A Kick In The Scout Pants

Chuck May Scoutmaster's Minute

Sam Phillips Eagle Ceremony

6 March 1994

Sometimes you know, from the first minute you meet a boy, that he will be an Eagle. Others take a while to prove that they have that drive. With Sam, there was never a question of "would he?" -- the questions were "how?" and "when?".

Sam had both the advantage and the handicap of following a brother whose path to Eagle was nothing less that meteoric. But it was obvious that Sam was doggedly determined to achieve the same goal as Russell, without following in his footsteps. In fact, it seems that Sam always managed to put his own unique stamp on everything he did. After all, we are talking about the inventor of British Blood Pie here!

As a leader, my Scouting memories of Sam include backpacking foot races (or so they seemed to us adults), a backpack full of snow, never wearing a belt, a boy with no apparent physical fear in spite of his share of broken bones, and a drive to always be doing something new, or at least to be on the move.

Sam's leadership seems to flow naturally. While he sometimes seems a little ill-at-ease with adults, or in front of large groups, he relaxes in small groups, and his ideas are contagious. For instance, I have trouble conceiving of the degree of leadership and persuasion which could get Mr. Plitt to hum along with Dr. Demento. But everyone I talked to has a story of Sam finding a way to make a group laugh. He really believes the admonishment he gave a group of Cub Scouts, that above all Scouting should be fun. Of course, one of Sam's ideas of fun is simply being the best at everything he does.

I have seen a great many Eagles in my Scouting career, and have observed a curious pattern. Almost all of them, either for the Eagle Board of Review or their Eagle Ceremony, need a new pair of Scout pants. Jeff York tells of a boy who had to wear jeans to his Board of Review because his mother insisted that he save his new Scout pants for the Eagle ceremony. Some think that is because boys outgrow their Scout pants about this time, but I have another theory. I think that many of those Scout pants are worn through at the seat, from the gentle reminder of a well-placed size 12 shoe.

Of course, Sam is not the first, nor will he be the last, Eagle Scout to receive some forceful encouragement from family, friends, and leaders. Today he joins a select and very distinguished fraternity. You heard some of the names at the opening of this ceremony. In fact, only 1.2% of all Scouts reach Eagle. Since Scouting reaches one boy in nine, that means that only one boy out of 1,000 in the country reaches Eagle.

Why Sam, or Brian, or Jordan, or Eric, or David, or Jimmy, or Dave? There are many factors, including personal drive, opportunity, inspiration, and a certain amount of luck. But the role of family in the making of an Eagle cannot be overstated. In my experience, most boys who make Eagle have parents who are involved in some way in the Scouting movement. You might say that involved parents give a boy an advantage, and I would not argue. But I also observe that successful students often have parents who are involved in the education process, either at home or by volunteering at school or by meeting frequently with teachers. The best soccer players have parents who are helping transport the team to games, assisting with league fund raising, or slicing oranges for half-time. And the leaders in the band are often the ones whose parents are members of the band boosters. Does this mean that the youth in these cases are successful because of their parents' involvement? I don't think so. I think that in many cases, the parent is involved because of their childrens' participation or success. In each of these cases, the vital role of the parent is to ensure that there is a program available within which their child has the opportunity to succeed.

We as parents can push and pull; we can turn off the Nintendo until the A-flat scale has been mastered; we can buy the new soccer shoes; we can remind our sons to make a duty roster for the next outing. But all those things will be useless unless there is a band, a soccer team, or a Scout Troop to join. It is up to the parents, not the volunteer coach, the band leader, or the Scoutmaster, to make sure those opportunities remain available for their children, and for children whose parents cannot participate. Parents, you cannot make your children successful. What you can, and must, do is to ensure that they have an environment in which they are free and encouraged to succeed.

In closing, I would like to address one point to the boys of Troop 93. I almost always wear a Scout lapel pin on my suit or sportcoat, and it sparks many conversations. In all my travels, I have never met a man who regrets having made Eagle. But the country is full of men, like myself, who will always regret not having taken the opportunity that was available for such a short time, but which would have paid off for our entire lives. Thanks to this church, thanks to Mrs. Phillips and all the Assistant Scoutmasters, thanks to Mr. Buschman and the members of the Troop Committee, and thanks to your parents, you all have an opportunity to make Eagle. Some of you will take that opportunity. Some will not. Tragically, some will come very close but not make it. The difference will be only within yourselves. If you want Eagle, it is yours for the taking. But it won't be given to you - you have to make it happen.

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Chuck May, 1996

ChuckMay@may-engineering.com

May be distributed freely, with attribution, for non-commercial use within the Scouting community.

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