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Issue 483 – April 12, 2016

Dear Scoutmasters,

I’ve just received another letter inviting me to a court of honor for your troop’s newest Eagle Scout—the most recent in a string of several hundred in the past ten years alone. Your letter lauds this Scout’s service project and gives great detail of all the work done. Inevitably, however, and like all others preceding it, the letter—except for time, date, and location—stops there. To the uninitiated, it would seem that attaining the rank of Eagle solely involves a community service project of some kind. To others, including myself, there’s disappointment: It’s as if the coffee-after-dessert is all I get; there’s no mention of the preceding courses all of which have led up to this.

Where, I wonder, is a description of what this young man has learned about citizenship and his role in his community, nation, and the world at large. Will I not learn that he’s now skilled in first aid and has the ability to save life on both land and in the water, or has developed and carried out a mobilization plan for his troop in an emergency situation? How many miles has he hiked and backpacked; how many camping trips has he taken, and where has he gone? How has he developed and honed his communication and leadership skills both among his peers who have elected him to lead, and how has he learned to be a responsible team member when called upon?

This young man has led his patrol and troop in significant ways for extended periods, yet I learn nothing of these roles. Nor do I learn how he has developed his physical and mental fitness in this preparation for his future life. Can he handle a canoe? A sailboat? Can he survive in the wilderness by himself—a skill few outside of Scouting know anything at all about? Does he know firearms safety? Has he grown as a member of his own family? Does he know how to protect himself and other youth, if necessary, from bullying and other forms of abuse? Can he manage money and a budget? What does he know of ecology and—today’s buzzword—sustainability? What explorations into subjects only Scouts get to choose from has he made? Does he know what to do if confronted by a snake bite, or contact with a poisonous plant? Does he know the flora and fauna of the region he lives in? Has his service project developed not only his leadership skills but also his knowledge of project planning, including “sweating the details.” How does he live the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life? What are his aspirations for his own future?

Tell me about his life beyond Scouting. What has he accomplished for himself scholastically and in team and individual sports? What of his religious life?

Has he been recommended for this rank by his teachers or principal, his employers, his religious mentor?

All of this and more…absent. Instead of understanding the “whole” of this fine young man, I’m left with impressions of wood and gravel and plantings and such. There’s no “three-dimensional image” of him here; he’s done community service and that’s all your letter tells me.

Please tell me more. Please honor everything that this young man has accomplished for himself. Make that image “3D”!

Thanks and…

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 483 – 4/12/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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.

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