


This is a very cool video that showed up on YouTube recently--it was taken in what looks like the late 1920s or early 1930s in Danville, Illinois.  That just happens to be my neck of the woods.  A few have suggested this is a Grand Encampment due to the numbers of Knights Templar in the short film.  I had another thought about it.



I wonder if it's not part of the funeral of Joseph "Uncle Joe" Cannon in 1926. Uncle Joe, who was from Danville, was the former Speaker of the House of Representatives. His funeral was attended by thousands--probably the largest event Danville, Illinois had seen prior to that, or since.  As a Mason, and a member of the Knights Templar in Danville's Athelstan Commandery (no longer in existence) Freemasons turned out from all over the United States to show their respects.

Joseph (Uncle Joe) Gurney Cannon 1836 - 1926
Uncle Joe was also a member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38, also in Danville--that lodge still exists to this day.

Anyway, that's my theory on what this video portrays, but if anybody else has better information, please let me know.  Without a doubt, the Knights Templar today would sure like to see numbers like that again.

~TEC
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