Jack Aquilina was asked by Nick LeRay-Meyer to present a talk to the Lord Somers Australasian Chapter and Jack was kind enough to oblige by giving a talk on Leadership. As part of the talk Jack shared information about himself and how he came to be a Freemason.
Please read on below for Jack's presentation
Good Evening Ladies,
I would firstly like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for taking the time this evening to come out to support your spouse, partner and or relation in what is no doubt an important part of the year for the Lord Somers Australasian Chapter.
I would also like to thank you for allowing me the honor to talk to you tonight, whilst proceedings are taking their place in the Lodge Room.
My name is Jack Aquilina. I am 22 years old and I have been a member of the Lord Somers Australasian Chapter since only March this year. I have been graciously asked by the incoming first principle, Mr Nick Le- Ray Myer to produce a topical talk for you, as entertainment during tonight proceedings.
From the outset however I feel much obligated to warn you, that I am unable to make any promise or claim to be entertaining, but at the very least I hope that I can be of some interest to you!
Tonight I hope to discuss the following topics, which I very much hope you will find interesting:
- Firstly I will seek to introduce myself and give you a little background about who I am and why I joined freemasonry.
- Secondly I hope to talk briefly within the half an hour time slot I have available to me about the topic of leadership, in particular I would like to discuss the varying types of leadership that have been fundamental to human development in the past as well as the types of attributes I believe the leaders of the future will need in what is becoming a very fast paced, unpredictable and ever challenging world.
About Me / Freemasonry
As for me, I am currently in my second last year of University. I am currently undertaking studies in Law and very much hope to practice in the fields of Taxation and Industrial Relations. I have been fortunate enough in my life to have many opportunities including a stint living and studying in Texas in the United States, working for a number of charities and causes and being blessed with a large number of opportunities within the spheres of education, public speaking and advocacy.
In late 2012 a very close friend of mine put my name down as a character reference for his application to Grand Lodge to become a Freemason. I remember getting a call from a Gentleman at the Antient York Lodge in Preston who was enquiring as to my opinion of my friends character as part of the usual pre-initiation process. Naturally, I was very curious about who this Gentlemen was and what organization he was from. Fortunately for me this commenced my journey to eventually becoming a member of the Craft in early 2013.
During the initial stages of my membership in Freemasonry I was very much trying to find my feet in what can be a very overwhelming beginning. You see, Freemasonry, for all its good, is not an organization that has much understanding in modern society. Most people view Freemasonry with great skepticism, others are not aware of its existence and little if nothing is known as to the great purpose it serves in the lives of many. However, as with all things, sometimes the most misunderstood facets of our community are the most rewarding to engage with, as has been my experience with freemasonry.
I have been both fortunate and perhaps unfortunate to grow up in a generation that faces very different demands and expectations than previous generations before me. In todays modern, industrialized and inevitably global society some previously important and fundamental values have been lost in the pace of things. Information and communication today can be sent, received and interpreted faster than at any time in human history. What was once a large and distant world has become irresistibly smaller as a result of modern technology bringing the most distant people together at the touch of a button.
But during this frantic and highly transformative period, I believe that society has lost touch with some very important and fundamental social customs that are essential to a truly balanced and healthy life. What ever happened to the importance previous generations used to place simple things such as service to your community? Why is it that people are finding it increasingly difficult to spend even minuscule time to reflect on themselves and their own personal character? It appears that perhaps, and maybe this is more reflected in my own generation, as a society we have become so caught up in the exciting rush of change that we have forgotten the values that have and always will be truly important.
For me this is where Freemasonry ultimately serves an important function making it even more relevant now than it has ever been. Freemasonry, unlike the perceived institutionalization and cultural dogma of some religious or political organizations, provides a man in the modern world a chance to enjoy one of todays most valuable commodities, namely ....time. Time to enjoy, to reflect, to moralize, to contribute, to understand and to contemplate the larger questions of mans existence through a perspective that is entirely unique to each person and free from the pressures of the modern world. For all the education and value that modern technology through the medium of the World Wide Web had brought to modern society there has unfortunately been a significant gap wedged between the relationship that people my age have with those of my parents or even grand parents generation.
Wisdom and experience can sometimes be two of the most undervalued gifts one person can give to another. Freemasonry in my view, is one of the few remaining institutions that can play a role in breaking down the ever thickening barriers between the younger and older generations of society who without question have so much to contribute to each others ongoing wellbeing.
This is why I have found that freemasonry has and continues to be an important part of my life and why I have been so enthusiastic in my membership since 2013.
Now that I have talked a little about who I am and why I joined freemasonry I would like to share some thoughts with you about leadership.
Leadership, whether it is in the national forum of Federal Politics or in our local communities, has a fundamental role to play in the future. The reason I have decided to address this topic this evening is because I believe now more than ever that we will need leadership if we are to meet the ever-complex challenges of the future.
Whether it be the transformation of the Australian Economy, the immense social and institutional changes of modern culture or the opportunities and challenges associated with the rapid evolution of modern technology, there would be few who would disagree that Leadership will be fundamental to meet such change.
In addressing this topic,
- I will first ask what makes a great leader?
- I will then also share some thoughts on what sort of leadership we need to successfully face our future challenges.
What makes a great leader?
I am confident that all here present would be familiar with His Holiness Former Pontiff John Paul the Second who served as Bishop of Rome from 1978 – 2005. John Paul II is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. He significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. And he was also internationally renown for his devotion to peace, religious tolerance and for modernising the Catholic churches practices with a changing society.
In an article written by Forbes Magazine not long after his death in 2005 the qualities of his Leadership were discussed. A former Swiss Guard by the name of Mr Widmer listed the following five qualities that made John Paul the Second a great leader:
- He encouraged people to dream big and keep their eyes on the long term
- He was fully present for every conversation
- He was able to show people that he believed in them
- He viewed "work" not as a burden, but as an opportunity
- He celebrated entrepreneurship
The qualities of hard work, optimism and inspiration are well-respected qualities in any leader. However John Paul the Seconds most outstanding leadership quality was his ability to create real presence in those who looked to him. The capacity for a leader to make those who follow them believe that they can understand, listen and comfort ordinary people in a manner that allows one to feel enriched is a quality not to be underestimated.
Such as it is that John Paul the Second was and continues to be an outstanding example of leadership for future generations.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, is another fantastic but contrasting example of leadership that warrants admiration. Her Majesty the Queen is the sovereign head of state for no less than 16 sovereign countries and the head of the Commonwealth of Nations that has a membership of 53 member states. In 2012 The Queen celebrated her well earned Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years of service on the Throne. It is well accepted that amongst all her achievements, Her Majesty’s most notable has been the profound dignity associated with her leadership that has been adaptive, optimistic and cause for a level of unparalleled stability.
True to Her Majesties usual graceful manner she made the following observations about leadership in a recent speech where she said:
The power of unity and stability that a leader can inspire in ordinary people is an invaluable trait of a good leader. Her Majesty, unlike politicians, the pope or other more conventional leaders, has an almost unconscionable responsibility to be both a leader by example and at the same time a leader above controversy. Not with standing the monumental difficulty Her Majesty faces in meeting the responsibilities of her office, she undoubtedly has been able to exceed any reasonable standards of expectations through her leadership that is based on her grace, unifying character and unwavering stability that has successfully served the Commonwealth for over 60 years.
Whilst we are focusing on leaders of longevity allow me to also refer to the exceptional leadership example of Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies. Although Menzies political and military achievements have been well documented, it is not as commonly well known that he in fact was a very active and senior Victorian Freemason. Whilst it would be perhaps unreasonable to attribute the success of Menzies leadership to his involvement in Freemasonry, it would not be unreasonable for one to conclude that it surely had made a positive contribution.
Sir Robert Menzies served as Australian Prime Minister for 18 years, first as a war time Prime Minister between 1939 – 1941 and then as a post-war Prime Minister from 1949 until his retirement in 1966. Menzies is renown for one of Australia’s most memorable political speeches entitled “the forgotten people” where he demonstrated his unique style of leadership that enabled him to communicate frankly with ordinary people to inspire a sense of aspiration. This is demonstrated in a radio interview conducted on the ABC with Menzies after his retirement where he said:
Aside from the charm and humour of Menzies demeanour, he clearly had a unique capacity to inspire optimism and aspiration in ordinary people. This capacity to inspire aspiration is a worthwhile quality that a good leader needs.
Former President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan also reflects a simular style of leadership to Menzies that seeks to inspire aspiration. President Reagan made a very compelling point to support this contention when he once said:
Unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, Australia is yet to have a leader that can be fairly classified as an international household name. But as Australians, we are unashamedly a humble and hardworking people that rightly prefer to punch above our weight rather than postulate our achievements on the world stage. None the less, the lessons of leadership can rightly be found in the qualities of our recent former Prime Ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard.
Australia has for the last 30 years experienced an unprecedented amount of reform that has lead to immensely beneficial growth. During this period, some of Modern Australia’s most redefining and controversial decisions had to me made in order to secure the foundations for the strong and prosperous nation we now can claim to be.
According to Australia’s Second Longest serving Prime Minister John Howard:
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating further develops this idea when he lamented:
The need for a good leader to have convictions upon which they base their ideas and the imagination and courage to pursue those convictions is a fundamental quality. However it is also necessary for a good leader to be mindful of the responsibilities they have when in positions of leadership, as was sensibly concluded by Former Prime Minister Hawke when he said:
If the examples of our former Prime Minsters has shown us anything, it is that leadership very much needs to be based on strong values, with a healthy sense of courage and imagination whilst appreciating the reality of the impact the discharge of responsibilities may have on countless others.
However, as our brave Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith VC recently suggested:
But as we all must concede that question of what is right and what is easy is a difficult one that can explain why for one mans leader he can also be another mans most despised adversary.
As I have tried to demonstrate, in answering the question “what makes a great leader?”, there is undoubtedly an almost unedifying subjective analysis as to the appropriate answer to that question. In other words, there is not right or wrong answer, as it simply can only be analyzed by each one of our own individual perspectives.
If we can conclude anything with great certainty it’s that leadership may successfully be discharged in many forms, at varying times in ways that only history can truly judge.
What sort of Leadership do we need to successfully face our future challenges?
Well once again clearly the answer to this question is very subjective. However if there is anything we can learn from the past, it is that there are particular examples that we may reasonably draw upon in planning for the future.
As was so eloquently put by Freemason and President George Washington:
From my personal point of view, the great leaders of our immediate past do provide us with dearly brought experience from which we may profit.
So I put to you that if the past has shown us anything its that our future leaders will need some or all of the following qualities:
- They will need to be able to inspire a presence in us, beyond that of sloganeering or artificial empathy, by establishing a strong and human connection with ordinary people
- They will need to be able to lead by example and be a symbol for unity and stability through the challenges ahead
- They will to inspire us to be our best aspirational selves, optimistic about our future and not adverse to the work that needs to be done to meet our future challenges
- And finally they will need to have conviction, imagination and courage to see that the right not easy solution is perused, whilst also appreciating the impact their position of leadership may have on others
It is impossible to say as to whether or not such leaders will materialize in our community into the future.
However It doesn’t hurt to be optimistic.
And with that, I conclude my presentation and thank you most graciously for your patience and attention.