Asking “what is an Eagle Scout?” sparks interesting conversations among Scouters.
This question got me wrapped around my own axle for a few years; but not anymore.
Conversations about Eagle Scout commonly unfold like an operatic libretto. The curtain rises on the chorus singing about how once proud standards have fallen because now just anyone can be an Eagle Scout. Stories of overzealous parents, twelve year-old Eagles (good lord twelve!), and other “grave concerns and injustices” unfold dramatically to advance the theme.
In the finale the basso-profundo aria; “Well, we really make our Scouts earn Eagle, we aren’t an Eagle Factory (the chorus gasps in horror) like that troop across town.”
A standing ovation, and the curtain falls until the next performance.
As a new Scoutmaster (mind you, this was thirty years ago) I was in the audience listening to old Scouters sing their aria of complaint. I certainly wasn’t going to be one of those pariahs, a Scoutmaster who just gave away Eagle. No sir, not me! I joined the cast and learned the songs; I built up my own idealized standard of what an Eagle Scout ought to be. Nobody, nobody was going to get Eagle unless they met my standards.
I hadn’t actually answered the question “what is an Eagle Scout?” I had been distracted by a very different question; “who deserves to be an Eagle Scout?”
The answer to the question “who deserves to be an Eagle Scout?” is easy; any Scout who completes the requirements.
No more and no less.
There’s no Eagle-plus, and no Eagle minus, only Eagle.
During my tenure as a Scoutmaster I presented somewhere north of 100 and south of 120 Eagle Scout badges.
So how did it go?
Not one of the boys who received an Eagle during my tenure ever completely measured up to my idealized, dramatically operatic, and totally unnecessary standard.
Some years ago, thank goodness, I learned that didn’t matter.
The important thing to realize is that once a Scout earns Eagle Rank he begins the lifelong process of becoming an Eagle Scout.
Not one of the 2.7 million or so boys who have earned the rank were an ideal, fully formed, “EAGLE SCOUT” when someone handed them the badge; they have a lifetime of opportunities ahead of them. We have recognized a measure of potential and character in those Scouts, the rest is up to them.
My first Eagles are well into their forties now, and I am privileged that many of them keep in touch with me. Each is busy becoming an Eagle Scout every day.
That’s what an Eagle Scout does.
Our job is not defending the holy sanctuary of Eagledom from the unworthy, quite to the contrary;
… we want to see that every Scout has a chance to complete the requirements for Eagle, that way they can spend rest of their lives becoming an Eagle Scout.
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