Chuck May Scoutmaster's Minutes

Courtesy of Chuck May

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Chuck May, 1996


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




Walk Like An Eagle, Talk Like An Eagle

David May Eagle Ceremony

26 February 1989


Mr. Jim Boerger, in his book The Scoutmaster, tells the story of John Hillebrenner, from Illinois. After high school, John went to college in Utah. Toward the end of his senior year, he started to run short of money. He could have written home for money, but was too proud, so he decided to solve the problem himself, by borrowing the $100 he needed.

Not being bashful, he made an appointment with the president of the local bank. Things went fine until the banker asked about collateral to guarantee the loan. Now, what kind of collateral would a college student have? No car, no job yet; if he could have afforded collateral, he wouldn't have needed the loan.

Dejected, John started to leave the bank without the loan. Just as he reached the door of the bank, he remembered a wrinkled card which he carried in his wallet. Thinking it wouldn't hurt to try, he walked into the banker's office and thrust forward his Eagle Scout card. "Is this good enough collateral for the bank, sir?", he asked. A smile came over the banker's face as he replied, "No, son, it isn't good enough for the bank; but it is good enough for me." With that, the banker wrote a personal check to young Hillebrenner for the $100.

In his letter of congratulations to Dave, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy write that, when he is reviewing candidates for jobs as clerks of the Supreme Court, he gives special attention to applicants who are Eagle Scouts.

These two different stories illustrate the point that Eagle is not just a silver medal you wear - it is something that you are. The Eagle badge does not make you trustworthy, or a leader, but it is evidence, which the whole world will recognize for the rest of your life, that you have become that kind of person.

So, how do you become an Eagle Scout? Congressmen these days are fond of the saying, "If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck." The way to become an Eagle Scout is to start by acting like an Eagle Scout. Re-read the Scout Oath and Law tonight. Look at some of the letters in Dave's notebook, or the notebooks of other Eagles. Then keep asking yourself, "Am I being the kind of person that astronaut Neil Armstrong, or basketball star David Robinson, or coach Joe Paterno, or Justice Kennedy, or the banker in Utah, would recognize as an Eagle?"

If you make up your mind now to do your best to live the Scout Law, and to act like an Eagle Scout every chance you get, every one of you could be up here receiving an Eagle Scout badge, and nothing could make me more proud.




Set Your Sails

Jimmy Newman Eagle Ceremony

25 March 1990

Jimmy Newman, Eagle Scout -- I've never had any doubts, from when I first met you as a Den Chief in Cub Scout Pack 1760. That's the reason I asked you to help form Troop 93 as Senior Patrol Leader, even though you had not yet been even a Patrol Leader. Your quiet, laid back style of leadership, your commitment and involvement, and your outdoor skills have served you well. ... No, I've never had any doubts.

There have, however, been a couple of times when I was a little apprehensive. Like the time on the Allagash River in Maine when Jimmy was in charge of making pancake syrup from water, brown sugar, and white sugar. We all thought it was the fresh wilderness water that made the pancakes leave a little tingle on our tongues ... that is until we discovered that the sugar bag was still full, and the bag of lemonade mix was empty. It wasn't all that bad, and we may have a new taste sensation here.

Or the time Jimmy and David Rosen were canoeing on the Rapidan River. We came around a bend to discover a young couple sunning themselves (quite innocently, of course) on a large rock in mid-stream. Jimmy, being an interested student of nature like any good Scout, seems to have forgotten that he was also supposed to be a steerer of canoes. David, in the bow, forgot that he was supposed to be a lookout for rocks ahead. The two heads swiveled in unison and their paddles paused in mid-stroke. The result was predictable and not pretty.

Jimmy and Steve Manning discovered a technique in Maine which allowed their canoe to pass through shallows which would ground the rest of us. They used that to decoy the following canoe (usually mine) on more than one occasion into taking the wrong channel, resulting in wet feet as we had to pull off the bars. I wonder now whether they started to take the lead when they discovered this trick, or was it just after we discovered the nude bathers?

You don't get to have these kinds of experiences by accident. Jimmy has learned the required skills, he has practiced them, and he has proven that he can be a good outdoors citizen. In other words, he has paid his dues, in leadership, example, and hard work. He also has shown that he is an all-round citizen. Anyone who thinks he is too busy to become an Eagle Scout need only look at Jimmy for inspiration, as he balances school, job, Scouts, music, swimming, and a social life. The rewards have come in the form of Scout expeditions to Maine and Philmont, band trips to New Orleans, Florida, and Canada, and (hopefully) an appointment to the Colorado Institute for Junior Birdmen (also known as the U.S. Air Force Academy). Seriously Jimmy, we'll be proud of you whatever you do.

Jimmy Newman, Eagle Scout -- The 1921 Handbook for Boys says, "Those who attain this honor, of necessity, should be real Scouts, representative Scouts - Scouts on the inside as well as on the outside." That was the theme of my last Eagle Scoutmaster's minute, a year ago. I still believe that each of you, inside, is a real Scout. The 1959 Boy Scout Handbook (the handbook I used as a boy) says, "The most important thing you have to do to reach the higher ranks in Scouting is to make up your mind to do it. It is always easy to drift along with the crowd and to say to yourself - I'll get ahead - one of these days. But that is not the way to make the most of your life - and certainly not the way to advance in Scouting."

At camp this summer, some of you will be able to work on Small Boat Sailing merit badge. If you do, you will learn that boats are able to sail in many different directions, even though the wind is constant from one direction. Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote this poem:

One ship drives East and another drives West

With the selfsame winds that blow.

'Tis the set of sails and not the gales

Which tells us the way to go.

Jimmy set his sails to become an Eagle Scout. You all have the same sails, the same basic good character. It's up to you whether you set your sails to crash on the rocks, or to reach your goals in life, or just pull them down and drift in the wind.



Read The Label

David Rosen Eagle Ceremony

5 April 1992

Mrs Phillips and I agreed that she would talk primarily about David, and I would talk about the rank of Eagle. But I can't pass by an opportunity to tell a story about David.

The Bucktails were hiking on the Big Blue Trail in West Virginia on a cold, wet November. As we made camp for the night near the top of the ridge the skies cleared, it got bitter cold, and a very strong wind blew up - perfect Bucktails weather! The menu of gourmet freeze-dried beef stroganoff had everyone looking forward to supper (NOT!). In fact, it was so cold that one cook team decided to defer their cleanup until morning, so they could get into their sleeping bags more quickly, so they set a bag of half-eaten food by the stove, and retired.

In the morning as the bag was picked up for proper disposal, a wet, cold, and well-sour-creamed mouse jumped out of the bag and ran into the woods. Careful examination found that three of his friends had fallen into the food and either froze to death or drowned (Some would say that it was the taste of the stroganoff that killed them).

Just as a proper burial was being arranged, our hero, the future Eagle Scout and eminent Biologist, emerged from his tent. Aghast at the potential waste of good research subjects, he cried, "Wait, I need those for my science project!". So the mice were packed away for travelling, inside two trash bags suspended on the end of a stick, hobo style. As the boys hiked along that morning, past puzzled tourists, dogs, and little children who had taken the easy way up to Big Schloss, they sang their new ditty:

Three dead mice,

Cold as ice,

They dozed off in the Stroganoff

Three dead mice.

Somehow David got the mouse-cicles home and into school without his mother or sister finding out what was in the bag. I don't know the end of this story, but I have it on good authority that the mice stayed in his locker at school for at least two weeks. Sometime later, they mysteriously disappeared.

By the way, there will be a reception after the ceremony, featuring our special recipe beef? stroganoff.

Smart shoppers read labels when then go to the store. Product labels on food tell what the ingredients are -- how many calories or fat or vitamins -- how to cook the food. Cars are labeled as to how much they cost, how many MPG they get, and what options are included. You can look for a Made in the USA label, or you can look for a particular brand name on the label, or you can buy the product because the label has a picture of your favorite sports star.

However you do it, you trust the label as a short of shorthand to tell you something about the quality of the product inside. But there are good labels, and labels that don't give you enough information, and labels that are misleading. We have laws to help make sure that labels on products accurately, completely, and fairly describe the product. But the true test of a label is whether, over the years, the product on the inside lives up to the expectations associated with the label.

This afternoon, David chose to accept a label which he will wear for the rest of his life. Whether he wears his Scout uniform with the red, white, and blue square knot, or the Eagle Scout lapel pin on a business suit, or just the awareness in his heart that he is an Eagle, he will be judged by the expectations associated with the label of Eagle Scout. At the same time, just as you might mistrust the Nike label if you bought a pair of shoes which fell apart after only one gym class, everyone will judge the value of the Eagle label by the strength of David's, and all other Eagle's, character.

Now, for you younger Scouts, what about your labels? Your uniform is a label which says, "The enclosed package lives up to the Scout oath and law - he is prepared". Do you comply with the Truth in Packaging Law?

David Rosen, Jimmy Newman, Dave May - they have earned the right to the label of Troop 93 Eagle Scouts, and have set a standard for all of you. The next choice is yours. Will you go through life as a generic brand, wishing you had made Eagle? Or will you start now to make yourself into the kind of quality product which deserves the very best Made in the USA label - EAGLE SCOUT?



Doing It The Hard Way

Eric Myers' Eagle Ceremony

4 October 1992

One of the privileges of being Scoutmaster is that I get the last chance to tell tales about Eric's career.

Two events stick out in my mind when I think of Eric as a Scout, and they demonstrate two of his particular passions --music and the theater.

Eric's musical talents were displayed in an unusual way on a Troop outing. He and Dane Skully came up directly from playing in the pep band at a football game, and had their instruments in the car. Before they went to bed on Saturday night, they asked if they could play reveille in the morning. I said OK, as long they were sure I was already awake before they started playing. Sure enough, at 6:30 the next morning we were all awakened to a duet of reveille -- played on the saxophone!

For his theatrical passion, let me set the stage. His audience consisted of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people enjoying a warm, sunny afternoon in February, on the deck of the ski lodge at Timberline ski resort. Most stages have a pit just below, where the orchestra sits. The pit in this case was a mud pit, many inches deep, yellow and slimy, which stretched from the railing of the deck to the snow at the edge of the bunny slope.

Enter our hero, stage left, enjoying his first day ever on skis. The stage direction called for him to glide gracefully down the slope, with puffs of snow being thrown up by his skis at every parallel Christie turn, and to come to a stop just in front of the most beautiful snow bunnies, with a technique (and a gleam in his eye) that would make Jean Claude Killy jealous. However, Eric's stunt double wasn't available, so he had to settle for his just learned snow plow turns. His skis came to a stop on the hard-packed snow just at the edge of the pit. Eric, however, slowly and gracefully toppled forward, until he was face-down, full length in the mud pit.

The plays of Shakespeare are often divided into comedies, histories, and tragedies. Now, this may seem like a comedy to you, but the tragedy is that Eric's father had just finished putting away his video camera.


If I showed you a large box full of bricks and asked you to move it across the room, I might get different reactions from different Scouts. Andrew or Sam might think it was fairly light, while Jordan or Chris Webb might describe it as heavy. The difference is not in the box, but in the Scout. You are not judging the box, but your reaction to the box. You are saying "I am not able to lift the box, so it must be heavy," or "I am not big enough to lift the box."

Eric looked this way at the task of making Eagle in the very short time available. He could easily have said that the task was too hard. Instead, he said "I am big enough for this task". He then set about finding a way to accomplish it.

His trick was this -- he didn't try to make Eagle all at once. He approached Eagle the same way that most of us would move the box of bricks -- one brick at a time. And he kept with it, until the job was done (although with not a day to spare).

In his book "Trailing the Eagle", Mr. Bill Young quotes a letter he received from a minister friend just after making Eagle:

Dear Bill,

I read with much pleasure the announcement in the church bulletin last Sunday that you have become an Eagle Scout. Fellow, my hat's off to you. Congratulations.

I was a Scout many years ago, but I didn't get past Star. I was doing fine until I got interested in girls. I stopped being a Boy Scout and became a Girl Scout. I still like girls (I married one), but I wish I had kept trailing the Eagle. Now it's too late. I'll never make it.

I'm glad you had the good sense to stay on the Eagle trail. This letter brings my best wishes to you for continued success in everything you do.

Best regards, Chuck

I could have written this letter, it describes my situation as a boy so accurately. As an adult Scouter, I have met and heard from a lot of former Scouts who made Eagle, and a great many more who didn't. I have never met anyone who made Eagle and regretted it. I have many times met people who almost made Eagle. Every one of them regrets not making Eagle.

You can decide now which category you will fit into. In doing that, don't look at the whole box of bricks and think that it is too heavy for you. Take it one brick at a time, and you will be surprised how easy and how much fun the task was.



The International Scout

Jordan Wong Eagle Ceremony

22 November 1992

First of all, Jordan, you know that Dave is at college in Massachusetts and couldn't make it down for your ceremony. But he did say he would try to eat another fish eye in your honor. Better him than me.

You've heard us talk about how Jordan had to challenge himself, and there's no doubt that he has met his share of obstacles. But there were some silver linings, too. After all, who could refuse a face like that! Like the first summer at camp after his fractured skull. Jordan had a rash of headaches and dizzy spells, each of which called for a visit to the camp infirmary. I wasn't too concerned, though. Especially after I visited him there, where he was having ice cream served in bed, and was being pampered by a 19-year-old blonde nursing student, making him the envy of every male in camp.

On a serious note, this afternoon, I need take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a friend. I only met him once, but he has had a great influence on my life. I don't think any of you have met him, and I doubt that many would even recognize his name, but he has had a lot to do with your lives since you joined Scouting, and I hope his influence will live on with you.

Mr. William Hillcourt died last week, at the age of 92. Many of us older Scouts knew him as Green Bar Bill, because he wrote a column each month for Boy's Life on the business of being a Patrol Leader. One of my prized possessions is an autographed copy of his last book. - the edition which was in use when Jordan became a Scout. In fact, I brought along several of his books, such as the 1959 edition, from when I was a Scout, the Scoutmasters Handbook, and the Boy Scout Field Book. He will be missed, but as long as Scouts camp and hike, tie knots and practice being prepared, provide service to others and challenge themselves to strive to Eagle, his legacy will survive.

Jordan may not know who Green Bar Bill was, but he knows the power of international Scouting. The summer that Jordan joined the troop, he went to China. When he came back, he told of carrying his Scout Handbook, the last written by Bill Hillcourt, everywhere and of talking with the youth of China about what Scouting meant to him and to them. He learned that Scouting had been outlawed there for 40 years, but that boys still held Scout meetings in secret, because they believed in the principals of the Scout Law and Oath.

I don't know exactly what it is about those twelve words of the Scout Law, and the oath to obey them, that makes them so universal. But I know that almost all Scout organizations around the word have similar words in their oaths and laws. And they don't just apply to Scouting. A psychologist recently wrote a best seller which talks about character. He defines it in terms of integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. Sounds a lot like the Scout Law, doesn't it. Come to think of it, it doesn't sound much different than a slightly older writing - the Ten Commandments.

But the Scout Law is even different than the Ten Commandments. Bill Hillcourt wrote that most laws start with a "do" or a "don't", or a "Thou shalt not", but the Scout Law is a statement of facts - "A Scout is Trustworthy" . ."A Scout is Helpful" .. "A Scout is Reverent". Notice that it doesn't describe what you do, or what you look like, but it describes what you are.

I think that is why the boys Jordan met in China held on to their Scouting, just as they did their religion. We have seen the same thing in Europe under the Nazis, and in Eastern Europe under Communist governments. Scouting never went away, it just went into hiding. A government can take away your property, your personal freedoms, even your life. But they cannot change what you are on the inside. They cannot change your character.

If you are truly a Scout, and I think you all are, you will be all of those twelve things - not perfectly, but deep inside you have the right stuff. Then, when you are faced with a challenge and have to make a tough decision, remember the words of the Psalm: Search your own heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life.

And remember that anyone can say the Scout Law - it takes a person of real character to live the Scout Law. Robert Baden-Powell was one, Bill Hillcourt was another. These Eagles who lined up in front of the stage, as well as the Troop 93 Eagles who couldn't get here today have accepted that challenge. And Eagle Scout Jordan Wong has already shown that he understands what Emerson meant when he said, "What you are shouts so loudly that I cannot hear what you say".

Will you join those boys in China in making the Scout Law one of the vital parts of your character which can never be taken away, and which you will never surrender?



Troop 93 Farewell

28 May 1993

Well ... the time has come. This is a very difficult talk to give, because this Troop has been so much a part of the life of the May family for so many years. While we are not leaving Scouting as a whole, we are leaving the part we love most.


For more than a year I've been trying to pretend that this day would not come. When we were organizing this Troop almost seven years ago, Mr. Rosen asked me how long I planned to stay in the Scoutmaster job. I gave him a vague answer, something like "As long as I can", but at the time I pictured myself as running the Troop for my grandsons. That may happen eventually, but there will have to be a break.


I would like to have waited until Sam made Eagle, or Sean, Keppy, Jonathan, Richard, or Joe. Or maybe until David made Eagle, or Chris, or Todd Keiser and Brian Westerman.


But I hadn't counted on three foot operations, a killer job two hours from home, and a doctor who finally laid my health priorities out in black and white. So, much as I want to complete that dream, it's more important to take time now to restore my health and my family's health.


I could spend this time focusing on the leaders who helped to inspire, conceive, and organize the Troop - Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. May, Mr. Rosen, Mrs. Skully, Reverend Mingus - and the others who joined us as we grew. Most have become close and, I hope, long lasting friends.


I need to thank the Church for the opportunity to lead this Troop, the leaders and parents for their support, and the boys for the motivation to run the Troop.


We've worked with about 75 boys over these six and a half years. Six made Eagle, with another five or six within striking distance. Others stayed for just a few months. But they all left images:

Of backpacks full of snow;

Of Phil Way's backpack full of six packs of root beer and cans of Pringles;

Of reveille by saxophone;

Of Nathan Helsabeck as a medieval serving wench;

Of Amazons on the Allagash;

Of a current Life Scout who spent his first summer at camp trying to find a way to kiss Theresa, the Trading Post Manager; and

The rhythmic tap of a souvenir baseball bat on the back of the driver's seat ... ALL THE WAY ACROSS KANSAS!

The boy's cooking, too, left images. There was Dave's Chicken Slop, Soup Kielbasa, British Blood Pie, Spambalaya, and a lot of variations on pancakes, including Scramble Cakes, Smurf Cakes, and Wimp Cakes.


Those were the good ones. There were also Bionic Pancakes from the first SPL's Challenge that were nearly indestructible, Dragon Snot Pie, "Special" Pirate Camporee Brownies, Pancake Syrup made with lemonade mix instead of sugar, any food from camp, Richmoor Blueberry Cobbler, and Richmoor Mexican Bean Tostadas (come to think of it, anything from Richmoor). And of course, David Rosen's Meat Lovers' Special Beef Stroganoff.


Finally, there are the images which make your eyes water just a little, when saying "I hate rabbits" doesn't seem to help:

Todd Locke's Tenderfoot;

Scoutmaster's Minutes at Eagle ceremonies, especially for your own son;

A boy who was dropping out of the Troop, but who came to a meeting just to thank the Troop for the experiences;

The peaceful sound of loons at sunrise on Round Pond in the North Maine Wilderness;

Watching a boy, about whom we had real concerns, mature before our eyes as he worked toward Eagle; and

The way the embers of a campfire shimmer as they die out, late on a cold, windy night after the boys are asleep.

I know that I'm leaving you in good hands. Mrs. Phillips was one of the founders of the Troop, its first Committee Chairman, and the driving force behind the outdoor program which has been a signature of the Troop. The ASM force is expanding after a couple of lean years of three or four people doing most of the outings, and the Troop Committee is stronger than it has ever been. So, we'll be around when we can, but I don't fear for the health of the Troop.


Jean, I want to leave you with some words which describe what I have tried to do with the Troop: They define ten needs of a boy

1. To climb a mountain and look afar.

2. To sit around an embered campfire with good friends.

3. To test his strength and skill on his own.

4. To be alone with his own thoughts and his God.

5. To be ready to reach out and find the hand of an understanding adult, ready and willing to help.

6. To have a code to live by .. easily understood and fair.

7. To have a chance to play hard, just for the fun of it .. and work hard, for the thrill of it.

8. To have a chance to fail .. and to know why.

9. To have and to be a good friend, and have a chance to prove both. and

10. To have a hero .. and a vision to measure him by.

There's a song that your grandparents probably remember: "I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places" - wherever Scouts are - at Camporees and Scout Shows, on the trail and in camp; wherever I see you, I'm sure I will be as proud of Troop 93, my Troop, in the future as I have been in the past.



Continuity Of The Eagle

Brian Buschman's Eagle Ceremony

January 1994

Definition of Eagle: (1) Large bird of prey with broad wings, long hooked beak; (2) Score of 2 under par on a golf hole.


I've been thinking for some time about why Eagle is such a prestigous award. There are many worthy organizations for youth, most of which have some "top" achievement. Why does Eagle stand out from the comparable Gold Badge of Girl Scouts, or the top accomplishments of 4-H or YMCA, or even of school or sports activities?


I think that a lot has to do with the continuity of the Eagle. The badge that we pinned on Brian this afternoon is basically the same as that awarded to Arthur Eldred in 1912. And, remarkably, the requirements were almost the same. In the early 1920s, the requirements were:


1. Maintain active service

2. Actually put into practice in his daily life the ideals and principals of the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Daily Good Turn

2. 21 merit badges, including: First Aid, Live Saving, Personal Health, Public Health, Cooking, Camping, Civics, Bird Study, Path finding, Pioneering, Athletics or Physical Development

3. Make an effort to develop and demonstrate leadership ability


There were some differences - the required merit badges included Cooking, Bird Study, and Pioneering. The optional list included Animal Husbandry (your goat keeping experience would have qualified), Automobiling, Hog and Pork Production, and Nut Culture (I think I had better leave that one alone). But these changes simply reflect the changes in our culture and our way of life - not changes in the importance of character, leadership, and initiative.


Of all the characteristics of an Eagle, it seems like initiative is one of the hardest to come by. It is possible, if you are active in the Troop, to wake up one morning and find that you have met all the requirements for Second Class. But not for Eagle.


Almost every Eagle I have interviewed has said that, at some point, he made a decision to become an Eagle. Notice that I didn't say that he just drifted into it, or that his parents, family, or friends made the decision. If you have not made the decision, it will not happen. For Brian, you heard that it happened while Jeff York was giving Dave May his Eagle Charge. Jordan said it happened seemingly on the day he joined the Troop. For Dave, it was at the Eagle Ceremony of Lee Howard of Troop 1097.


Once you decide to become an Eagle, the accomplishment becomes your responsibility. For many of you, the trail to Eagle will be one of your first lessons in the need to take personal responsibility for your own progress. There will be plenty of help available for the asking, but you must be the driving force. Otherwise you will not make the commitment, or order your priorities to accomplish this goal.


This is a sheep shank. It is a good knot for shortening rope without cutting it. It has a major drawback though - it only works on a taut rope - it doesn't work well when the pressure is off. Many of us are like that. We need to keep focused on our goals, keep the pressure on ourselves. Brian was like that. He didn't go through peaks and valleys - he just maintained an even strain and quietly went about meeting his goal.


If you don't test yourself like this, you could become a pigeon scout. You know what pigeons are like - in bad weather they huddle up under the eaves of buildings, safe dry and comfortable but never accomplishing anything. Or you can challenge yourself, exposing yourself to the elements but in the process learning to soar on Eagle's wings.




A Kick In The Scout Pants

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.



The Game Of Risks

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 serious.

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 knowing it.

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 part.

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 all along.



Preparing For History

Keppy Plitt Eagle Ceremony

8 January 1995

None of us stands alone. We each travel through life with a certain number of accessories. We all have families, friends, skills, personalities, and histories. When a boy joins a Scout Troop, he brings those accessories with him, and they almost always enrich the troop. With Keppy, that certainly was true, but we had no idea how much value we were getting. For not only did we get a future Eagle Scout, but we got a quartermaster and chief scrounge, a place to camp in West Virginia, and a mascot for the Wolverine Patrol. And Keppy provided us with a lot of new history.

Many of my fondest recollections of Keppy are related to our trip to Philmont in 1990. When Mrs. May and I were invited to attend the Philmont Training Center, we were allowed to bring our son and an additional boy, who would take the Mountain Man trek while we took classes down at the base camp. Since we planned to drive to New Mexico, we asked ourselves, was there a boy who would not present any behavior problems, who was a competent Scout, and, most of all, would be a pleasant and uncomplaining traveling companion for a three-week car trip? With no hesitation, we invited Keppy. Here are a few snapshots from that trip:

It was a fascinating trip, though, and we couldn't have chosen a better traveling companion. Thank you, Keppy.

A couple of other pieces of Keppy's history:

I do need to point out, though, that I have never known a boy who gives of himself as instinctively as Keppy does. Whether it is setting up a Halloween Haunted Forest for the neighborhood kids, giving hay rides at the annual picnic, or teaching a skill to a new boy, Keppy can always be counted upon to do the right thing, without fanfare. I was particularly gratified to see the way that Keppy befriended Todd Locke, and was able to work so patiently with him.

That is a glimpse into Keppy's history, as I have seen it so far.

Have you ever wondered what history will be written in your lifetime? Consider the history that has happened in the lifetimes of those of us here. The generation of Colonel Allen and Keppy's Grandfather was born in the Roaring Twenties, and grew up in the Great Depression. They fought World War Two and the Korean War, and helped put the world back together again afterwards. The generation of Mr. Swendiman and Keppy's father was born in the "baby boom" years after World War Two, and grew up in the beginnings of the Cold War. We fought in Vietnam, and fought about Vietnam, but won the Cold War, eventually. The generation of Dave May and Keppy, and of you boys, was born toward the end of the Cold War, and in the middle of the revolutions in computers, telecommunications, and medical technology.

When Colonel Allen was a Scout, could he have known that the entire world would be at war before he turned twenty five? When Mr. Swendiman was a Scout, could he have guessed that an Eagle Scout, Neil Armstrong, would walk on the moon before he turned twenty five? What history might happen in the five years before Dave May turns twenty five?

If, when you are Scout age, you cannot guess what history might hold for you, how can you prepare for it? How did Colonel Allen, or Neil Armstrong, or Gerald Ford, or Stephen Spielberg prepare for the history which they will live - the same way that Keppy has. The only way to prepare for a history which you cannot predict, is to make yourself the best possible person. When Lord Baden-Powell was asked , "Be Prepared - for what?", he answered, "Be Prepared for whatever may come". There is no better way to be prepared for uncertainty that to develop the confidence that your good character will sustain you. That is what Keppy, like all the Eagle Scouts before him, has learned.

You see, Scouting is not about knots, camping, hiking, and campfires. It is about Trust, Loyalty, Helpfulness, Friendship, Courtesy, Kindness, Obedience, Good Cheer, Thrift, Courage, Cleanliness, and Reverence. Those are the tools with which each of you will write history.

Your world will not be perfect, but you can make it a little more perfect. You can do that by doing your best to live the Scout Law, and to teach it to others.

And when history seems not be working out the way you had hoped, remember your Scouting days. Remember the glow of a campfire burning down to coals, and say the Scout Oath and Law in your mind. Let the campfire be a trigger, as Samuel Bogan wrote:

"For when the fire burns low

A man reveals his soul

And sometimes finds

Within the chemistry of thought

A perfect hour in an imperfect world."




Sean Logie Eagle Ceremony

9 July 1995

I'll just add one story about Sean. The scene was "Snow Wars" - a winter outing at Camp Potomac in western Maryland which featured patrol competitions. Mrs. Phillips had set up one of her famous (or infamous) compass/treasure hunt courses. It was such a good course that every team got lost, and we had to send search parties across the camp to lead boys back to the cabin.


Many boys ran all over the cold, snowy woods, looking for clues in all the wrong places, dragging sleds with all their gear through the snow. Sean and Mike tried to follow Richard, who always seems to know where he is going, until they realized that Richard was trying to follow the camp dog back to the cabin. Eventually, Sean and Mike decided that there were more important priorities than a few points in a patrol competition. The search party found them comfortably seated by the camp road in front of a nice, cozy fire, sipping on the cocoa they had made.



When I sit as chairman of Eagle Scout Boards of review, I often ask the boys who their Heroes are. I am often disappointed at how long it takes boys to come up with an answer, and at the number of boys who confess that they have no Heroes. I worry, as should all of you, about the prospect of a generation growing up without Heroes.


One of the reasons that so few boys recognize their Heroes is that we frequently confuse the concept of Hero with that of celebrity. Sports stars are often described as heroes. They may be skilled, brave, admired, emulated, and celebrated. But they are not, on that basis alone, Heroes. Nor are entertainers, or even politicians.


The term hero is probably most often applied to military people. But even there, it is mis-used. For instance, Captain Scott O'Grady has been called a hero, and he probably is in some definitions of the word. But not in the sense that I mean.


So, what do I mean by a Hero? One definition in Webster's Dictionary is: A man admired for his achievements and noble qualities and considered a model or ideal. That is fairly close to my concept of a Hero. Achievements ... and noble qualities ... and a model - all in the same person. Others may do heroic deeds, but they do not make my short list of personal Heroes without the underlying sense of honor which makes them truly admirable, instead of merely admired. To me, also, a Hero is one who has several choices available, yet chooses to do the right thing, regardless of its impact on him.


For example, most POWs in Vietnam persevered, communicated, tried to escape, and tried to resist. However a few, such as James Stockdale, chose to do much more. At great risk to themselves, they chose to be leaders. Admiral Stockdale risked his life to do what he knew was right - to provide leadership, moral support, and encouragement his fellow POWs. Admiral Stockdale is one of my Heroes.


Another is John Adams. Of course, you know John Adams as a leader in the American Revolution and the second President of the United States. But in 1770, he was asked to act as defense lawyer for the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre. He accepted because he knew that the principle a fair trial for all accused, even our enemies, was more important than his reputation among his fellow revolutionary patriots, or even his life, which was threatened on several occasions as a result.


Likewise, Joshua Chamberlain is probably best known for his key role in winning the Battle of Gettysburg. But he is one of my Heroes for his actions in April, 1865. As General Lee's Confederate army marched out of Appomattox Courthouse to surrender, General Chamberlain ordered a salute from his Union soldiers. That simple salute, for which Chamberlain was severely criticized at the time, showed the defeated Confederates that there was hope for returning to a normal life after the war, and did much to begin the healing of the United States after the Civil War.


Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson are certainly well known, as the sixteenth and seventeenth Presidents of the United States. Johnson is also known as the only President ever to be impeached, and it is that incident which puts both of them on my list. Had he not been assassinated, President Lincoln would have worked hard for a healing and unification of the country after the Civil War. To greatly condense a complex issue, the reason that Johnson was impeached was that he insisted on carrying out Lincoln's plans for humane treatment of the residents of the southern states. He chose to risk the Presidency, to risk becoming infamous in history, and to risk his very life, to do what he and Lincoln knew was right.

Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe are examples of sports figures who deserve to be Heroes -- not for their sports accomplishments but for their strength of character and personal honor.


Another problem with Heroes today is that we, as a people, expect our Heroes to be perfect. The press seems to love nothing more than to find a flaw in some potential Hero's armor. But Robert E Lee and former Secretary of the Navy James Webb are two men who have done or said things with which I do not agree, but their fundamental character and sense of honor sustain them on my Hero list.


Finally, I would have to include those 56 men who wrote "To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Those are the last words of the Declaration of Independence, signed 219 years ago this month. It was no accident, in my mind, that while they risked their lives and fortunes, they sealed the declaration with the most valuable commodity they possessed - their sacred honor.


These are some of my historical Heroes. I also have personal ones, who have directly impacted my life in some way. You may not know the names of Edith Lamb May, George Hardaker, Charles Perry, Captain Ed Bush, or Reverend John Mingus, but they and others have been important in showing me the path which I should take in life.


For that is the role of Heroes - to show or remind us, by example, of what we can and should be - to provide footprints to follow in our life journey.


But how do you find a Hero?


Start by looking around you. Look at those people who have shown you by their own example what it means to lead a life of character and honor, of duty and reverence. There are potential Heroes in the roll call of Eagles which started this ceremony, and there may be more in the closing roll call. There may be Heroes in this room, in your church, in your school, or in your families. There are certainly Heroes in history books, but you may have to read carefully and critically.


Or you may become a Hero yourself.


I chose this topic after seeing the movie "Apollo 13" last week. Did you hear Astronaut James Lovell's name in the roll call of Eagle Scouts at the beginning of this ceremony? He has not gotten as much publicity as other astronauts over the years. But his courage, leadership, and resourcefulness in Apollo 13, together with his strength of character which were demonstrated during and after that flight, qualify him as a true Hero.


As I left the rehearsal last night, I looked up and saw the moon just above the trees. I remembered that Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong left his footprints on that moon. Eagle Scout Jim Lovell missed his chance to leave a footprint on the moon. But he is leaving a much more lasting and important footprint - on the lives of those whose Hero he has become.


Whose footprints will you follow? And what footprints will you leave behind? Who are your Heroes? And whose Hero might you be?



Doing Your Best Is Not Good Enough

Richard Burrow Eagle Ceremony

27 October 1996

One of the first things I do when I'm preparing one of these minutes is to pull out some Scout Handbooks - my son's from 1990, mine (the 1959 edition), my father's (the 1936 edition), and his uncle's, from 1926. They give me some interesting insight and perspective to the subject at of my talk. Of course, there's also a personal emotional recharging that I get when I see the notes I made in this book 35 years ago. I can still taste the blueberry cobbler that I made to earn Cooking Merit Badge at Camp Chesterfield on July 10th, 1961.


But more importantly, it's also something of a ritual. It puts me back in touch with where this program has come from, and what our roots are. How many other youth programs can look back at over four generations of consistent standards of character, citizenship, and fitness? These books remind me, in spite of all the change we have seen in our lifetimes, that boys will still always grow up to be men, and that they will learn what is expected of a man by observing the men around them. They remind me that my primary responsibility is to show, by my own character, leadership, and behavior, what kind of man the world needs them to become.


Now, you guys down front here may be sitting back thinking, "Boy, I'm glad he's just talking to the adults, and not to us." I won't let you off that easy, since you, not Richard, are the reason we are all here today.


I heard a country song a couple of days ago which said "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything". Think about it.


There is no better overall creed to stand for than the Scout Oath. Not a single word of the Scout Oath has changed since 1910, yet it is as relevant in today's age of instant communications and space travel as it was when most of the country lived on farms, and communications to a boy meant sending Morse Code across a lake by wig-wag, not logging on to the Internet.


"On my honor I will do my best". Those words have been at the heart of the Scouting program for 86 years, and rightfully so. At Sean Logie's Eagle ceremony, I talked about what it meant to pledge your honor, but what about doing your best?


The 1948 Handbook says "His best is something that every boy can do." In the current book they remind you that sometimes others will accept less than your best, but you should never be satisfied with less.

Well, with the greatest respect to the late "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt who wrote most of these handbooks, and to Eagle Scout Robert Birkby who wrote the latest one, I'm here to tell you that having done your best is not enough. If you only do your best, you are looking back at the past, not ahead to the future. Doing your best means being satisfied with what you have done, and that is a waste of what you could be.


Think back to watching the Olympics this summer. How many times did you hear the announcers say that someone had done his or her "personal best"? Dan O'Brien did his best four years ago when he failed to make the Olympic team as a decathlete. Was he satisfied with his best? No - he defined a new best for himself. You never saw a pole vaulter ask for the bar to be lowered a bit because his best was not quite up to that height. How many weight lifters asked for just a little less weight?


In high school I had a track coach who used to make us race a mile, at what we thought was our best speed. As we kicked to the finish line, using all our energy reserves to do our best, he made us keep going for another 100 yards. We learned that we were poor judges of what our own "best" was - that our best was at least 100 yards further down the track than we thought. That's a lesson that Olympic-class athletes have learned long ago - that once you have done your best, you will discover another best just beyond the first one, and another just beyond that.


So it is not enough just to do your best. If you are to become everything you can be, you must always be looking beyond your best, to the next challenge. As a Tenderfoot, your best right now may be to look at Second or First Class, or maybe you are the kind of Tenderfoot who can look all the way to Eagle. One way to start that change in attitude is to not hang around with guys who think and act like you do now, but to hang around with those who think and act like the kind of person you wish you could become.


Athletes do not prepare for the Olympics by training with people they know they can beat - they practice against the best competition they can find - people who have been where they want to go. After all, you can't learn to fly with Eagles if you spend your time walking around on the ground with turkeys.

Richard is sitting here thinking, "Whew, adults and now the boys. There's probably not enough time left for him to get to me." Well, it's time to move forward in your seat a little.


You have probably figured out by now that, if my advice is taken, a lot of boys will be chasing your tailfeathers. What are you going to do about that? Just to maintain your altitude as an Eagle, you still have to flap your wings. Today you have shown that you have done your best, and are way ahead of the flock. But if you accept this as your best, they will catch you and you'll become just another one of the crowd. You learned at Philmont that cresting one ridge often revealed another, higher one behind it. You also learned to take one step at a time, but not losing sight of the goal. If the crowd starts to gain on you, you need to find that next "best" to reach for, so you continue to soar above the flock, as you are now.

Of course, none of us has to soar above the rest of the flock. We could accept just our best. But consider what your life will be like beneath all those birds.


I have always tried to challenge myself as a leader to reach a little beyond my grasp to find a way to improve myself. Not only is our "best" something that each of us can accomplish, it is the minimum each of us should accept. Your best may not include Eagle, or it may go well beyond Eagle. If you stay with the turkeys, you may become convinced that birds were never meant to fly. But if you surround yourself with people who are not content just to do their best, you will be amazed how it energizes you and how much better your own "personal best" will become; and how high you can fly.




The Fire Builder

Chuck May Eagle Challenge

Joe Danka Eagle Ceremony

21 December 1996

Joe, I am greatly honored that you asked me to challenge you one more time on the occasion of your becoming an Eagle Scout. I think that one of the most important things we can do as leaders is to challenge boys, and that is what I have tried to do throughout my association with you.


Every Troop, it seems, has a fire builder. This is a person whose first thought in the morning, or on making camp, is to build a fire. He is the boy who kindles a fire almost intuitively in any weather condition. It's a skill, or an instinct, which is almost independent of rank or experience. Joe has always been one of the Troop's fire builders. I know that there are some in the Troop now, and at least one waiting to be old enough to join the Troop.


When you light a fire with flint and steel, you start with the tiniest, most delicate spark. If you don't do anything after you strike the spark, it will quickly die out. You have to blow on it, very gently at first, until it glows and the heat begins to transfer to the surrounding tinder. If you are skillful and attentive and have worked patiently on the spark, it will burst into flame. That flame can then be used to provide warmth, protection, and light, not to mention being an essential ingredient in a hot peach cobbler.


Most worthwhile human endeavors are like that - friendship, scholarship, citizenship, even marriage and parenthood. They start with a spark, but require careful and attentive nurturing before they will burst into flame and sustain themselves.


Now, Joe, have you ever noticed on a cold morning at a campout that everyone is huddled around the fire, but there are usually only one or two boys actively working to keep the fire going? Citizenship is very much like that. Everyone enjoys the benefits - the warmth and heat of the fire - even those who are not helping feed the fire. But you also know as a fire builder that if everyone stands around keeping warm, and no one leaves the fire to get more wood, the fire will die out and everyone will be cold.


My challenge to you, Joe, is to continue to be a fire builder. Nurture the sparks of character, citizenship and leadership wherever you find them. Use your leadership to ensure that we are a nation by the people, not just of and for the people. The survival of our society and our way of life requires an active citizenship, not people standing around the fire with their hands outstretched.


I hope that you will accept the challenge, and apply it in your private life as well as in Scouting. You won't find many greater satisfactions than in helping a spark of character in a young boy kindle into the bright, glowing flame of manhood.



Chuck May, 1996 -


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Last updated 25 April 1998


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