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Issue 100 – Service Above Self

We need today, right now, at this very moment, to take a profound lesson from Liviu Librescu, engineering science and mathematics lecturer at Virginia Tech, born in Romania, who on the anniversary date of the Holocaust remembrance, made a decision in the full knowledge of what was about to happen—knew and made it anyway—to save the lives of others and in doing so to die.

By blocking the classroom door with his own body he gave the students in his room time to escape from that marauding murderer who fired through the door killing Mr. Librescu.

Professor Librescu was a survivor, himself, of the Holocaust.

We need, also, to remember the 100 million Scouts who have come before us and our generation, who gave of themselves in service to others in the selling of US Bonds for two world wars, collected countless thousands of tires and rubber products during WWII, and the list goes on and on in service to others above self.

We also need to take a lesson in presence of mind and self-reliance from VT senior, Kevin Sterne, who when a bullet from that same murderer’s gun tore an inch-long gash through the femoral artery of his right leg, fashioned a tourniquet from a lamp cord, thereby preventing himself from bleeding out in what would have been a mere few fast minutes.

Kevin is an Eagle Scout.

How often, we need to ask ourselves in this moment, do we say to the Scouts in our care, “Go do this or that and you’ll get ‘service hours’.” How often do we split hairs over what sort of project is “worthy” of service hour credit. How often is the incentive we propose to the Scouts we’re trying to mold into responsible, contributing citizens something-for-something, quid-pro-quo, if you already have your service hours you needn’t show up.

How often, conversely, do we set the example that the reward at the end of the day may not be service hours at all. It might, instead, be an inner feeling of accomplishment, or perhaps the simple knowing that someone else is now better off than they were before we did what we did.

It’s time to reevaluate ourselves and our leadership messages about service. How do we equivocate between “do this and get service hours” and “help other people at all times.”

Kevin Sterne saved his own life because he had the skills and applied them; Professor Librescu saved the lives of others because that was the right thing to do.



Have a question? An idea? Found something that works? Send it to me at (Please include your COUNCIL or your TOWN & STATE)

(Copyright © April 2007 Andy McCommish)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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