As the tagline promises, I’ve created this blog as a repository for ideas related to writing, Scouting, and writing on Scouting. I talk about the books I sell at EagleBook.com, my other Scouting-related writing projects, and other items of interest. I hope you find the blog of interest. If you have ideas to share, just post a comment on the About page.
Invitations are important things. They not only give basic information about an event–location, date, time, etc.–but they set expectations. A wedding planner once told me, “When the invitation is received, it lets people know what type of event they’re going to.” Based on the location of the event and the style of the invitation, they know whether to dress up or dress down, act up or act right.
As you work on invitations for your next Eagle court of honor, then, you should think about how the invitations match the ceremony you’re planning. In other words, do your invitations invite people to the right ceremony?
I thought about this question a few years back when one of our new Eagle Scout parents came across just the right invitations for his son’s court of honor. Ordered online from Lynn Card Company, these invitations featured a soaring eagle with the famous passage from the Book of Isaiah about faithful people “mounting up with wings like eagles.” These invitations were perfect because that passage–and several other Scripture passages–were central to the ceremony. (You can find that design here.)
When I visited the Lynn Card Company site, I found another invitation design that be perfect for a court of honor with more of a patriotic than religious flavor. It shows a bald eagle’s head superimposed over a billowing American flag. (You can find that design here.)
As that wedding planner might say, either of these cards would tell people exactly what type of event they would be attending.
Back in the 1990s, making reservations for treks at Philmont Scout Ranch meant parking yourself in front of a phone (remember the kind that were connected to the wall?) and hitting redial over and over and over again. To increase your odds, you would recruit other leaders in your troop to do the same thing. With the increasing ubiquity of the internet, those days are gone for good. Today, all Philmont reservations are handled online.
Each fall, Philmont opens a registration window during which troops, teams, and crews can enter the lottery for the summer two years out. In other words, if you sign up this fall, you’ll be looking at 2016 dates. While this process has been in place for several years, there are a few important tweaks this time around:
- There are no region-specific signup dates this fall. Instead, any unit from any region can register between October 29 and November 19. (All entries will be treated equally, regardless of when you sign up during those three weeks.)
- There is no restriction on attending Philmont in back-to-back years.
- You can now sign up for 7-day treks throughout the season, although not for every arrival day. (Most Philmont treks are 12 days in length; 7-day treks have historically been offered only at the end of the season.)
For lots more information, visit the Philmont website.
By the way, if your troop has never done any high adventure, Philmont is a great place to begin. Besides being a true Scouting paradise, it offers great support, including extensive information on getting ready, good-quality crew gear, and a ranger who accompanies your crew for its first days on the trail. And the backcountry programs are top-notch. All in all, I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of weeks in the summer of 2016–or any other summer, for that matter.
An important part of every Eagle court of honor is what I call the Scouting segment (having failed to come up with a catchier name). This is a ceremony, reading, or presentation that comes soon after the opening and that addresses the ideals and meaning of Scouting.
Perhaps the most popular Scouting segment is the Scout Law candle ceremony, where Scouts light candles representing the 12 points of the Scout Law as they read definitions of each of those points.
One of the Scouting segments in The Eagle Court of Honor Book offers a fresh approach to what can become hackneyed. Instead of using definitions from The Boy Scout Handbook, it uses passages from the Holy Bible. If your honoree is a Christian, this segment would be a great one to use. Here it is.
First Reader: Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, once said, “There is no religious side to the movement; the whole of it is based on religion, that is on the realization and service of God.” In keeping with that spirit, let’s consider how the Scout Law aligns with Scripture.
Second Reader: A Scout is trustworthy.
First Reader: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor – Exodus 20:16.
Second Reader: A Scout is loyal.
First Reader: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. – Luke 16:10
Second Reader: A Scout is helpful.
First Reader: There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. – Deuteronomy 15:11
Second Reader: A Scout is friendly.
First Reader: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! – Psalm 133:1
Second Reader: A Scout is courteous.
First Reader: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29
Second Reader: A Scout is kind.
First Reader: The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. – Proverbs 12:10
Second Reader: A Scout is obedient.
First Reader: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” – Ephesians 6:1-3
Second Reader: A Scout is cheerful.
First Reader: A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. – Proverbs 15:13
Second Reader: A Scout is thrifty.
First Reader: Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. – Proverbs 6:6-8
Second Reader: A Scout is brave.
First Reader: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
Second Reader: A Scout is clean.
First Reader: Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. – Psalm 24:3-4
Second Reader: A Scout is reverent.
First Reader: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30
If this Scouting segment doesn’t fit your needs, you’ll find 11 more examples in The Eagle Court of Honor Book, along with eight complementary Eagle segments. Click the title to learn more.
What does it take to be a good Scoutmaster? Many years ago, legendary Scouting author William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt suggested 10 attributes. Here they are:
- A belief in boys that will make you want to invest yourself and your time on their behalf.
- A zeal focused upon one point—the boy’s happiness through his formative years—”A happy boy is a good boy, a good boy is a good citizen.”
- An immense faith in Scouting as the program that will best serve to mold our youth into fine men.
- A realization that to the boys Scouting is a game—to you, a game with a purpose: character building and citizenship training.
- A knowledge that to your boys you are Scouting. “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say!”
- A steadfastness of purpose to carry out a planned program with energy and perseverance, patience and good humor.
- A willingness to submerge yourself and make boy leaders lead and grow through an effective application of the patrol method.
- A desire to advance in Scoutmastership by making use of training offered and material available on the subject.
- A readiness to work hand in hand with home, church, sponsoring institution, school, local council, and national council for the good of the individual boy and the community as a whole.
- A love of the outdoors in all its phases and a vision of the hand that created it.
There’s a lot of wisdom in that list. How does it strike you? What’s missing? And, most importantly, how do you and the other leaders in your troop stack up. Scouting is the program that will best serve to mold our youth into fine men, but only if we are up to the task.
When I first wrote The Eagle Court of Honor Book, I coined the term “Scouting’s greatest moment,” and I still think the Eagle court of honor encapsulates all that is good about Boy Scouting. I firmly believe that every Eagle Scout deserves a court of honor–ideally one that features him and perhaps a handful of other new Eagle Scouts.
Having said that, I also recognize that the court of honor is a right, not a requirement. A young man becomes an Eagle Scout when he passes his board of review, not when his mom pins on his medal. The court of honor is simply a public acknowledgement of his accomplishment, much like high-school commencement exercises.
Having said that, however, I don’t think you should automatically give in if a Scout says, “But I don’t want a court of honor.” Teenagers don’t always say just what they mean, so it’s worth exploring the reason a Scout says he wants you to simply slip him his badge on the side.
Perhaps he has had a falling out with the Scoutmaster. Perhaps he is painfully shy. Perhaps his parents are trying to create an over-the-top extravaganza that would embarrass him. Perhaps his family dynamic makes the traditional badge presentation awkward (see the mom reference in the previous paragraph). Perhaps he has been away at college for a semester or two and feels too grown up for a teen-focused ceremony.
Many of these objections can be overcome. I once planned a ceremony for a college-aged Eagle Scout that felt more like a reception than a court of honor. (It was the genesis of the College and Career script in The Eagle Court of Honor Book,) I’ve planned others that took into account challenging family dynamics. I’ve tried to rein in the occasional parent who wants to have the greatest court of honor on earth.
But I have also handed over a badge or two with nothing more than a firm handshake. After all, if a Scout is mature enough to become an Eagle Scout, he should also be mature enough to have a say in how he receives his badge.
Marriages end for a lot of reasons, but one recent survey suggested that the biggest cause is poor communication. And the second biggest cause–the inability to resolve conflict–is closely related to the first.
What’s the connection with Scouting? Poor communication also leads to divorces between Scouting units and their chartered organizations. What begins as a close partnership based on a shared interest in serving young people gradually turns into a distant, even broken, relationship. Eventually, the Scouts become just another group that uses the organization’s building, no different than Alcoholics Anonymous, the neighborhood watch committee, or that aerobics class that plays its music too loud. When trouble arises, the Scouts find themselves on the outside looking in.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your relationship strong. Here are my top six:
- Put key leaders on your mailing list, including the institutional head, the chartered organization representative, and others with a common interest in kids, such as a church’s youth minister or a service club’s youth-committee chairman.
- Invite those same leaders to showcase events like courts of honor, troop banquets, and outings held close to home.
- Before your district executive’s annual meeting with the institutional head, share any concerns with him or her so they get addressed. (And make sure that meeting actually happens; it can all too easily fall to the bottom of the D.E.’s priority list.)
- Find ways to collaborate. If the chartered organization holds an annual day of service, a major fundraiser, or some other big event, ask how you could participate. Working side by side with organization members at a soup kitchen, for example, is a great way to build relationships.
- If your unit is chartered to a church or synagogue, make a big deal of Scout Sunday or Scout Sabbath. Show up in force and look for ways to integrate Scouting into the worship service.
- Be sure you have organization members involved in leadership positions in the unit. If nothing else, recruit members to serve as merit badge counselors or to judge your annual chili cookoff.
How have you foster a good relationship with your chartered organization? Post your ideas in the comments section.
We live in a video age, but many courts of honor are a lot more audio in nature. In fact, oftentimes guests could close their eyes through most of a ceremony and not miss much—although the snoring might be a little disruptive!
One way to make your courts of honor a little more interesting and visually appealing is to purchase a copy of Eagle Scout David Baird’s very cool “Eagle Story” video. The video, which costs $10 postage paid, traces the history of the eagle from biblical times to its adoption as the symbol of Boy Scouting’s highest rank. (The profits, by the way, go to a Christian missionary David supports in India, a nice Good Turn.)