Set Your Sails
Chuck May Scoutmaster's Minute
Jimmy Newman Eagle Ceremony
25 March 1990
Jimmy Newman, Eagle Scout -- I've never had any doubts, from when I first met you as
a Den Chief in Cub Scout Pack 1760. That's the reason I asked you to help form Troop 93 as
Senior Patrol Leader, even though you had not yet been even a Patrol Leader. Your quiet,
laid back style of leadership, your commitment and involvement, and your outdoor skills
have served you well. ... No, I've never had any doubts.
There have, however, been a couple of times when I was a little apprehensive. Like
the time on the Allagash River in Maine when Jimmy was in charge of making pancake syrup
from water, brown sugar, and white sugar. We all thought it was the fresh wilderness water
that made the pancakes leave a little tingle on our tongues ... that is until we
discovered that the sugar bag was still full, and the bag of lemonade mix was empty. It
wasn't all that bad, and we may have a new taste sensation here.
Or the time Jimmy and David Rosen were canoeing on the Rapidan River. We came around
a bend to discover a young couple sunning themselves (quite innocently, of course) on a
large rock in mid-stream. Jimmy, being an interested student of nature like any good
Scout, seems to have forgotten that he was also supposed to be a steerer of canoes. David,
in the bow, forgot that he was supposed to be a lookout for rocks ahead. The two heads
swiveled in unison and their paddles paused in mid-stroke. The result was predictable and
Jimmy and Steve Manning discovered a technique in Maine which allowed their canoe to
pass through shallows which would ground the rest of us. They used that to decoy the
following canoe (usually mine) on more than one occasion into taking the wrong channel,
resulting in wet feet as we had to pull off the bars. I wonder now whether they started to
take the lead when they discovered this trick, or was it just after we discovered the nude
You don't get to have these kinds of experiences by accident. Jimmy has learned the
required skills, he has practiced them, and he has proven that he can be a good outdoors
citizen. In other words, he has paid his dues, in leadership, example, and hard work. He
also has shown that he is an all-round citizen. Anyone who thinks he is too busy to become
an Eagle Scout need only look at Jimmy for inspiration, as he balances school, job,
Scouts, music, swimming, and a social life. The rewards have come in the form of Scout
expeditions to Maine and Philmont, band trips to New Orleans, Florida, and Canada, and
(hopefully) an appointment to the Colorado Institute for Junior Birdmen (also known as the
U.S. Air Force Academy). Seriously Jimmy, we'll be proud of you whatever you do.
Jimmy Newman, Eagle Scout -- The 1921 Handbook for Boys says, "Those who attain
this honor, of necessity, should be real Scouts, representative Scouts - Scouts on the
inside as well as on the outside." That was the theme of my last Eagle Scoutmaster's
minute, a year ago. I still believe that each of you, inside, is a real Scout. The 1959
Boy Scout Handbook (the handbook I used as a boy) says, "The most important thing you
have to do to reach the higher ranks in Scouting is to make up your mind to do it. It is
always easy to drift along with the crowd and to say to yourself - I'll get ahead - one of
these days. But that is not the way to make the most of your life - and certainly not the
way to advance in Scouting."
At camp this summer, some of you will be able to work on Small Boat Sailing merit
badge. If you do, you will learn that boats are able to sail in many different directions,
even though the wind is constant from one direction. Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote this poem:
One ship drives East and another drives West
With the selfsame winds that blow.
'Tis the set of sails and not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Jimmy set his sails to become an Eagle Scout. You all have the same sails, the same
basic good character. It's up to you whether you set your sails to crash on the rocks, or
to reach your goals in life, or just pull them down and drift in the wind.
© Chuck May, 1996
May be distributed freely, with attribution, for non-commercial use within the Scouting community.
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