The Game Of Risks
Chuck May Scoutmaster's Minute
Jonathan Simpson Eagle Ceremony
15 October 1994
When Jonathan called to ask if I would do the Scoutmaster's Minute, he asked if I
would mind doing a serious speech, instead of my usual one. I'm certainly flattered that
he asked, but a little insulted. All my Scoutmaster's Minutes were supposed to be
I have often talked in the past about the fact that an Eagle Scout is not something
that you become, but rather is something you are. This afternoon, though, I would like to
talk about why we want you to be an Eagle.
You see, the things that you do as a Scout - hiking, camping, canoeing, games,
badges - are not the reasons for Scouting. When Lord Baden-Powell started the Scouting
program in 1907, he realized that the boys of his time, and of all times, would not freely
join an organization just because it was good for them, any more than they would eat
broccoli just because it was good for them. So he defined Scouting as a game.
As the 1947 Scoutmasters' Handbook says,
"Yes. To a boy, Scouting is a game - a wonderful game, full of play and full of
laughter, keeping him busy, keeping him happy. That's the strength of Scouting! A boy
becomes a Scout for the sheer joy there is in it.
"To you and me Scouting is a game, also - but it is more than a game of fun. To
us, it is a game with a purpose - The purpose of helping boys to become men."
This purpose of Scouting is three-fold: To develop Character, Citizenship, and
Fitness. We do that by putting you into situations in which, we hope, you will have fun.
But at the same time, you will be learning little lessons, and growing, without really
If every month we hiked five miles along the C&O Canal from Swain's Lock to
Seneca Creek, you (and I) would find that pretty boring, and eventually you would stop
coming. But consider Jonathan's career - he started on the Canal, as most of us did. Soon
he was climbing Old Rag, and hiking to Annapolis Rock on the Appalachian Trail. Before he
knew it he had hiked all of the AT in Maryland, and earned the right to trek to the
Philmont Scout Ranch in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico. That was the fun
But along the way, with each new hike he got stronger; with each new meal he cooked
along the trail, he got more self-reliant; with each new boy he encountered, he developed
leadership; with each piece of trash he picked up along the trail, he developed
citizenship; with each new challenge he met, he developed character.
And the genius of Baden-Powell's idea is that, most of the way along his journey,
Jonathan didn't even know it was a journey - he just thought he was having fun.
You all know from playing Doom that, with each level the game gets better, but it
also gets harder. Except that, in Scouts and in life, you don't automatically move
to the next level. You have to make a definite decision to play in a tougher level, but
with greater rewards. Learning to take risks, and to make difficult decisions correctly,
is one of the cornerstones of character. You accepted the risk of falling down in order to
ride a bike without training wheels.
Jonathan accepted the challenge of becoming a leader, to try for Eagle. Eventually
you will make a decision to leave the security of your home and family to make your own
life. You will accept the challenges of marriage and parenthood in order to get the
rewards that they bring. And I hope that some of you will accept the risks and make the
commitment to become Scout leaders - for the reward comes in seeing a boy develop into a
man before your eyes.
Now, this leads me to that one essential element of any ceremony involving the
Simpson - the obligatory poem. It's called, "The Boy Scout"
You'll find him on a mountain trail
Well off the beaten track
Adventure mirrored in his eyes
His world within his pack
You'll find him when disaster strikes
With grime upon his face
You'll also find him deep in thought
In some secluded place
You'll find him where the campfire glows
And friendship fills the air
Just seek the brotherhood of men
You're sure to find him there
You'll find him here in each good turn
Content to do his part
But most of all you'll find him etched
On some Scoutmaster's heart.
All of you, of course, are etched on your Scoutmasters' hearts. The Eagles of this
Troop have a special place on mine. These boys -- from Dave through Sam, then Jonathan, to
be followed by Keppy and Sean, to be followed by boys who may not have even made
Tenderfoot yet -- are not important to me because they learned to tie a square knot or
build a fire. I won't remember how many merit badges they earned. In fact, even making
Eagle is really not important. What is important is that Jonathan, like all the Eagles,
has learned that character, citizenship, and fitness are qualities that were inside him
© Chuck May, 1996
May be distributed freely, with attribution, for non-commercial use within the Scouting
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