Being a farm boy raised in rural Michigan my parents enrolled me in the Michigan 4-H program, a program to enhance a child’s knowledge of raising livestock and other agricultural pursuits.
After leaving the farm and when my boys were growing up I enrolled them in Boy Scouts. In 1965 when our troop needed a Scoutmaster I volunteered and then served for five years, going to Camp Bert Adams every year where I was introduced to chiggers while picking blackberries for a Scout-cooked pie. One son became an Eagle Scout, a second son died in an accident at age 11 and the third son became a Life Scout. And I have been enrolled in the Scouting program since 1965.
When son Curtis, the Eagle Scout, sent me a historical account on the 100th anniversary of the Eagle program, a story published last week in the Wall Street Journal and authored by Eagle Scout Michael Malone, I was reminded of the scores of adult Scouters here in Cherokee County who give time, money and lots of energy to help boys reach adulthood though the scouting program.
Malone’s article indicated that of the “more than 115 million boys who have passed through the Boy Scouts of America in the last 102 years, approximately two million have become Eagle Scouts, a 2 percent rate that has climbed to about 4 percent of all Scouts in recent years.”
He referred to the “Trail to the Eagle Badge” as the “Ph.D. of Boyhood.” What a tribute to Scouting, especially to the boy who attains the Eagle rank.
Malone wrote that “these Eagles in turn have changed the face of American culture in ways both obvious and unexpected.” What a tribute to those volunteer scout leaders who assist a boy along that trail to his Eagle Badge.
From the ranks of the Eagle Scout have come “movie and television stars, six Medal of Honor recipients, Nobel Prize winners, novelists, a number of astronauts (including most Shuttle astronauts), Tuskegee airmen and Japanese-American internees, congressmen, senators and governors, an endless number of corporate CEOs and university presidents, a U.S. president (Gerald Ford), and the first man to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong).”
The Eagle Nest is indeed filled with young men who grew into adulthood to contribute to the growth of untold communities and to the welfare of our nation, contributing in ever community they have lived in.
“America’s Eagles are spread across the political spectrum. They include individuals across all races who hold beliefs as diverse as other Americans. [But] What they have in common is that they chose a life of achievement and assumed leadership roles at a very young age.” And Eagles have been found to be “far more engaged with the world around them in almost every way — in community service, club membership, churchgoing, outdoor recreation, and the fields of education and health.”
I concurred with Malone when he references the Eagle Scout’s “service project as the dissertation of the boyhood Ph.D.” What an analogy. Anyone who has watched a son work towards his Eagle, or anyone who has assisted a boy on his trail to the Eagle Badge will fully agree with this analogy as they watch that boy devise, plan, execute and manage a community-service project.
Malone wrote, “The National Eagle Scout Association decided to look beyond the anecdotal and tally up all of the Eagle service projects ever done. It came to the jaw-dropping total of more than 100 million hours of service. Eagle Scouts are adding more than three million more hours each year. Those numbers likely make the Eagle Scout service project the single greatest youth service initiative in history, and one that has touched every community in America in an important way.”
Next time you see a Boy Scout take a good look at him, and when possible, encourage him to work to achieve the Eagle Badge knowing that if he does he will join a very exclusive fraternity and his life will likely be a life of service to his family, to his profession, to his community, to his nation and to his God. And you will be involved in “doing good in your own community.”
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.