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Advertisement Boy Scout Week Salute: Scouts teaches young people leadership and wisdom
by Tom Norris · February 06, 2008


With Boy Scout Week upon us, I thought I’d do away with the usual facts-n-figures and talk straight about the organization.

Some will read this and think, “That’s nice, but who cares?” One youth club is as good as the next; it doesn’t really matter. But at what point do the things we do start to matter? I suspect this is determined by the degree to which it influences our life.

After 14 years in the service, most of that as a light infantry officer, I feel qualified to offer a professional opinion on leadership, something I believe laymen see as an arbitrary skill: You either get it or you don’t, but if you don’t, oh well; it’s not necessary to be happy – an assumption that couldn’t be more wrong.

Leadership isn’t about barking orders. Anyone can do that. It’s the ability to convince others to do things they wouldn’t normally do, whether it involves 50 employees or just one of your kids. Or for that matter yourself. The key word, however, is “convince”. You need a good plan, a solid means of accomplishing a desired goal. At the heart of leadership is logistics, the art and science of getting things done – anything at all, be it baking a cake, finding a job, fixing the economy, or asking someone on a date.

Since I’m an Eagle Scout, I thought going back would be a good idea. But I wanted to make sure, so I researched other youth organizations. I talked to people, read everything I could find, but it always came back to scouting. Their marks were by far highest.

Some cars are better than others, as are sports teams. Such is life.

Often left as a tangential effect, few youth organizations have leadership at their core. The Civil Air Patrol and Junior ROTC do, but that goes to reason. However, like baseball and soccer, they’re limited in what they offer, unlike the Boy Scouts. Think of it like a computer or driver’s license: What can you do with it? I dunno. What do you want to do with it? In football, you’re limited to playing a game and perhaps learning something of teamwork (a result of leadership, but how often do they study that at practice?). In scouting, the possibilities are designed to be limitless.

Some parents tell me it doesn’t matter if their son is in scouting. And I agree – it’s no guarantee of success. (Statistics hint otherwise.) But then they extend this to say, if it doesn’t matter, why bother? You don’t need a driver’s license, either, but life is simpler with one. And you don’t need good grades to have a happy life and satisfying career. On the other hand, these help in a large way. Leadership is no exception.

Scouts come and go. We’re a small troop, which is a shame. If parents really understood what is here, they’d be lining up to get their kids into meetings. Sadly, they don’t, probably lacking information on the program, possibly ambivalence. “Johnny likes to play baseball.” Unfortunately, you only learn a limited range of skills playing a game. I played baseball as a youth, but it was what I learned in scouting which helped me get into college, earn a commission, have a military career and, finally, become a writer. You can do these things without being a scout, but being one made it easier to accomplish my goals, not to mention the wide-ranging peripheral effects it has on your life.

I tell our scouts, if you want more out of life, you have to put more into it, and that’s not always easy or fun. You’ll have to make difficult choices, likely hard sacrifices. And cram as much information as you can between your ears. But that’s not enough. You must have wisdom, i.e., leadership, the ability to use that information to enhance the quality of your life. Happiness is created only between your ears, and the more information and wisdom you have, the more ways you can create it, the better your personal and professional life will be.

The number of former scouts who return to the program no longer surprises me. Jared Deahr and George Chamberlain, our Assistant Scoutmasters are good examples. Then there are the recent scouts who have shown by way of their accomplishments just how much this program can do. Josh Marin, Nick and Tim Campbell, and Devin Weaver. Ask their parents how prominent a role scouting played in their burgeoning successes.

My wife and I have two daughters, and when they’re old enough, they’ll be Boy Scouts, gender aside. And they’ll become Eagle Scouts. It might not be official, no one else will care, and it will matter only to them. They’ll do it not because I did, but for what it instills: Wisdom.

Meetings: Mondays, 7pm, American Legion Hall, West Liberty

Tom Norris, Scoutmaster, 627-7246



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