Boy Scout Commentary
In a region plagued by gangs, we could use more Boy Scouts…
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Eagle Scout title opens doors of opportunity
The young sailor — already a three-year veteran at age 20 — stood before a review board on his application for a college scholarship program leading to an officer’s commission. The seaman was newly posted to this base, so the board officers did not know him. The chairman focused on an indiscretion from early in the sailor’s career, and would not let it go, grilling him about it time and again. While the other officers asked questions, the chairman studied the rest of the young man’s record, then suddenly looked up. “You’re an Eagle Scout?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” the sailor answered. The chairman slammed the file closed and announced, “We’re done. The application is approved.” Thus began the university education that would lead Mike McCulley to a career as a captain in the Navy, an astronaut and the president of Houston business United Space Alliance LLC. Eagle Scout — the title that has been described as “a resume in itself” — has opened the doors of opportunity to hundreds of thousands of its recipients. High school boys who notoriously procrastinate about everything rush to finish their requirements in time to include it on college applications. Grown men with resumes full of adult accomplishments proudly list it. Why should something done as a youth have such an impact on the American imagination? Most importantly, it is the shared achievement of many American business and professional leaders, which they themselves acknowledge as an important part of their training. President Gerald Ford, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott Jr. and H. Ross Perot, all Eagles, have praised the trail to Eagle as an important part of their development. As information entrepreneur and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said, “Whether you choose to become a teacher, a police officer, a doctor, or even the mayor of the greatest city in the world, your experiences as an Eagle Scout will prove invaluable.” Houston U.S. District Judge David Hittner says that his Eagle rank has followed his career, “all the way to the White House on my application for a federal bench.” These men value the work that led them to achieve the Eagle rank. It is not a task easily accomplished, and typically requires four to six years to complete. Only about 5 percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle award. Eleven-year-old boys are not known for long-term goal setting or deferred gratification, yet each year tens of thousands are inspired by the older Scouts in their troops to begin this long journey. Although the requirements have varied over the century the Boy Scouts of America has offered the advancement program leading to Eagle, the basic idea has remained the same. A Scout begins with the basics, learning how to hike, camp, swim, cook, identify wild plants and animals, read a map, use a compass, make things with knife, axe and ropes, and give first aid. This is all done in the company of six to 10 boys, usually of different ages, living and working together as a patrol. Here they learn that they are responsible not only for themselves but for their brother Scouts, in an outdoor setting which leaves little room for error and encourages that essential adult skill, planning. After forgetting the sugar, a boy is more likely to check the ingredients for a cookie recipe before again disappointing the rest of the guys. A cold evening without a coat is a chilly reminder to go over the camping gear checklist in the Boy Scout Handbook before leaving home. These experiences provide a boy with his first R&D opportunities and are strong teachers of a great American trait, ingenuity. Scouting is one of the few places in our culture where a child has a safe place to make mistakes, and learn from them. If you have no sugar, sweeten the cookies with some juice brought for breakfast. If you have no coat, learn how to warm yourself in layers of lighter clothing. After mastering the basics, earning the Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class ranks, the Scout advances by completing merit badges, where he is introduced to 122 subjects, as diverse as citizenship, atomic energy, lifesaving, medicine, music, athletics, collecting and archery. He also serves as a leader in his troop and works with community organizations. By now he has earned the Star and Life ranks as he completes 21 merit badges required for Eagle. He calls on all these skills when he undertakes Scouting’s graduate case study in good citizenship, the Eagle service project. The Scout works with a school, religious institution or other nonprofit to create something of lasting value — a bridge at a park, wheelchair ramps at a shelter, a collection of books for a neighborhood center. The Scout consults with the leadership of the beneficiary organization, submits a written proposal to his Scoutmaster, raises money, gets materials donated, recruits volunteers, plans work days, supervises the project and reports on the results. Earning the Eagle award is a man-sized job a boy can be proud of, and adults will respect.
Nelson R. Block, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and shareholder in the Houston office of Winstead PC, has served for 20 years as volunteer attorney for the Sam Houston Area Council BSA.
By Doug McIntyre
Posted: 03/18/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The kid who lives in my house is an Eagle Scout, which fills his mother and me with both pride and astonishment. Is this the same lump of carbon that spent his tadpole years Velcroed to the sofa with a Game Boy controller in his paw?
A few years back he shuffled home from school and mumbled something about joining the Scouts. We would have been less shocked if he told us he had memorized the collected works of Chaucer in the original Middle-English.
As a 9-year-old he told us, “I don’t like to sweat.”
Eagle Scout? Not in our wildest parental fantasy.
I was a Boy Scout in Troop 103 in New York, the worst Boy Scout troop in the history of scouting. The only knot we learned was the noose. Our troop traveled to campouts in a Murphy’s Moving & Storage van full of Schaffer Beer; cans not bottles, which was our idea of roughing it. Now an Eagle nests in my house.
His mother and I are proud he stuck it out. We’re proud he quietly lives by the Scout creed; which doesn’t mean he’s a martinet or goody-two-shoes. In fact, he’s a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, a Bowie-Hendricks-Clapton-Beatles fan who knows several major obscenities. In other words, he’s a teenager, warts and all.
But here are a few things he isn’t: a gang-banger, a drug addict, mean, uncaring, boring. He hasn’t brought the cops to our door or authored any of the teenage traumas that generate so many parental gray hairs, ulcers and episodes of Dr. Phil. He’s an
Eagle Scout for crying out loud, they don’t just hand that out.
The kid who lives in my house has learned the value of work and public service, empathy, teamwork, citizenship and yes, patriotism.
The Boy Scouts of America teaches patriotism to the next generation of Americans, and that’s a good thing. It is, after all, the Boy Scouts of AMERICA. It’s not the Earth Scouts or the Boy Scouts of Saudi Arabia, Norway or Guatemala. Every nation needs patriots. Every culture needs to pass its traditions to the next generation; otherwise we lose our culture and become a generic people rather than a name brand.
I know there are many who take John Lennon’s “Imagine” literally and think the world would be better without borders. I don’t. History, art, language, law, tradition and pride in place – patriotism, if you will – are the connective tissue that link one generation to the next. They make a nation a homeland.
Sadly, the Boy Scouts have become entangled in political agendas; specifically on gay rights issues. While all of America grapples with a social revolution, including liberal California, a vocal minority bash the Scouts while offering nothing in its place. I have actually spoken to functioning adults who see the Boy Scouts as nothing more than Hitler youth. We’ve produced a crop of citizens so fearful of “the military” they see anyone in uniform as a threat. I’ve wondered if these people turn over their luggage to the skycap or do they think curbside check-in is submitting to fascism?
The BSA is not a perfect organization and I don’t mean to suggest the kid who lives in my house is perfect. I have stories! But he’s a damn fine person, and he’s made his mother and me better people by allowing us to coat-tail on his Eagle journey. Thousands upon thousands of boys learn to be giving, caring, responsible, patriotic men through Scouting. They are taught and mentored by busy adults, including many Scout moms. L.A.’s the beneficiary of their commitment to the future.
It’s a sad irony that the neighborhoods that could benefit the most from Scouting, have the least of it. The Boy Scouts of America has a century of experience mentoring kids away from trouble. We don’t need a new Blue Ribbon Panel to study the latest gang intervention programs – we need more Boy Scouts.
Doug McIntyre hosts the “McIntyre in the Morning” program on Talk Radio 790 KABC, weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m.
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Reaching out to youth of America through example.