It is Thanksgiving week and as I reflect upon my own life, there is much to be thankful for. I can assure you that my Thanksgiving Day was terrific amid the cacophony of joyous laughter and games, great food in abundance all enveloped in family. That would have been reason enough to be thankful but I had one more. Earlier this week, my son, John, was honored at his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
For the unfamiliar, somewhere around 2% of all Boy Scouts attain the rank of Eagle. Combine that with the number of boys who never become Scouts and the figure grows even more impressive. But it is not about the odds of achieving the rank that counts. It is all about earning it in the first place and what you do with the rank once attained. It is about how the boy becomes a man and begins to wear the responsibilities associated with this very significant achievement. Much is expected of them, not only by society, but by themselves. And this is what makes the honor so special.
The Eagle Ceremony itself is a celebration: serious but not somber. It is comprised of several time honored traditions. One is the reading of the Eagle Charge delivered directly from an older Eagle Scout to the newest. I was honored to have been asked by my son to give him his charge. I wish to read portions of it to you. The charge blended some of the traditional passages, whose origins are unknown and not attributable, with some of my own.
I have had the honor of giving the Eagle Scout Charge to several Scouts over the past few years. It is a task not to be taken lightly. To charge is to place upon you a burden, an obligation.
What teenager can fully appreciate the significance of Scouting, the firm foundation that it offers to boys and how it will affect them later in life? What teenager has the perspective to recognize the influence that they have upon others until they have put some miles behind them? You will come to appreciate the awesome responsibilities that now fall upon your shoulders only with the passage of time. This charge is a burden from which you cannot shrink.
It is my distinct privilege to give you the Eagle Scout Charge as your former Den Leader, former Scoutmaster and as your ever-present father on the occasion of your elevation to the highest rank in Scouting. I do so as one who has worn the Eagle badge for 42 years.
John, you have already past your 18th birthday and have taken another oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” You wear yet another uniform and are now in service to your nation. So perhaps this Eagle Charge will resonate a bit more than these same words might have a mere 5 months ago. You may not have recognized it but the significance of duty, honor and country was instilled upon you when you first recited the Cub Scout Promise more than 10 years ago:
“To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people, and
To obey the Law of the Pack.”
The foremost responsibility of an Eagle Scout is to live with honor. Honor is the foundation of all character and character is not only what we say and do but what we fail to do and say. An Eagle Scout lives honorably, not only because honor is important to him but because of the vital significance of the example he sets for other Scouts. Always live with honor.
The second obligation of an Eagle Scout is loyalty. His loyalty to his colleagues makes him pitch in and carry his share of the load. All of these help to build the loyalty which means devotion to community, to country, to one’s own ideals, and to God. Always inspire loyalty.
The third obligation of the Eagle Scout is to be courageous. Courage has always been a quality by which men measure themselves and others. To a Scout, bravery means not only the courage to face physical danger, but the determination to stand up for what is right. Trusting in God, with faith in his fellowman, he looks forward to each day, seeking his share of the world’s work to do. Be of good courage.
The fourth obligation of an Eagle Scout is to be cheerful. Times will surely get tough but a good sense of humor will get you out of more trouble than it gets you into. Always wear a smile. It becomes you.
The final responsibility of an Eagle Scout is service. The performance of the daily Good Turn takes on a new meaning now as an adult. Continue your service to others. Aid and comfort the unfortunate and those who cannot speak up for themselves. Uphold the rights of others while defending your own. “Be Prepared” to put forth your best.
You deserve much credit for having achieved Scouting’s highest award. Always recognize that you did not achieve this on your own. Don’t worry about paying back; pay forward. There are many for whom you will become a role model. Be proud but wear your award with humility.
Yes, you can live your life with honor. You can live your life loyal to ideals and to people. You can live your live with courage for your own actions and for those whose voices are weak. You can live your life with cheerfulness and see the glass as half full. You can live your life with service in your heart and in your mind. Honor. Loyalty. Courage. Cheerfulness. Service. These are your ingredients for a lifetime of success. It is up to you to shake them together in good measure for the betterment of your community.
May the Scout Oath and the Scout Law be your guide. If you do nothing else but live your life in accordance with these principles and encourage others to follow your example, the world will be a better place and you will have fulfilled the charge of the Eagle Scout.
Godspeed, John Wesley.