On November 7, 1935 Roosevelt took part in degree work at Architect Lodge No. 519 which raised his two of his sons to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Those sons (James & Franklin D. Jr.) were members of their elder brother Elliott’s lodge. Afterwards, the president gave a speech to the lodge, and his full remarks and link to the original edited document are below.
Roosevelt himself was a Mason, initiated October 11, 1911 in Holland Lodge No. 8 in New York City.
Setting the stage: In his remarks, Roosevelt makes reference to his travels and to other nations which had “lost much of the strength and force for a good civilization which it possessed several generations ago”. Worth noting at this particular moment in history, Adolf Hitler had recently come to power, and in 1935 the Reich Local Government Law abolished local elections; the swastika flag became the sole national flag, and the Nuremberg Laws were passed which stripped all Jews of basic rights.
Roosevelt’s Remarks – November 7, 1935
“Architect Lodge has made me very happy, let me say from my heart that tonight has meant very much to me. All my life I shall cherish the thought of coming here to Architect Lodge tonight to take part in the work of the Third Degree for my own sons. And, of course, this last thought of you good people in making me an Honorary Member, giving opportunity to be a member of the same Lodge to which my boys belong — that is something I shall never forget.
To me the ceremonies of Freemasonry in this State of ours, especially these later ones that I have taken part in, always make me wish that more Americans, in every part of our land, could become connected with our Fraternity.
Since I have seen you last I have travelled in many foreign lands. I have come in contact with Brother Masons throughout this country, and I have seen the splendid work that Masonry is doing for our fellowmen. I have seen that the same work in our distant posessions, in our territories; I have seen it even in those lands in the Pacific to which I have travelled during these past two years.
The more I come in contact with the work of the Masonic Fraternity the more impressed I am, by the great charitable work and the great practical good which we carry out, especially in that line which is slo close to my heart – the care of little children.
Not only in that work but also in acting as a leaven for a better society and better citizenship wherever it may be. I violate no confidence in saying that I wish the same could be said of Masonry in other lands. Today, as you doubtless know, we in our own nation are still proceeding under orderly government, under the same form of government under which our fathers lived, and so far as our great government are concerned, we are making definite progress from day to day.
I wish that this could be said of all other nations. It is unfortunate for us that in certain other nations Freemasonry, through no fault of its own, because of the rise of new forms of government, has lost much of the strength and force for a good civilization which it possessed several generations ago. And so I am not heartened by what is occuring in other nations. Because of this leaven of Masonry throughout our own country, because of the opportunity given to pursue an even course in a democratic society, the way of Masonry in this country constantly grows smoother.
And that is why I feel we can give thanks for living in America. And in giving thanks we should not do as the Pharisees did — giving thanks that we are not as other men are, but rather to giving thanks the Good Samaritan way, for the Good Samaritan went out of his course to help his less fortunate fellow-citizens. That is the rule we must follow as Freemasons. We are approaching Thanksgiving, and I believe that we should give thanks, and at the same time pray that our nation may grow more and more a force for peace in the rest of the world.
I have missed here tonight some of the faces I have known in former years. I am especially sorry that a very old friend and associate of mine, Charlie Johnson, is not with us tonight. I learned tonight that he has been so seriously ill. I do not believe there is a man in this state who is loved by a greater circle of friends than Charlie Johnson.
And so I can say to you good Bretheren of Architect Lodge, and to your Worshipful Master, that I am very grateful to you and I have had a wonderful party tonight.”