Eagle Palms and Courts of Honor


If you thought the big news out of Irving this summer would relate to the National Scout Jamboree, think again. Effective August 1, the requirements for Eagle Palms are changing in three significant ways:

  1. Scouts who earn extra merit badges prior to their Eagle boards of review can receive Palms at their Eagle courts of honor; the three-month requirement doesn’t apply in such cases.
  2. The leadership requirement has been expanded to include responsibility beyond the local troop (the logic being that many Eagle Scouts are as involved in the Order of the Arrow or a Venturing crew as they are in their home troops).
  3. A board of review is no longer required for Palms, although a Scoutmaster conference still is.

You can read all the details about the changes in this Bryan on Scouting post (although I advise skipping the comments!). But the changes raise the question of how to present Palms at an Eagle court of honor, something that has been relatively rare in the past.

Under the new requirements, a Scout with 26 merit badges at the time of his Eagle board of review–which isn’t all that uncommon–would automatically qualify for a Bronze Palm. Ten merit badges would equal a Gold Palm, while 15 would equal a Silver Palm. (Beyond that, you apply multiple Palms as appropriate. The blog post above has a handy chart if you don’t want to do the math.)

So how should you present one or more Palms at an Eagle court of honor? To me, the process is pretty simple. After the presentation of the Eagle badge, the certificate, and the parent pins, the emcee should say something like this:

As we’ve already heard tonight, our honoree has never been one to do the minimum amount of work required. In fact, although he only needed 21 merit badges to earn Eagle, he had actually earned 33 by his board of review last month. That total qualifies him for a Gold Eagle Palm, which I’d like to present now.

You could make a bigger deal of this, but I don’t think you need to. After all, the big deal–and the thing he’ll be proudest of a decade from now–is that he’s an Eagle Scout. His Palms, while significant, pale in comparison to that achievement.

That’s my take; what’s yours? How have you recognized achievements like Palms at Eagle courts 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.


Your Eagle Court of Honor’s SECOND Most Important Moment


The most important moment of any Eagle Scout court of honor is, of course, when the badge is finally presented—that moment that represents the culmination of three or four or seven years of hard work.

But there’s a second part that I think is nearly as important. And that’s the part where someone—typically a troop leader—reviews the honoree’s Scouting journey. This part is important because it personalizes the honoree, crystallizes his experience into a few hundred words, and explains to the audience why exactly this event is so special. (It may also help the honoree put his Scouting experience into context.)

Many troops use a fill-in-the-blank description of the honoree’s Scouting history or stick to meaningless facts and figures: joined the troop on X date, became a First Class Scout on Y date, etc. In other troops, speakers ramble on and on, offering disjointed anecdotes that may or may not help the audience get to know the honoree. With a little extra work, however, you can do a whole lot better than that.

Perhaps an example will suffice. Below is a lightly edited version of a bio we used in my troop several years back (with the Scout’s name changed to protect his privacy). In just 235 words, you’ll learn about the honoree’s Scouting accomplishments, Eagle project, and outside achievements. Mostly, however, you’ll learn what makes him special—and what makes him an Eagle Scout:

Chris Smith has participated in Scouting at all levels. He’s been a member of Pack 317, Troop 317, and Explorer Post 517, an engineering post chartered to the Metropolitan Sewer District. As a Cub Scout, he earned the Arrow of Light; as a Boy Scout, he served as librarian, assistant patrol leader, patrol leader, and assistant senior patrol leader; and as an Explorer, he served as post treasurer.

Chris has also been active outside Scouting. He is active in the church’s high school choir, handbell choir, and praise band. He also plays J.V. soccer and maintains a 3.9 GPA at duPont Manual High School.

Among Chris’s fondest memories of Scouting is participating in Project COPE at Camp Daniel Boone three summers ago along with several other troop members. As Chris said at the time, “The COPE program has you doing things you never thought you could do. But with teamwork and a lot of trial and error, you’re able to complete the seemingly impossible tasks.”

That experience probably helped Chris last year when, for his Eagle project, he cataloged and reorganized more than a thousand books and audio cassettes in the church’s teacher resource room. Chris originally planned two, maybe three workdays but ended up spending 12 days on the project, amassing 165 volunteer hours. Chris has also continued his commitment to that project by requesting donations for the resource room in lieu of gifts today.

So what should the audience hear about your next Eagle Scout?

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.

Marshall McLuhan and the Eagle Court of Honor


Media critic Marshall McLuhan famously argued that the medium is the message. And there’s no doubt that the way in which a message is transmitted inevitably shapes the message. Just consider how you react to a TV report on a violent crime–complete with disturbing video–and a newspaper story about the same crime.

Far from the world of violent crime, the medium of an Eagle court of honor also shapes the message guests receive. If the room is comfortably full, the event will seem successful, but if the room is three-quarters empty–even with 150 people in the audience–there will be a negative vibe. If the setting is a courtroom or church sanctuary, the event will take on a more serious tone, but if the setting is a park, the event will feel more relaxed.


And if the setting is the U.S. embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria–as shown in the photo above–you can count a pretty impressive flag ceremony to kick off the ceremony. (You can see more photos from that 2017 court of honor at https://www.facebook.com/pg/USEmbassySofia/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1426153970773442.)

Of course, if you don’t have U.S. diplomats in your troop, you’re not likely to hold your next court of honor in the great hall of an embassy, but I’m guessing you have troop families with access to impressive and appropriate venues. By selecting a venue that offers the right atmosphere, you can ensure that your medium and message match–and perhaps have your event featured in photos seen around the world.

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.

Courts of Honor and Last-minute Heroes


I love baseball, but I’ve never quite figured out the rule governing whether the starting pitcher gets the win (or takes the loss) or whether the closer gets credit for a victory. However that rule works–and feel free to explain it in the comments section–it doesn’t always seem fair to award the victory to a last-minute hero.

And what about that reliever who comes in to face a single batter? He doesn’t get any credit even though the out he earns may well prevent a grand slam. But I digress.

Eagle courts of honor can have their own last-minute heroes. Early in my time as Scoutmaster, I planned a court of honor for a Scout who’d spent most of his time under my predecessor. Traditionally, courts of honor give a lot of attention to the Scoutmaster–he or she is the one who typically handles the presentation phase of the ceremony–but that hardly seemed fair in this situation. So I made sure my predecessor had a prominent role to play in the ceremony.

You should do the same in your next court of honor if more than one Scoutmaster has worked with the honoree. Don’t let last-minute heroes like me hog the spotlight!

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.

An Out-of-this-world Eagle Certificate


Way back in 1999, the very first tip on my Eagle Tips list (the forerunner of this blog) described how to request congratulatory letters from NASA astronauts. At the time, all you had to do was send a letter to the Johnson Space Center.

These days, you can save yourself a stamp. Instead of responding to thousands of mailed requests each year, NASA has made available a downloadable Eagle Scout certificate, which you can find at https://www.nasa.gov/about/contact/index.html. (There’s also a certificate for recipients of Girl Scouting’s Gold Award.)

Note: Back in the day, NASA certificates sometimes came with a autographed photo of an astronaut. (Who that was varied every few months.) While such photos were nice keepsakes, I totally understand the move by NASA and other agencies toward downloadable certificates. Last year, there were 55,186 new Eagle Scouts. If just 10 percent of them requested certificates, that would require the space agency under the old system to send out more than 100 certificates every week.

So what’s the best Eagle Scout certificate or letter you’ve seen? And how have you used these documents in your courts of honor? Post your thoughts 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.

Memorials and Eagle Courts of Honor


I’ve told this story before, but I think it’s fitting to repeat as we move into the Memorial Day weekend.

Many new Eagle Scouts have lost loved ones who played a role in their Scouting journey, and it’s entirely appropriate to memorialize those people in some way. How to do that, how to strike just the right tone, can be challenging.

Several years back, an Eagle mom named Debbie Borden told me about her son Tim’s court of honor—a great example of how to honor a lost loved one.

Tim’s grandfather had been active in their troop for more than 50 years and was an important part of Tim’s Scouting years. Sadly, he passed away before he could see Tim become an Eagle Scout, but his presence was felt at Tim’s court of honor.

Tim often wore his grandfather’s red patch jacket to Scout functions. At his court of honor, Tim hung the jacket next to the chair where he sat. As he received his Eagle Scout badge from his brother Brian (himself an Eagle Scout), Tim held the sleeve of his grandfather’s jacket—a simple, poignant tribute to the tangible and intangible gifts his grandfather had left him.

Debbie told me, “As a mother, watching my son accept his brother as an Eagle Scout was the proudest day of my life. I could have not been prouder of my two Eagle Scouts on that day.”

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.

Re-congratulate Your Eagle Scouts


I received a Facebook message this week from one of my long-ago Eagle Scouts. Patrick told me that the day before had marked 15 years since he and five fellow Scouts received their Eagle Scout badges (in what was my favorite court of honor to plan and participate in). He was looking for the group photo from that day so he could post it on Facebook, and I was happy to oblige.

Thinking about that brief exchange reminded me that I’m not very good at remembering anniversaries–I remember my own wedding anniversary, of course, but not the dates of other important events. Had you asked me two weeks ago when that six-Scout court of honor had occurred, I couldn’t have told you the date–and I would have had to do some mental math to come up with the year.

But I am good at using Microsoft Outlook. And it occurred to me this week that Outlook like other calendar programs offer Scoutmasters a great way to remember important anniversaries. Wouldn’t it be neat, for example, to put a tickler on your calendar to mark the one-year anniversary of each new Eagle Scout in your troop (or the one-year anniversary of when each Scout turns 18 or goes off to college). Rather than let that day go by unnoticed, that tickler would give you the chance to drop each Scout a note to check in and to remind him of the promises he made when he repeated the Eagle Scout Promise or the Scout Oath.

We never stop being parents to our children–even when they’re old enough to have children of their own. And the best Scoutmasters never stop being Scoutmasters–even when their Scouts grow up and sew on their own Scoutmaster patches.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.