Memorial Day Address 2009

The Prince Hall Cemetery

Monday, May 25, 2009

Robert Fredieu, President
Arlington Historical Society

Thank you for having me here on this occasion.

This is a year of work and dreams fulfilled. When Prince Hall lived he had knowledge that few men had. While there were people who believed in the equality of the races and there were some who even voiced that belief, Prince Hall KNEW that he was the equal of all other Men. That knowledge gave him the power to change the world. It took the lifetimes of many but the inevitable has finally happened. Prince Hall, the men buried here, and all of the people of the long history of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge should receive much of the credit for the advancement of our country to the point where a Black American can be freely elected to be the most powerful man in the world – the President of the United States of America.

While this is an immense accomplishment I would ask you to listen to an example of a simpler yet also monumental accomplishment. A little over a week ago a troop of seven-year old Girl Scouts came to this cemetery to be told of its history. While they learned of Prince Hall, Masons, and the cemetery I realized something about them. In the short time between when you and I were all children and now the world has changed. These girls were from ethnic backgrounds covering the entire globe, yet they did not seem to be aware of that in the way I would have perceived that as a child. They did not understand how racism could affect lives the way we have all witnessed ourselves in the past. They will grow up thinking how silly the previous generations were to have ever thought the differences between the races and genders mattered to any important degree. The similarities are of course far more obvious than any differences.

These two accomplishments are seemingly at the opposite ends of any measure of importance. I do not think they are. The fact that both are happening now means that both represent a permanent change in America. I am happy to see that change in my lifetime.

Prince Hall and everyone associated with the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, whether living or dead, should be proud of both of these accomplishments and the rest of America should be thankful.