February 9, 2023

National Boy Scouts Day is recognized on February 8 as a way to honor those who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

The Boy Scouts of America's roots connect to the British Boy Scouts organization which was created in 1908 after the success of the book ‘Scouting for Boys’ by Lord Robert Baden-Powell. On a foggy London day, an American newspaperman, William Dickson Boyce, became lost when a Boy Scout came to his assistance. With the boy’s guidance, Boyce arrived at his destination. When Boyce offered payment for the assistance, the Boy Scout refused explaining it was a good deed. Boyce was inspired to organize similar youth groups into one organization. On February 8, 1910, Boyce filed papers of incorporation, and the Boy Scouts of America was born.

There are many Scouting programs including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing, Sea Scouts and Exploring. The most common route is to start in the Cub Scouts, cross over to Boy Scouts, and continue until obtaining the rank of Eagle, or the scout’s 18th birthday, whichever comes first. Cub Scouts begins in kindergarten, in the youngest den of Lions. As the scout progresses through elementary school, he moves up the Cub Scout dens from Lion to Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Arrow of Light. There are requirements for each advancement the scout completes with the help of his den and den leader. He will learn the basics of camping, pitching a tent, building a fire and cooking, first aid, and nature study. It is important to note that all activities are organized and completed under supervision of the adult leadership of the Cub Scouts Pack. When the scout is 12 years of age, it is his choice to cross out of scouting altogether or cross over into a Boy Scout troop. Should he elect the latter, it is best to interview with a number of nearby troops to determine which will be the best fit.

Boy Scouts are different from Cub Scouts in that Boy Scouts are led by leadership from the within the scouts. Boy Scouts decide their monthly campouts, high adventure trips, summer camps, meeting agendas, meal plans and so on. The troop is split into patrols and the elected leaders of the patrols meet regularly to discuss and decide on these and other matters. Adult leadership serves only to observe these meetings and provide guidance against activities which may violate the principles of scouting or may be inherently dangerous. It is not necessary that a Boy Scout cross over from a Cub Scout Pack; many Boy Scouts have no prior scouting experience whatsoever.

Boy Scouts between the ages of 12 and 18 progress through the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life before appearing for their Eagle Review, which confirms them to the highest rank of Eagle Scout. It is estimated that 5%-7% of Boy Scouts make Eagle every year. They will complete basic requirements such as principles of scouting, swim test, basics of cooking and first aid, meal planning, and map reading. They will also complete a number of merit badges. Completing a merit badge involves working on several requirements within an area of concentration. Some of these merit badges are compulsory for attaining the rank of Eagle. For example, the merit badge for camping (Eagle-required) has requirements for meals planned and cooked at campouts, at least 20 nights of camping, hiking four miles, snow camping, or hiking through an elevation change of 1,000 feet, discuss weather, clothing, camping equipment including stoves, and conservation and safety. The scout will require some support and feedback from friends, adult leaders and family for his journey through Boy Scouts.

After the Boy Scout has completed at least 21 merit badges, including 14 Eagle-required, he is required to complete a community-based project. He then appears for an Eagle Board of review, which can be exhaustive and exhausting. If he passes, he is confirmed as an Eagle Scout. It is a very proud day for the scout and his family.

My son joined Cub Scouts in 2015 (with encouragement from Tom Suarez, PE, SE, Director of Engineering), and crossed over into a Boy Scouts troop in 2020. I have seen him mature into a capable and responsible young man who enjoys the company of his brother scouts, volunteers for campouts, mentorship opportunities and leadership elections. While he was decidedly nervous before his first summer camp, he looks forward to his week away from home. Next summer, he will spend four days sailing and snorkeling along the Florida coast, and he is justifiably excited about that.

He has worked alongside scouts of various ages, scouts who are differently abled, from different religious and social backgrounds. It makes no difference to him. These are his brother scouts and he knows he has to include them in activities, work alongside them, and be responsible for them when he is in a leadership position. The troop of which he is a member has a sister troop comprised of young girls. The Girl Scouts have a great sense of camaraderie and high spirits, and frankly, on more occasions than one, are better organized than their male counterparts. Scouting, most of all, fosters the spirit of teamwork.

Boy Scouts have had a profound impact on the social and political life in the United States. President John F. Kennedy obtained the rank of Star Scout, and President Gerald Ford was an Eagle Scout. Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Charles Duke, all of whom walked on the moon, were Eagles, as were four Nobel Prize laureates and 12 recipients of the Medal of Honor. Other Eagles include: Steven Spielberg, Sam Walton, J.W. Marriott, Jr., and Robert Gates. Of the 24 men to travel to the moon on Apollo 9 through Apollo 17, 21 were scouts, including 10 of the 12 who have physically walked on the moon's surface, and all three members of the crew of Apollo 13. Three travelled to the moon twice.

I encourage all of us to look kindly at our trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent Boy Scouts, selling popcorn and Christmas wreathes, respectful of the outdoors, resilient, band of brothers, responsible, positive, compassionate and good citizens.