Anecdotes at Eagle Courts of Honor, Part 2


Recently I posted ideas for developing anecdotes to share at Eagle courts of honor. As I said in that post, effective anecdotes can help you create a compelling, 3-D portrait of your honoree, showing that he’s more than a sum of badges earned and service projects completed.

The ideas in that post are useful if you’re the one telling the anecdote. But what if you’re the ceremony planner or master of ceremonies? Besides sharing that post with people you invite (or grudgingly allow!) to speak, what else can you do?

The first thing to do is lay down clear ground rules. Don’t just have an open-mic session where anyone can come up and say anything they want. Instead, encourage–or require–each speaker to write at least an outline of the story they want to tell. And keep the emphasis on the story; someone who can’t settle on a single story will likely tell one pretty good story and two that are pretty pointless.

If you worry about longwindeness, give people a time limit. In terms of word count, speakers generally talk at a speed of 125 or 150 words per minute, a rule of thumb that can help people plan their remarks.

If you are selecting speakers ahead of time, consider asking each of them to cover one particular aspect of the Scout’s life, such as his days as a new Scout, his experience at Philmont, his service as senior patrol leader, and his Eagle project. By assigning topics, you ensure that the stories won’t overlap.

If you offer an open-mic opportunity, consider limiting the total number of speakers. It’s a good idea to announce at the start of the ceremony that people will have the opportunity to tell stories so they can think ahead. And it’s definitely a good idea for the emcee to hover nearby as people speak, making it easier to subtly cut them off if they get long-winded.

Finally, consider creating a memory box or album where guests who don’t want to speak during the ceremony can write their stories. Some people are more comfortable sharing their memories this way–and the stories they tell may well stay with the honoree longer.

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



Anecdotes at Eagle Courts of Honor, Part 1


A recent memorial service reflected a fairly long “open mic” segment. As I listened to family and friends share anecdotes, and as I reflected on those anecdotes later, I saw a lot of parallels with the storytelling that often goes on at Eagle courts of honor.

In both cases, the point of an anecdote is to illuminate the life and character of the person being honored. I think anecdotes are especially valuable at courts of honor, because many guests won’t know the honoree very well. Consider, for example, the younger Scouts in the audience who have only known him as senior patrol leader, the relatively uninvolved parents who barely know his name, and the school friends who only know a different side of him. The right anecdotes can help you create a fully realized, three-dimensional portrait of the honoree, showing that he’s far more than the sum of his merit badges, leadership positions, and community service.

So what makes a good anecdote? You can find plenty of advice on the internet (here and here, for example), but let me offer my own anecdote.

Two speakers at that memorial service I attended stood out to me. One told three separate stories, each of which was interesting enough on its own but none of which really illuminated what made the honoree unique. (For example, the departed was a veterinarian, and she talked about how he lovingly he’d cared for her pet, which is something you’d hope any veterinarian would do.) The other woman briefly described how the departed had hired her a few years ago, even though she had been job-hopping and had other issues in her life that would have given him good reason to round-file her application. She then described how he’d kept her on even when, not long after being hired, she got pregnant and needed to have different duties.

That woman’s story, with its singular focus and built-in sequel, said far more about the man than some speakers who talked far longer and knew him better.

What stories can help you create a fully realized, three-dimensional portrait of your newest Eagle Scout?

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


Grandparent Pins at Eagle Courts of Honor


In case you missed it, one of the newest recognition item for Eagle courts of honor is the Eagle Scout Grandparent Pin. Priced at $6.99, the pin is an affordable way for a new Eagle Scout to recognize key adults in his life, much like the Eagle Scout Mentor Pin does for Scout leaders.

So how do you incorporate these pins into a court of honor? Here’s one option:.Go through the standard presentation process, as I describe in The Eagle Court of Honor Book), where the mom pins on the medal, the Scout pins on the mother’s pin, etc., then say something like this: “We all know it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a very special village to raise a young man like our honoree. Among (Name)’s treasured companions on his Scouting journey—and really on his whole life’s journey—have been his grandparents, (Names). At this time, he will present them with grandparent pins.”

The grandparents can then come forward to receive their pins and a heartfelt hug. You should also mention those grandparents who aren’t able to be at the court of honor because of either death or distance.

One thing to keep in mind is that audience attention tends to wane once the Scout has received his badge. That’s why I recommend keeping the presentation part of the ceremony pretty brief. While it could work to have the honoree say a word about each grandparent (and each mentor), that can get unwieldy. What’s more, his words of thanks might come easier in a more private moment after the court of honor.

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

Eagle Courts of Honor: Patches Before Pomp


In an online forum for Eagle Scouts, someone posted a common question: If a Scout wants to delay his Eagle Scout court of honor for several months (in this case, because his brother is on military deployment), is it okay to for him to go ahead and start wearing his Eagle Scout pocket emblem?

My answer: It’s not just okay. It’s advisable.

The first reason is that the BSA advancement program is built on immediate recognition. As soon as is practical, a Scout should receive the awards he’s earned. In the case of the Eagle Scout rank, he ought to receive his patch as soon as the troop gets official notification of his advancement and his medal at his court of honor.

The second reason might be even more important: It makes the photos make sense. Here’s what I mean: At every Eagle court of honor, someone ought to shoot a nice, formal portrait of the honoree in uniform, something he, his family, and his eventual descendants may well treasure for generations to come. And it makes little sense for that portrait to show a Life patch and an Eagle medal.

But, wait, there’s one more reason! Many Scouts reach Eagle pretty close to their 18th birthdays. (In 2017, the average age was 17 years, 2 months, and 15 days.) If they don’t receive their patches immediately, many will never get to wear them, having to “settle” for the Eagle Scout knot adults were instead.

So give that new Eagle Scout his patch–and maybe a needle and thread. After all, anybody who’s capable of reaching Scouting’s highest rank ought to be able to sew on at least one patch!

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

Precedents and Eagle Courts of Honor


The other day, I heard from a reader of The Eagle Court of Honor Book who was getting ready for her son’s court of honor. She asked my thoughts on having a dinner after his court of honor, which I think can be a good idea, as I’ve discussed previously.

She also mentioned that her son’s court of honor would be the troop’s first, which led me to offer some unsolicited advice that I thought I’d share here:

Since this will be the troop’s first Eagle court of honor, everything you do is going to set a precedent. You don’t need to overthink this, but it might be helpful to talk about what the family is responsible for planning and paying for and what the troop is responsible for planning and paying for. When I was Scoutmaster, for example, our troop planned and paid for the ceremony and a basic cake-and-punch reception; if the family wanted to do a dinner or make the reception fancier, for example, they knew that was their responsibility. A system like that ensures that every Scout gets at least the basic “package”; at the same time, it allows families who want to do more to do so without forcing families who don’t have the resources (time and/or money) to do more than they’re capable of.

Whenever I think about precedents, I’m reminded of George Washington, who was keenly aware that everything he did as president would set a precedent. He insisted on being called “Mr. President”–not “His Elective Majesty,” “His Mightiness,” or even “His Highness, the President of the United States of America and the Protector of their Liberties,” as Vice President John Adams suggested–and that title is still used today. His decision to step down after two terms set a precedent that lasted all the way until Franklin Roosevelt, America’s 32nd president ran for a third (and then a fourth) term.

Now, you probably don’t need to worry about setting a precedent that will last 144 years. But you should think about how what you do at your next court of honor will affect the ones your troop holds next year.

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

Reconsidering the Eagle Scout Congratulatory Letter List


I recently talked with a NESA committee chair for an upcoming Eagles’ Call article. One of his committee’s biggest efforts has been to re-imagine the council’s Eagle Scout recognition dinner, and the first thing he did was start recruiting speakers who would be relevant to young Eagle Scouts instead of interesting to their parents and grandparents.

I thought about that conversation this week when I participated in an online discussion of the best congratulatory letters to request for new Eagle Scouts. One person suggested TV personality Mike Rowe. I think he’s a great choice, and the letter he provides is pretty cool. However, I wonder how relevant he is to today’s Scouts. After all, “Dirty Jobs” end its run six years ago, when today’s Eagle Scouts were first pulling on their khaki shirts.

Yes, I know Rowe has done other interesting work since “DIrty Jobs,” but I don’t that he has the street cred of PewDiePie, DanTDM, or the guys from Dude Perfect. Who, you ask? Those are some of YouTube’s biggest stars, people who may well be more popular than traditional celebrities (and certainly more popular than the politicians and business types who dominate many congratulatory-letter lists). According to one study, 70 percent of teen YouTube subscribers prefer YouTube stars over their old-school counterparts.

I’m not saying you should reach out to YouTube stars for congratulatory letters, even if they would send them. I AM saying that you should look at your letter list through 17-year-old eyes before hitting the mail-merge button. You might save yourself some stamps and your new Eagle Scout some yawns.

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


Have Eagle, Will Travel


At the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, the star of the National Eagle Scout Association exhibit was an American bald eagle from the nearby Three Rivers Avian Center. There’s just something about America’s national bird—and the namesake of the Eagle Scout Award—that captures the attention of people of all ages.

Nature centers and wildlife-rehabilitation groups around the country care for bald eagles that have been injured and can’t live on their own. Many of them are happy to take their eagles on the road in return for modest donations. The visits help them pay the bills while fulfilling their educational missions.

Including a live bald eagle in an Eagle court of honor is a great way to make the court of honor a signature event. While you probably shouldn’t include the bird in the ceremony itself—eagles can be unpredictable and crowds can disturb them—you could make the bird available for visits and photos before the ceremony (to encourage people to arrive early) or during the reception (to give people something to do after they’ve scarfed down their cake).

What have you done to make a court of honor a signature event? Post your story in the comments section below.

For more ideas, see my post on sending invitations for multi-Scout courts of honor. And for a slew of other ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download.