Language and Eagle Courts of Honor

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When the BSA announced the inclusion of girls in what is now Scouts BSA, I knew I would need to update The Eagle Court of Honor Book to reflect the program’s evolution. That job is largely complete–whew! The Kindle edition is available now, while the print edition is at the printer.

As I reread the third edition this summer, I realized how little substance needed to change in the book. After all, everything about the program–aside from its name and the gender of some of its participants–remains the same. But I also realized that the book included a huge number of gender references: he, him, etc. Fixing all those references without saying “he/she” all the time was quite the writing exercise. However, I think I found a relatively elegant solution to the problem, which included creating downloadable gender-specific versions of ceremony materials.

The challenge I faced in updating the book serves as a reminder that every court of honor should be tailored to the honoree and his–or her–situation and personality. As tempting as it can be to recycle an old ceremony by simply changing the names, the dates, and now the gender references, I urge you to take your time and create a ceremony that is as unique as your honoree. And if you aren’t sure where to get started, well, there’s a book for that!


NOW ON KINDLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available on Kindle for instant download! Updated to reflect the inclusion of girls in Scouts BSA, the book features gender-neutral ceremonies, a new Scouting segment called “Scouting for Girls,” and downloadable boys’ and girls’ versions of all ceremony materials. Print versions will be available soon from EagleBook.com and ScoutStuff.org.

Eagle Courts of Honor: For Crying out Loud

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Several years ago, an Eagle mom asked me a simple question: How do you tactfully suggest that court-of-honor guests leave their babies and small children at home? She was concerned that crying babies or rambunctious toddlers might detract from the dignity of the ceremony but didn’t want to offend any potential guests.

I hadn’t thought about this question before, so I consulted a couple of wedding etiquette resources. The general consensus was that putting any variation of “Leave the kids at home” would be in poor taste and that you should rely on word of mouth instead. If you feel you must say something, however, I think including the following text on your invitations might work: “We’re sorry, but nursery services aren’t available.”

You should also be prepared for those who bring their children anyway. You might have an usher seated in the back who could quietly suggest that a mom with a restless baby retire to the foyer or crying room. You can also include a note in the program asking parents with crying or noisy children to take them out to preserve the dignity of the ceremony.

Just keep in mind that those crying and noisy children may represent the next generation of Scouts!


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Fun Facts at Eagle Courts of Honor

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A friend of mine is a church music director, and so he attends a lot of weddings. Whenever someone asks what he thought of a particular wedding, he says, “It was beautiful. I cried.” A stock response is often appropriate since weddings can take on a sameness that hides the personality of the happy couple. Unless you know the bride and groom well, you can go home knowing little more about them than you did when you arrived.

The same thing is true of Eagle courts of honor. That’s why I’ve always advocated making each ceremony as personal and unique as possible.

At a recent wedding rehearsal dinner I attended, I saw a new way to do that. On every table were two sheets of paper: one labeled, “What You Didn’t Know About Him,” the other labeled, “What You Didn’t Know About Her.” What followed were seven fun facts about each person: favorite movie, favorite day of the week (and why), what TV show he or she makes the other person watch, etc. It was a great way to add some personality to the festivities.

You could do the same thing at your next court of honor. Interview your honoree to gather some facts about him that won’t find their way into the ceremony: favorite merit badge, coldest campout, hardest merit badge, favorite sport, post-high-school plans, etc. Print them up on cards and spread them around the tables at your reception.

Your guests will enjoy learning a little more about your honoree. And who knows? They may even go home saying, “It was beautiful. I cried. And I learned something.”


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

BSA Makes Logo Use a Piece of Cake

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For many people, the centerpiece of an Eagle court of honor is not the ceremony–sorry, Mr. Long-winded Keynote Speaker!–but the reception that follows. And the centerpiece of the centerpiece is usually a delicious and nicely decorated cake with an Eagle Scout logo on top.

Getting that logo on a cake has become difficult over the years as bakeries across the country have become more familiar with trademark laws–in large part, I’m guessing, because licensed designs from Disney and Nickelodeon have become more popular. If a bakery uses a trademarked image like Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man or the Eagle Scout badge, it could potentially get in legal hot water.

For awhile, the BSA licensed its logos to a vendor that specialized in edible cake tops, but recently it has come up with a better solution: a simple form that lets you request permission to use a trademarked logo. All you have to do is submit your contact information, the name and address of the bakery, and the type of cake you want to order. A couple of days later, you’ll get back an electronic approval you can share with the bakery.

While you’re waiting for your approval, you can visit the BSA Brand Center for a selection of official logos, which the bakery might find useful as they design your cake.

When the Scouting Magazine blog talked about this process recently, a few commenters blamed the BSA’s lawyers for what they saw as an unwieldy process. I respectfully disagree. First, if the BSA doesn’t protect its trademarks, it could someday lose them. Second, filling out an online form and waiting a couple of days to order a cake doesn’t seem all that burdensome to me–especially if you’re planning ahead as I suggest in The Eagle Court of Honor Book.

To put it another way, your honoree has been working for years to reach Scouting’s highest rank. I think he can reasonably expect you to do the right thing as you prepare to honor him.


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

The Power of Participation in Eagle Courts of Honor

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Sometime later this year, I expect to attend the Eagle court of honor for a young man who almost quit Scouting back in 2013. That was the year I gave him and his brother “Future Eagle Scout” pins that we’d been distributing at the National Eagle Scout Association‘s booth at the National Jamboree.

According to his dad, my young friend decided to stay in the program in part because of that pin. I can’t take credit for his decision to stay, however. I didn’t even know he was wrestling with the decision; I just happened to bring home a couple of extra pins.

I thought about that story recently when I read a Facebook post by an Eagle Scout from a decade ago who had been invited to participate in an Eagle court of honor for two members of his old troop. After the ceremony, he discovered that they were the two Cub Scouts he’d invited at the spur of the moment to participate in his own court of honor. The Scouts’ mother told him through tears that they had been about to quit Scouting but had changed their mind after participating in that ceremony.

If you’ve been a Scouting volunteer for more than a few months, you may have gotten tired of asking people to help out, either because you don’t want to burden them or because you’re tired of being turned down or because it’s just easier to do a job yourself (or leave it undone). That Facebook post should serve as a powerful reminder that involving Cub Scouts or younger Scouts in Eagle courts of honor has the potential to transform their lives in amazing ways.

As you plan your next Eagle court of honor, think of one or two Scouts whose participation could be transformative. Just be prepared to say yes when they invite you to their own courts of honor a decade from now!


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Inclusivity and Eagle Courts of Honor

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I’ve recently been doing something I’ve been putting off for awhile: updating The Eagle Court of Honor Book to reflect the inclusion of girls in what is now called Scouts BSA. I’m looking forward to the day when the first girls become Eagle Scouts and (I hope!) receive their badges at ceremonies inspired by the book.

That’s not to say it has been all that easy to catch every reference in the book to “he,” “this young man,” “the brotherhood of Eagle Scouts,” etc., etc. In fact, although I’ve been through the entire book twice, I feel the need to reread it one more time.

But this experience has reminded me yet again how important it is for every Eagle court of honor to be tailored to fit its honoree. Although it would be much simpler to use an off-the-shelf, fill-in-the-blank script, that’s not what new Eagle Scouts deserve. After devoting years to becoming Eagle Scouts, they should right expect us as their leaders to devote a few hours to creating the perfect ceremony to honor them, whether that means using the right pronouns, making room for their nontraditional families during the badge presentation, or simply reflecting their unique personalities and experiences in the experience.

After all, we only get one chance.


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

The Element of Surprise at Eagle Courts of Honor

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If you’ve read The Eagle Court of Honor Book (and I hope you have!), you know that I really emphasize planning pretty much every minute of the ceremony. I even talk about giving presenters copies of the script with their lines highlighted for easy reference.

I’m not here to recant that advice. However, I do think it’s important to allow for, and even plan, some surprises for the honoree. That’s why I don’t recommend giving the honoree a script that includes (for example) the Eagle Scout charge that his mentor is going to present.

But the surprises could be even bigger–and could bring new levels of meaning to the event. Imagine, for example, a Scout whose Eagle project benefited an inner-city elementary school. Wouldn’t it be cool if those kids made thank you cards for the Scout? Or if they shot a tribute video? Or if they showed up unannounced and crashed the party? Adding something like that to the court of honor would demonstrate the impact that the honoree has far more than a wordy description of his project.

I thought about this idea of surprises when I was watching Super Bowl LIII. The game was certainly no surprising–it was really more of a snooze-fest–but one of the commercials hinted at the possibilities. If you haven’t seen it, the commercial featured Anthony Lynn, the coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, giving a pep talk to a group of first responders at a fire station. What he didn’t realize–spoiler alert!–was that the people he was talking to were actually some of the people who’d saved his life when he was hit by a drunk driver back in 2005. Not surprisingly, both he and some of the first responders become emotional during their brief reunion.

I’m not saying you should set up something that dramatic at your next court of honor. But I do hope that example inspires you to do something unexpected to make the event more meaningful for both the honoree and the audience.


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”