Over the next few days the good people of Waco may notice upwards of 4,000 Masons plus a significant number of spouses and family members coming to town for their annual meeting. As many local citizens probably know, this is an annual event that has been occurring in Waco every year since 1903. The large Grand Lodge building on Columbus Avenue has been the home of this annual meeting since 1949. As representatives of 791 local lodges throughout Texas come together to elect leadership, vote on changes to the Texas Masonic Constitution and hear reports, life-long friendships are renewed and fellowship is enjoyed by all.

Waco City Councilwoman Andrea Jackson Barefield’s first town-hall meeting for constituents residing in East Waco and other parts of District 1 was different in tone and protocol than fellow council member Dillon Meek’s very successful town-hall gathering last month in North Waco — and no less worthy of celebrating at a time when state and federal officials balk at such gatherings out of fear of community hostility. Barefield found fewer questions posed than Meek but offered a robust presentation of how City Hall is working for constituents, complete with informative mini-reports from city officials involving such critical needs as street and sewer repairs.

In an age when misinformation and outright lies invite gullibility daily, let’s be grateful for those increasingly rare occasions when truth does triumph. Last Friday, the State Preservation Board unanimously voted to remove a controversial, wildly misleading “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque from the State Capitol. For nearly 60 years, it has informed Capitol visitors that, no, slavery was not the cause of the Civil War in which some 620,000 Americans from both the Union and Confederacy perished.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

After leaving office, President Ronald Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to recognize individuals who have fought to spread liberty worldwide. Nancy Reagan continued the tradition after her husband’s death, and in 2008 she bestowed the honor on human rights icon Natan Sharansky, who credited Reagan’s strong defense of freedom for his own survival in Soviet gulags. Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used it to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world.

While the 2016 election may have left our country divided on many issues, it exposed one critical problem that should unite all Americans: Our democratic process is vulnerable to attacks by hostile foreign powers. As our intelligence community unanimously assessed, Russia used social media channels to influence and mislead voters. It also hacked political campaign committees and local elections boards in a brazen attempt to undermine and subvert our elections.