Washington and Lafayette: The Impact of a Chosen Family

Installation Remarks by Worshipful Nelo Allen Hamilton, Jr., 162nd Worshipful Master of Alexandria–Washington Lodge No. 22, originally delivered on December 27, 2023 at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial:

First impressions are the foundation of our perceptions. Fair or not, the initial experience with an organization leaves a lasting impression and impacts engagement. As I enter the East, I have
reflected on my first impression of AW22. It has truly shaped who I am as a Mason.

When I first moved to Alexandria from Mississippi in 2017, I was in search of the sense of community I had known growing up. I reached out to AW and met with Right Worshipful Michael Bible at Buzz Bakery on Slaters Lane in January 2018. His prompt response and generous indulgence in my numerous questions made me feel welcome and more interested. He encouraged me – as we always do for prospects – to attend the dinners before the Stated Communications.

Days after my meeting with RW Bible, my father passed away suddenly. The shock to my family and the blur of activity surrounding an unexpected death left us all dazed. I remembered telling
RW Bible that I would attend the January Lodge dinner and sent an email with my regrets. Then Master, Right Worshipful Mark Underwood, whom I had not met at the time, immediately called, followed by RW Bible. Their sincere concern and affection toward someone they really didn’t know during the darkest of times left an indelible impression.

I came to two conclusions from these interactions. First, I wanted to be a part of an organization that helps men find connections that are meaningful. Second, once in, my Brethren were going to be my first call in all future tests in life.

We reside in an area marked by constant transience, amidst a world that, at times, seems to grow more isolated. The concept of a chosen family has gained prominence in today’s society, and I would argue that it is now more needed than ever.

We are fortunate that our lodge boasts a rich history from which we can draw inspiration and adapt it to the current time, and this next year is no exception. In 2024, we will begin to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Marquise de Lafayette’s return to the United States for his grand tour — an esteemed Brother and a cherished member of this Lodge, deeply intertwined with the legacy of our Illustrious Brother and Past Master, George Washington.

It is common knowledge that Lafayette regarded Washington as a father figure and Washington saw him as a son. When we consider their backgrounds, we find a Virginia farmer with little formal education and an aristocrat from one of the world’s most powerful nations. These two men, worlds apart in origin, forged not only a profound personal connection but a professional
partnership that reshaped history. We know that were it not for Lafayette’s pivotal role as a liaison between France and General Washington, the United States as we know it might not exist today; the war might not have been won.

What I find most beautiful in Freemasonry is its capacity to bring together men from diverse backgrounds — varied in socioeconomic status, race, orientation, religion, profession, and geographical origin — allowing them to sit in the Lodge and meet on the level. A group of men who leaves the chaos of the world at the door to work towards the betterment of themselves and society.

In our everyday lives, our paths might never cross with those of our Masonic Brethren, yet this institution grants us the privilege of forming those deep and meaningful bonds. Like Washington and Lafayette, I firmly believe that surrounding ourselves with individuals from diverse backgrounds enriches our lives, and as exemplified by these two extraordinary men, it can indeed change the world.

How often have we engaged in conversations with someone whose background differed from our own, only to have our perspectives expanded, our minds broadened, and our paradigms shifted? In a world that appears increasingly polarized and divided, Freemasonry stands as an opportunity to bring men together. In an election year where passions rise and external factors try to divide us, the need for this space is only grows.

My theme or tagline this year will Washington and Lafayette: The Impact of a Chosen Family.

I am truly humbled to stand here tonight. AW22 is a vibrant, energetic and talented lodge. A Lodge that is filled with men who are passionate about our Craft. We are blessed to have officers in line who have a vision of what Masonry means and the role it can play in the world. while establishing a strong foundation for this Lodge moving forward.

Let us embrace the teachings of our great fraternity, drawing inspiration from the past, and carry the torch of unity and understanding into the future. Together, living into the Constitutions and our obligations, we can transcend boundaries, enriching our lives and, in the spirit of Washington and Lafayette, contribute to a world that stands united in its diversity.

Brethren, I challenge you to be involved this year! If you are waiting for an invitation to get involved… this is it. Your unique perspectives matter, your input is critical to the operations and health of this lodge. Engage and, together, we will build a stronger AW22. A Lodge that not only relies on its rich past, but has firm hold on its vision for the future.