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.