Dropping by the NESA Store

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Readers of The Eagle Court of Honor Book sometimes ask if they should bring a gift to an Eagle Scout ceremony. While I don’t think gifts are expected–as at a wedding or baby shower, for example–they’re certainly appreciated. And the closer someone is to the honoree, the more appropriate it is to bring a gift.

You can find lots of nice gifts at your local Scout Shop or at ScoutShop.org, and eBay is full of vintage Scout books and trinkets. (Often these are perfect for the honoree to give to Scout leaders.)

But my other favorite source is NESAStore.org, the official online store of the National Eagle Scout Association. Joe Weingarten, the NESA volunteer who mans the store, has assembled a huge range of fun Eagle Scout gift items, everything from Eagle Scout key rings to watches (Timex or Leatherman) to graduation cords. You can even find prints of the Joseph Csatari painting shown at the top of this post. Best of all, all proceeds benefit NESA, which provides scholarships and other opportunities for Eagle Scouts.


NOW AVAILABLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available from EagleBook.com and on Amazon! 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 Amazon and ScoutStuff.org.

And We Have Some Loving Parting Gifts….

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One of the many purposes of an Eagle court of honor is to inspire other Scouts in the troop to work toward becoming Eagle Scouts. In fact, you can tell that your court of honor has been a success if it’s followed by a flurry of work on Eagle projects and Eagle-required merit badges.

Several years ago, a reader of The Eagle Court of Honor Book shared a neat way her troop inspired future Eagle Scouts at one court of honor. At a local bargain outlet, they bought a dozen statuettes of an eagle set on an American flag and used them as centerpieces. Then, at the close of the ceremony, each troop member was invited to take a statuette home to inspire him on his trail to Eagle. As that reader described it, “The Scouts were thrilled with the gift and left holding their inexpensive eagle statues in high regard.”

Of course, you may not find statuettes like that the next time you go shopping. But there are plenty of ways you could adapt this idea. For example, the Scout Shop sells two $4.99 coins that might do the trick: The Scout Oath and Scout Law Coin and the “Do a Good Turn” Spinner coin. And every Scout doesn’t have to take something home. During his or her remarks, the honoree could give statuettes, coins, or other gifts to the Life Scouts in the room. Or a special gift could go to the newest troop member in attendance. (You could even take an extra court-of-honor invitation and print it up with that Scout’s name and “TBD” for the court of honor date.)

The point of all this is not to send attendees home with something tangible. The point is to send them home with something far more valuable: the desire to become Eagle Scouts themselves.


NOW AVAILABLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available from EagleBook.com and on Kindle! 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 Amazon and ScoutStuff.org.

Shutterbugs and Eagle Scout Ceremonies

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Photo by Gary Tamin from FreeImages

I recently had the chance to serve as “official photographer” at the 100th birthday party of a member of my church. Taking on a project like that is a fairly big responsibility–after all, you only turn 100 once!–so I was glad to see that other guests had cameras. One in particular–a son-in-law, I think–clearly had the equipment and expertise to do a credible job himself.

But I had one advantage over him and the selfie-shooters: I wasn’t a family member or close friend of the honoree (or of most of the guests, for that matter). While the other photographers were greeting old friends or helping coordinate the cutting of the cake, I was free to shoot, shoot, shoot. As a result, I got some nice photos that other people would have missed.

That experience only reconfirmed for me the importance of recruiting an official photographer for every Eagle Scout ceremony. As I explain in The Eagle Court of Honor Book, this person is uniquely positioned to capture the event for posterity.

To make his or her job easier, be sure to provide a list of “must have” photos, such as Mom pinning on the Eagle badge or the quartet singing “On My Honor.” If possible, have the photographer come to your rehearsal to get a better sense of the physical layout of the ceremony.

And one more tip: If a gaggle of photographers is taking a group photo, no one will know which camera to look at. For official posed photos, have someone stand behind the official photographer and say, “Look this way.”


NOW AVAILABLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available from EagleBook.com and on Kindle! 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 Amazon and ScoutStuff.org.

Mike Rowe’s Eagle Scout Letter

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I have a confession to make: I really don’t like the typical congratulatory letters many people read at Eagle courts of honor. The main reason: Most of them are so generic they could, with a few quick edits, be presented at Girl Scout Gold Award ceremonies, bar/bat mitzvahs, or high school graduations.

The exceptions are those letters that come from people who actually understand what it means to be an Eagle Scout–which often means they are Eagle Scouts themselves. And my favorite of these is the one TV personality Mike Rowe sends.

Or, more accurately, the one he used to send.

Several years ago, you could send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Rowe’s office and receive in return a form letter with his actual signature attached. Given the volume of requests he was receiving (and probably the fact that many of us can’t easily put our hands on a postage stamp), he has now posted the letter on his website as a free download.

But what’s really important about the letter is not the signature at the bottom but the brutal honesty it contains. Put simply, Rowe wants new Eagle Scouts to get down off their pedestals and get to work. As he says near the end, “Fold up your sash and stow it away somewhere private, along with all the other tokens of what you’ve done so far. Then, roll up your sleeves, get out in the world, and put what you’ve learned to use.”

That’s a message many new Eagle Scouts need to hear, and I encourage you to help them hear it by presenting Rowe’s “completely transparent, totally honest Eagle Scout congratulatory form letter” to them.

(And while you’re downloading, consider also downloading my congratulatory letter to new Eagle Scouts. It’s a fillable PDF, so you can even personalize it!)


NOW AVAILABLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available from EagleBook.com and on Kindle! 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 Amazon and ScoutStuff.org.

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.”