The Power of Participation in Eagle Courts of Honor

Standard

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.”

Advertisements

Inclusivity and Eagle Courts of Honor

Standard

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

Standard

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.”

Court of Honor Thank You Gifts on the Cheap (and Easy)

Standard

I’m writing this post just before Thanksgiving Day, when most of us focus more on gratitude than we do the other 364 days of the year. But giving thanks shouldn’t be limited to Thanksgiving Day. In the world of Scouting, it’s especially important whenever Eagle Scout courts of honor happen.

How can your next Eagle Scout thank those who helped him along his journey? Years ago, a mom who’d bought The Eagle Court of Honor Book shared a great idea with me.

Several months before her son’s court of honor, she began thinking about inexpensive but thoughtful gifts her son could present to some people at his court of honor. That January, she bought a few wall calendars (at terrific markdown) that featured photos of eagles and wildlife. Next, she bought (also on sale) some 10″ x 13″ frames. She and her son glued the calendar photos to textured poster board, outlined the photos with a gold paint marker, and framed them. A personal note from her son on the back completed each gift.

The neat thing was how well the gifts fit the recipients. A wolf picture went to his Wolf Cub Scout leader, a bear picture to his Bear leader, eagle pictures to his Boy Scout leaders, etc. (Choosing a picture for the Webelos Scout leader was a problem, but that’s another story!) And all these gifts cost less than $2 a piece, allowing the family to give gifts to lots of leaders without breaking the bank.

How do Scouts in your troop say thanks? Share your ideas in the comments section.

And thank you for all you do for the Scouts you serve!


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.”

Dear (Eagle Scout) John

Standard

For new Eagle Scouts, receiving a thick stack of congratulatory letters from politicians and celebrities can be pretty exciting. But let’s face it, the letters often sound a lot alike—and may sound a lot like “Dear John” letters.

If you choose to read the letters as part of a court of honor, you can greatly improve their impact with a little planning. First of all, make photocopies of the letters you plan to read (which doesn’t have to be the complete set!) and put them in logical order—the mayor before the Congressman before the President, for example. Next, go through each of the copies and highlight the sections want to read during the ceremony. You should never, for example, read the part where your Senator apologizes for not being able to attend the ceremony (Did you really expect her to?), but you should always read the parts that talk about the significance of the Eagle badge or the writer’s personal connection with Scouting.

A little thought and strategic pruning can go a long way toward making congratulatory letters a meaningful part of the court of honor—and not just a pile of junk mail.


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.”

My Favorite Court of Honor Life Hack

Standard

Let me say at the outset that I’m not a card-carrying member of the uniform police. Although I like to see Scouts in correct uniform, my blood pressure doesn’t rise when I see the occasional patch out of place. And I certainly don’t get upset when a new Eagle Scout’s mom pins her son’s medal in the wrong spot.

Having said that, I’ve watched more than a few moms get to that pivotal moment in a court of honor when they do the pinning and panic. It’s like they fear  their sons will have to start their Scouting journeys anew if they mess up, like sewing on dozens of merit badges over the years hasn’t earned them a mulligan.

Fortunately, someone showed me a simple life hack years ago that neatly solves this problem: Before the court of honor, pin the medal on the Scout’s uniform in the right place–centered just above the left pocket–and then remove it. When you do, you’ll be left with tiny holes that will show Mom just where the medal should go during the ceremony.

So what life hacks have you discovered in planning courts of honor? I’d love to hear from you and share them with other Scouters.


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.”

When It’s Better NOT to Light a Candle

Standard

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Lots of people have been credited with that saying, including Confucius and Eleanor Roosevelt, and there’s certainly plenty of wisdom packed into those dozen words. But sometimes it’s better not to light a candle–and I don’t mean just when you’re worried about setting off a smoke detector.

Recently one of my readers wrote to me looking for ideas for using an unlit candle in an Eagle court of honor. His goal was to use the candle to represent the future potential of the ceremony’s honoree.

Here’s what I came up with:

Earlier this evening, Scouts lit the candles you see here on this table as a reminder of the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, principles that shine brightly in the heart of our honoree. But there’s one more candle on the table, and it remains unlit. It represents the journey our honoree is beginning today. No one can know where his journey will take him, who he will serve along the way, or how he will live as an Eagle Scout. But one thing is sure: When he lights this candle, he will help to illuminate some of the dark places in our world. He will exemplify the old proverb that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness and these familiar words from the Bible: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Feel free to use or adapt this language for your next court of honor. And let me know what you think; I’m always interested in hearing from you.


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.”