I Love to Tell the (Scouting) Story

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In an age when people too often talk about, over, or at each other, StoryCorps offers something different: people talking with each other. If you haven’t caught a StoryCorps segment on NPR or in another setting, here’s the deal: StoryCorps brings together pairs of people–a father and a son, a husband and a wife, etc.–for interviews. But a third party asking the questions, one member of each pair interviews the other. To date, StoryCorps has recorded more than 60,000 interviews, which regularly appear on NPR and in books and podcasts. The interviews are also archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. (To get a flavor of StoryCorps, check out this great Scouting-related story from a few years ago.)

So what’s the connection with Eagle courts of honor? I’ve been to way too many courts of honor where I didn’t feel I really got to know the honoree. Oh sure, I heard the dates he reached each rank and heard him thank those who had helped him along the way. But I never heard what the experience had meant to him–perhaps because he’d never really thought about that question.

So I’ve been thinking. What if in the middle of a court of honor you dropped in a StoryCorps-style interview? What if the Scoutmaster or the honoree’s best friend sat down with him and talked through a handful of thought-provoking questions? That could well become the highlight of the ceremony, something that would be more meaningful to the audience–and the honoree–than any other moment.

The StoryCorps website has a great list of questions to ask in various settings. I might suggestion the following for an Eagle court of honor:

  • Why did you join our troop?
  • What are your best and worst memories from campouts?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a Scout?
  • What’s one memory of Scouting that you’ll carry with you forever?
  • What lessons about leadership did you learn as a patrol leader (or senior patrol leader or quartermaster)?
  • When and why did you decide to become an Eagle Scout?
  • Why did you pick the Eagle project you did?
  • What did you learn from doing your Eagle project?
  • How did you balance being in Scouts with sports (or band or AP classes)?
  • What do you know now that you wished you’d known as a new Scout?

I think the best approach to such an interview would be to set a time limit–10 minutes, perhaps–and to cut off the questions at that point, whether you’ve gotten to them all or not. I envision the honoree and the interviewer sitting comfortably near each other, perhaps on stools, certainly not standing at lecterns.

Have you done something like this at a court of honor? I’d love to hear how it went, so feel free to post your story in the comments section.

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