Put Alumni to Work at Your Eagle Courts of Honor

Standard

Recently, the Scouting magazine blog ran a great story about a troop that brought back a troop alumnus to cater an Eagle court of honor. There were a lot of things to like about this story, including the fact that the chef in question, who cooks at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, wore an Eagle Scout neckerchief during the event.

But the best thing about the story, in my opinion, is that the troop found a way to put this alumnus to work. People planning courts of honor–especially proud parents–tend to think that everybody will want to come to the celebration. The reality, however, is that people need a reason to come if they don’t have a personal connection with the honoree. A troop alumnus who’s in college may not even remember the honoree, who might have been little more than a snotty-nosed Tenderfoot when he himself became an Eagle Scout. And an older alumnus, one who’s settled into a career and a family? Fuhggedaboutit!

I’m not saying that every alumnus you invite to a court of honor need prepare a gourmet meal (not that that wouldn’t be nice!). You can find ways to include alumni that are much simpler. For example, many troops form an “Eagles’ nest” of Eagle Scouts at the back of the stage during the presentation phase of their courts of honor. Typically, each person is asked to give his name, the year of his award, and his home troop and city. Sometimes, the new Eagle Scout’s medal is passed along the line as a symbol of the connection between all Eagle Scouts. This is a simple way to make alumni feel more engaged. Plus, it can make for some great photos.

How do you engage troop alumni at your courts of honor? Post your ideas in the comments section.


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

Solving a Congratulatory Letter Dilemma

Standard

We don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world. Look around your next troop meeting, and you’ll see Scouts and leaders of all sizes and shapes. (As a portly friend likes to say, round is a shape!)

That’s usually a good thing, but when it comes to those congratulatory letters that are a highlight of many Eagle courts of honor, size can be a problem. You’ve probably noticed something about those letters, cards, and similar items: they’re all different sizes. While most tend to be letter size, a few are closer to postcard size, and there’s often one (like a proclamation from your mayor) that’s legal size.

The size variation makes presenting them at the court of honor difficult. You could put them in a scrapbook, of course, but that would mean leaving out or folding oversized items. An easier—and cheaper—solution is to put them in a legal-size expanding wallet. These cardstock wallets, which cost under $5 at office supply stories, look something like oversized file folders with flap closures. The ones I’ve used are bright red and feature elastic loops to hold the flaps down; others have Velcro fasteners. Add an Eagle Scout decal to the flap, and you have a presentation item that’s as nice as the letters it contains.


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

 

The Great Frame-up

Standard

I’ve spent an impressive amount of money on picture-framing over the years. That’s partly because I have a lot of photos and other art in my house and partly because my daughter convinced me years ago that how you frame a picture is guaranteed to either enhance or detract from its appearance. Just as the punishment should fit the crime, the frame should fit its contents. That’s why art museums typically display great works of art in frames that look like works of art themselves.

Frames play an important role in Eagle courts of honor as well. One of the items typically presented to a new Eagle Scout is his official certificate–which will fortunately look a whole lot nicer than the one above that I received back in 1982! Hand the Scout his certificate without a frame, and it looks like little more than a floppy piece of paper. Stick it in a frame, however, and it begins to look worthy of the occasion.

You could spend a lot of money on a frame, but you really don’t have to. Discount stores typically offer basic styles for just a few dollars–there just a dollar at Dollar Tree–and the Scout could easily upgrade to something nicer later on. For example, ScoutStuff.org offers a very attractive shadow box frame with space for both the certificate and medal for about $60.

By the way, you could also purchase an 11×14 frame with a pre-cut 8×10 mat. That’s a quick and easy way to make the certificate more impressive. Whatever you do, just remember that the clothes make the man and the frame makes the certificate.


Speaking of certificates, check out my Eagle Mountain and Eagle Mentor certificates. These inexpensive gifts are a great way to honor your new Eagle Scout and the men and women who helped him reach the summit. And they’re now available in both full-color and classic parchment versions.

Seeing Old Ceremonies Through New Eyes

Standard

Otvoritvena_predstava_cirkusa_Busch_v_Mariboru_1961_(8)

Since my own Eagle court of honor 35 years ago this summer, I’ve been to more Eagle ceremonies than I can count. Many I’ve planned, some I’ve participated in, and a few I’ve just observed.

That background has given me plenty of experience in making Scouting’s greatest moment just a little bit greater. But it also has robbed me of the ability to come at courts of honor with a fresh perspective. It’s impossible for a veteran to look through the eyes of someone attending their first Eagle court of honor.

That’s why I’m glad the Heart of Virginia Council recently posted on Facebook a blog post by a first-time court-of-honor attendee. The writer, a Scout mom named Hannah Fancher, described a couple of highlights of the ceremony: 1) when the Scout (who she barely knew) handed out mentor pins and 2) when he asked the audience to help him live out the promise he’d made as a new Eagle Scout. In the end, she wrote, “I came away from this ceremony with so many good things. It fed my soul. It’s probably a little silly, but I was uplifted as a person and inspired as a mom.”

What do people who attend your troop’s courts of honor come away with–especially parents of young Scouts who may not even know the honoree? If you’re not sure, I encourage you to interview a few guests from a recent ceremony. Ask them what they expected, what they took away, what worked for them, and what didn’t. Your conversation may not lead to a blog post like Hannah Fancher’s, but it should lead to more meaningful courts of honor in the future.


Now available from EagleBook.com: a revised and expanded version of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook. Check it out today–and save 20% by entering the code SMOH2017 when you check out at https://www.eaglebook.com/cart/.

Scripting Your Court of Honor To-do List

Standard

ticked-checkbox-1245057-1600x1472

The ceremony script is obviously a key element of a successful Eagle court of honor. Unless you and all your presenters are great extemporaneous speakers, the script is essential in keeping the ceremony on track and on schedule. (That doesn’t mean everyone needs to read word from word from the script, however, just that the script helps keep everyone on track.)

But the script serves another important purpose as well. It helps you supplement (or generate) your to-do list. This lesson was brought home to me a few years ago as I prepared the script for a troop court of honor that was then about a month away. As I wrote the script, I suddenly thought of half a dozen very important details: some presenters I needed to recruit, a couple of props I need to locate, the challenge of getting a mom who used a wheelchair onstage, etc.

Now, I probably would have thought of these things eventually. But thinking of them a month ahead made the process much easier. Plus, I now had a nearly complete script in hand!


Now available from EagleBook.com: a revised and expanded version of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook. Check it out today–and save 20% by entering the code SMOH2017 when you check out at https://www.eaglebook.com/cart/.

Eagle Scout Letters in the Age of Trump

Standard

state_department

Recently, the U.S. State Department announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson–a Distinguished Eagle Scout and former BSA national president–will send out hand-signed congratulatory letters to new Eagle Scouts (as well as recipients of Girl Scouting’s Gold Award). In case you missed the announcement, you can learn more on Bryan’s Blog and on the State Department website.

Of course, depending on how you voted last November and your position on the oil and gas industry–Tillerson is former CEO of Exxon Mobil–and maybe even whether you like Texans, you may view this news as terrific or terrible. Similarly (or maybe the right adverb is oppositely), many people had strong opinions about receiving congratulatory cards from President Obama over the last eight years.

So here’s my opinion.

 

When we express visceral reactions to a congratulatory letter or card from Rex Tillerson or Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Donald Trump (once the White House Greetings Office starts sending out Eagle Scout congratulations over his signature), we get our politics mixed up with our patriotism, and we forget that the BSA is a nonpartisan organization. Just as we shouldn’t show up at campaign rallies in our Scout uniforms, we shouldn’t turn Eagle courts of honor into opportunities to promote our political views, which may or may not align with those of the Scout we’re there to honor.

And in the midst of making political statements that are as impactful as Facebook shares–not very, in other words–we obscure a more important point: that it’s a pretty big deal that government officials and business leaders of all political leanings agree that becoming an Eagle Scout is something worth celebrating.

Years ago, I heard a great saying: “If it’s not for the boys, it’s for the birds.” Perhaps that saying should guide you as you request, receive, and read Eagle Scout congratulatory letters.


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Eagle Courts of Honor

Standard

concert-1181471

My musical tastes veer toward dead white people (classical composers) and dead black people (jazz and blues artists). Nonetheless, I did watch Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI halftime show, as did several other people around the country.

I was impressed by her message of inclusion–sorely needed in our divisive age–and by the sheer energy of her performance. (Maybe the next fad in fitness should be “Pop Star Boot Camp.”) But I also came away with three lessons that apply to Eagle courts of honor. Really.

The first relates to the artist’s dramatic entrance. As you probably know, she started on the roof of NRG Stadium, where she sang “God Bless America,” before apparently diving to the field for the rest of the show.

While you shouldn’t replicate this stunt–which would undoubtedly violate the BSA’s Climb on Safely policies–you could easily add an element of drama by starting a court of honor with an offstage narrator or someone in the church balcony singing the national anthem or members of the troop filing in simultaneously from four different entrances.

What you can do will depend on the space you’re working with, just as Lady Gaga’s performance depending on having a stadium with a retractable roof. What you should do is anything but having the presenters and honoree milling around the stage moments before the ceremony begins.

The second lesson from Lady Gaga’s performance–and really from every Super Bowl halftime show–is that a time crunch is a actually good thing. No matter how elaborate the set, no matter how big the star, the show must fit into a very tight time window and must start and end on schedule.

It’s tempting to let a court of honor run on forever, thinking such a significant achievement deserves a long ceremony. But (relatively) short and snappy is actually much more impressive. So take your next-to-last draft and try to cut a few words here and 30 seconds there and an extraneous speaker over there. Like a deftly edited screenplay, the ceremony will be better as a result.

And the third lesson from Lady Gaga? About her costume: Scout uniforms would be much more appropriate at your next court of honor!


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.