Archive for the 'Sound Off' Category

Nothing More American Than Scouting?

July 4, 2013
Three early 20th century leaders of the Scouti...

Three early 20th century leaders of the Scouting movement (l-to-r): Ernest Thompson Seton, Robert Baden-Powell, and Dan Beard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elsewhere on social media, an innocent Independence Day missive provoked a flurry of comments:

“There’s nothing more all-American than Scouting! So it’s a great day to thank you for supporting BSA… Happy 4th of July!”

To which the most relevant responder pointed out that Scouting was in fact founded by an Englishman, and that Independence Day celebrates our (US) separation from the Brits.  Others (sarcastically or not) accused the Boy Scouts of America organization of either continued prejudice or abandonment of first principles, etc and so on.  You can guess where I stand on principles, but I’ve often wondered about America’s love-hate relationship with our Colonial overlords back in the United Kingdom.  America was first settled by people of British origin (setting aside the Native Americans who had migrated to the continent a millennium or more before).  To rebel against Britain was in many ways to rebel against our own family.  Yet there it was, in the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

I will let historians debate our shared Special Relationship.  Here I am interested in Scouting, as a movement not a bureaucracy.

Robert Baden-Powell, the Englishman did, of course, found the game of Scouting based on his military experience in Africa and India.  He also had a lot of help.

We all know the story of the Unknown Scout who helped Chicago publisher William D. Boyce through the London fog, and to a lesser extent James West who took the helm of the new Boy Scouts of America a century ago.  But sometimes we forget Boyce & West didn’t just import a British idea—they brought a Scouting idea home that had many fathers.

Ernest Thompson Seton was the first Chief Scout in the BSA, and is fairly well known as a founder of Scouting in America.  He is in the new Handbook, page 60 in fact.  An Englishman of Scottish descent, he emigrated to Canada with his family when he was a small boy.  Later settling in the New York area, Seton founded Woodcraft Indians in 1902 to give local hoodlums something to do.  It is well known that B-P was influenced by The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians, which Seton published in 1906, and the Woodcraft Indians merged into the BSA when that organization was founded in 1910.

“Uncle Dan” Beard is also on page 60, fairly well known as an American founder of Scouting, at least as far as Scouting Heritage is followed these days.  Daniel Carter Beard was an engineer and surveyor, and a friend of Ernest Thompson Seton.  In 1882, he published the American Boy’s Handy Book, filled with illustrations and practical stuff for American Boys to do.  In 1905, he founded the Sons of Daniel Boon, (aka Boy Pioneers) in celebration of American Frontiersmen such as their illustrious namesake, Kit Carson, Davey Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, James Audubon, and George Catlin.  Beard became National Commissioner in the new BSA, and helped found Campfire Girls as an outdoor-oriented sister organization to the BSA.

Less well known in the US are others who contributed to B-P’s Scouting Movement.  Minnesotan Frederick Russell Burnham, for example, grew up among the Sioux Indians and was an Old West scout in the Apache Wars.  He went on to serve in the British Army in Africa, where he taught woodcraft to Baden-Powell.  You can blame Burnham for B-P adapting the American cowboy’s bandana as the Scout Neckerchief.

Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a Dakota Sioux, was also from Minnesota and graduated from Dartmouth College and Boston University.  He wrote about growing up in an Indian tribe on the changing frontier, including Indian Scout Craft and Lore.  He worked with Seton to implement programs through the YMCA and other groups, then in establishing the BSA.  It was one thing for East Coast anglo-americans to tout Indian skills, but Eastman lived them and was proud of his Native American heritage.

These are just a few of the Americans who influenced Baden-Powell in establishing the Scouting movement, and who later implemented B-P’s ideas in the USA.  There may, in fact, be nothing more American than Scouting.  In many ways, in reaching out in partnership between the old family in England and the the new family here in the United States to bring to life the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, Scouting as a movement is more American than America herself.

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Morally Straight… No More.

May 23, 2013
"Boy Scouts of America" march (sheet...

“Boy Scouts of America” march (sheet music) Page 1 of 6 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is a sad day in the history of Scouting.  Please indulge me one last time… for now.  I expect if you’re involved, or even interested, in Scouting you’ve heard the results of the BSA’s change in membership policy.  You may agree, or not, and I do not.  But at the end of the day, many—hopefully most–of us will cowboy up and muddle along.

I am disappointed that our organization that bills itself as having “timeless values” folded so easily to outside pressure.  And Yes, I do see this as an assault from outside Progressives bent on tearing down any institution of traditional values.  This is not the end.  They smell blood in the water and will circle the BSA like sharks.  The attacks on adult membership standards continues, and they will double down on atheism.  Moral relativism is alive and well as men of principle shirk their duty.

As a practical matter, this issue remains one more element of Character.  While the statement reaffirms that “sexual conduct” is contrary to the virtues of Scouting, have we ever withheld rank from a boy who was sexually active?  Have we withheld leadership from adults known to engage in extra-marital affairs?  Should we?  How about youth caught drinking?  Drinking and driving?  Bullying?

We say one thing, we do another, and society in general convicts us of moral hypocrisy.

And today they are right.

The Boy Scouts of America Statement (23 May 2013):

“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.

“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.

“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”

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Myself, I am troubled by the change, and how it was accomplished.  I’m not interested in telling other people how to live their lives, but there are many different things I can do with my time… things which align with traditional values.  I think after Summer Camp, I may take a break from the BSA and re-visit those values.

Yours in Scouting,

John S.

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You Can Never Be Prepared For Some Things

April 30, 2013

English: A stop sign in , Canada.

I witnessed an auto accident last week.  Guy pulled out from a stop sign and t-boned a car right in front of me. Scarred the heck out of me.

My Scout sense did kick right in.  I stopped safely, checked the scene, then called 911.  Fortunately nobody was hurt seriously, just banged up.  Both cars were totaled.

I was thankful then that years of Scout training didn’t fail me then.  But there are some things we can’t always be prepared for.  My friend was in the car in front of me that was wrecked–I wasn’t a cool, collected first responder; I was mad as hell and fighting not to make a bad situation worse.  Then when I calmed down, I really wondered how well prepared I would have been to provide first aid if someone had been bleeding. When was the last time I checked my first aid kit in the truck?

As Scouts we strive to do our best, but there’s just some things you’re never sure how well prepared you will be.

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Scouting isn’t for Everybody

March 2, 2013

Two Scouting uniforms from 1917-1918

Please indulge me in one more Sound Off post, and I’ll get back to more fun & interesting fare…

Scoutmaster Jerry posted a provocative piece this week on his blog.  In part, he says:

I submit for the sake of discussion that maybe Scouting is not for every boy.  It may be that what Scouting offers is not what they want or need.  It may be that the boy is not ready for the adventures that Scouting offer and well-intentioned parents do not really understand what Scouting is all about.  It is also true that many Scout leaders do not know what Scouting is all about and therefore have promoted a program that misses the mark when it comes to achieving Scouting’s aims.  This has led to young boys joining troops that quickly disappoint or fail to deliver on the expectations they and their parents had on the join night.

As I’ve tried to note previously, any values-based organization is, inherently, “not for everybody”.  And that is OK.  There are, as Jerry notes in his blog, plenty of after-school programs that provide entertainment & exercise.  BSA doesn’t stand for “Baby Sitters of America”!  Jerry continues:

Not everyone wants what Scouting offers.  Numbers, while they drive much of what the professional Scouters track are not the program.  A great program that stays the course will bring in the numbers of boys that seek adventure, values, and ideals that are the hallmark of the Scouting program.  Numbers for the sake of numbers will be just that and we see this play out each year with amount of boys that leave our units.  They don’t want to play the game with a purpose and we should not make them.

We can not be all things to all people without sacrificing our core values.

Now I don’t want to misrepresent Scoutmaster Jerry’s views on membership.  I know from Twitter that he favors changing the membership policy, along with a few other Scouters whom I respect yet respectfully disagree.  I believe the BSA’s membership policy is all about character and how people choose to live their lives.

The BSA is an organization for people who choose to live their lives with character.

That is the larger question far beyond the immediate issue of membership standards.  That is the larger question that inspires the passion of people on both sides of the immediate issue.  That is the much more difficult question of maintaining BSA’s core values in a world of situational ethics and moral relativism that doesn’t much care for values any more.

 

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To Sacrifice our Principles for Popularity

February 26, 2013

I am glad to see the BSA Home Office finally getting their PR straightened out on this membership mess.

Scouting Magazine‘s Bryan on Scouting blog today published a well-written defense of the national Key 3’s fiasco.  No matter how you feel about the content, at least they’re communicating.

I do disagree with the premise that this is a “family discussion”.  Call it what it is—outside agitators for political correctness.  The “family” settled this matter last year when National Council recommitted to existing membership standards.

Why would our leaders reopen this wound?  I believe this quote from National Commissioner Tico Perez is insightful:

The Key 3 has “one singular purpose in mind: to grow Scouting,” Perez explained. “To take Scouting to as many boys and girls as we can in America…

It’s all about the numbers.  That is the root threat to our organization, much much more important than this smokescreen of membership.

We all know Packs and Troops that look great on paper.  They recharter dozens and dozens of Scouts and Scouters.  They have fun at their meetings, but they don’t ask much of anybody.  Its not too hard to earn ranks, but not too many boys learn very much.  They are popular, but they don’t accomplish much.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t have fun, but at some point we’re compromising the quality of the program in the quest for numbers.

Growth for the sake of growth is no solution for Scouting.  We can not sacrifice our principles for popularity.

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Physically Strong, Mentally Awake, Morally Straight

February 24, 2013

On my honor I will do my best…
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

The BSA National Executive Board has re-opened the can of worms that is our national membership standards.  What a PR disaster.  The atheists and moral relativists of the left haven’t been able to destroy Scouting from the outside, so now they’re trying it from the inside.

What is the BSA’s current membership policy?

“The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.”

“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

The argument seems to be that sexual orientation is wholly genetic.  The science is far from certain, but for argument’s sake accept the gambit.  We shouldn’t discriminate against people solely on the basis of their draw from the gene pool, should we?

The problem is, we are all dealt a random sample of genetics, but how we act on those genetics defines our character.  Some of us are overweight and some of us can’t swim.  Some of us are slow learners and some of us would just rather not.  Some of us are morally challenged.

  • The Scout Oath promises that a Scout will be “physically strong”.  Physical strength is based on genetics, modified by the personal character to exercise.  Scouts must pass physical fitness requirements (including passing the swim test) for First Class Rank, Physical Fitness & Swimming-Biking-Hiking merit badges for Eagle.  Scouters must pass the swim test to go on the water, and meet stringent height-weight standards to participate in backcountry adventures.  Yet we don’t hear the peanut gallery screaming about how we discriminate against Fat People.
  • The Scout Oath promises that a Scout will be “mentally awake”.  Intelligence is based on genetics, modified by the personal character to study and apply oneself.  I’ve met many Scouts, and more Scouters, who are on mental nap-time.  Yet we don’t hear the peanut gallery yelling about how we need to dumb down our program in the interest of self esteem (although I expect they are out there).
  • The Scout Oath promises that a Scout will be “morally straight”.  Perhaps that is based on genetics, but it is also modified by personal character in which we choose how we apply ourselves.

As a practical matter, however the mucky-mucks at BSA HQ work this out—if they stand strong or cave into outside interests—I don’t expect it will make much difference to the local unit.  We’ll deal with it.

However, the entire episode tarnishes us.  As Scouts, we’re supposed to be braver, smarter, better than average.  We are no better than average when we bend our standards to be more popular with the “in crowd”.

If anyone would like to voice their opinion directly to National please forward to feedback@scouting.org

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Remarks for Memorial Day

July 4, 2012

Remarks for Slayton, Minnesota, Memorial Day Service

-John C. Shepard

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words in the Autumn of 1863, on the battlefield of Gettysburg. You can go there now, like my family did last year, to the new Visitor’s Center between Cemetery Ridge and the Baltimore Pike. It is a great improvement on the old cramped quarters my father took me to when I was young. Yet even with all the latest and greatest presentation technology, for me it is still impossible to fully conceptualize the idea of 165,000 men fighting at this one place and time.

Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day, when the graves of fallen soldiers were decorated and memorialized. Over 46,000 men died over the course of three days on the battlefield of Gettysburg. I stood with my sons at the Monument to the 1st Minnesota Infantry, on Cemetery Ridge. On July 2nd, 1863, 83% of the 1st Minnesota became casualties, the largest loss by any surviving military unit in American history, during the single bloodiest battle in American history. We gazed out across the Emmitsburg Road and imagined the sight the next day, July 3rd, of Pickett’s Charge across the mile-wide valley. I wondered if I would have had the nerve of the decimated Minnesota volunteers who stood their ground when duty called.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

The following year, on the 3rd of October 1864, my fore-father Orrin Brown enlisted as a Private in Company E, 14th Michigan Infantry. At the age of 27, he left his family and farm to march with Sherman through Georgia. While he survived, his health and his family paid a price he spent the rest of his life repaying. While our nation survived, we continue to pay the price of liberty.

I claim no part of the honor of the Veteran. That is yours alone. My father’s Uncle Carl answered the call of duty in the 1930s, leaving his Michigan dairy farm for the U.S. Navy. When war came with Germany and Japan, he re-enlisted and spent the war in the Pacific. He settled in California, so growing up I didn’t see him very often, but I’ve always known him as a man for whom the impossible is probable. Uncle Carl is a man who built a concrete sailboat—if you can float concrete, you can do just about anything. His determination inspires me; when I feel things are difficult, I know it will never be as difficult as what he—a Veteran—has faced and overcome.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

I do stand here in the uniform of the Boy Scouts of America. Scouting was founded by a veteran, Robert Baden-Powell. As a British military officer in India and Africa, Baden-Powell observed his troops and developed ideas he eventually recorded in a training manual, which became popular among English school-boys. Refined for youth, Scouting for Boys was published in 1908, not as a guide for war but as a call for honor.

I struggle to talk about honor with my Scouts. At best, honor is what you do when nobody is looking. Baden-Powell noted that men who are prepared to think and do for themselves are better able to help their unit achieve its goals. Each Scout strives to live up to the Scout Oath—On My Honor, I will Do My Best, To Do My Duty—dedicated to individual excellence in the unfinished work of God and Country. We find the best in ourselves when we give our best for a cause greater than ourselves, as the Veteran has done.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

No nation goes to war lightly, no less a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people.” In the last decade, many young men and women have joined the ranks of the Veterans among us and those whose graves we now decorate on Memorial Day. These are your brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. They include fathers of my Scouts; and my cousin Victor, who volunteered for the Army last year.

At times it feels beyond our resolve that these men shall not have fought in vain. Yet I refuse to lose faith. I remember the men who fought and died at Gettysburg. I look out today on the Greatest Generation who stood up for freedom in Germany and Japan. I take pride in those who stood up against Communism in Korea and Vietnam; and those who stand up for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I find myself rededicated to their unfinished work at home.

The new birth of freedom Lincoln spoke of so long ago, happens every day.  It happens each morning when we wake up and decide to do what is right rather than what is simply easy.  It happened this morning when you decided to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers and memorialize the Veterans contributing to our community every day. It will happen tomorrow when our children go to school and we go about our work. It will happen every day we participate in this grand experiment of liberty and democracy called the United States of America.

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Cross-posted from JCShepard.com.  Troop 25 participates in the local Memorial Day observance each year, presenting the memorial wreath.  I was asked to give the keynote address this year.  I debated making the speech in uniform—I don’t march with the Scouts, that’s a boy-led activity, but I usually wear my Class A in support.  I decided to wear the BSA uniform as usual and incorporate a Scouting theme for the event.  I believe it went well.

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Boy Scouts Didn’t Hand Out Badges for Trying

August 12, 2011

It may be one of the worst kept secrets in modern politics, but before Texas Gov. Rick Perry throws his hat in the Presidential ring and this topic gets all political on us, I wanted to say a few words about a book he wrote.

In 2008, Perry published a semi-autobiographical commentary titled On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting for.  I bought this book as soon as it came out and read it, then read it again…. and held onto it trying to decide how to say what I’m going to say without getting all political on my Scouting blog.  Three years later current events force my hand.  So here goes…

On My Honor is the sort of book I would want to write, should I happen to become successful in public service.  First off, this book is not fine literature.  I’m sure you can pick it apart, and plenty of critics will.  Second, this book is nonpartisan, but not a-political.  In fact, all profits were dedicated to the Boy Scouts of America Legal Defense Fund.  The twelve chapters, like the 12 points of the Scout Law, lay out a lifetime, warts and all.

The book opens with personal recollections of Perry’s time growing up in rural West Texas in Troop 48, and the influence of his Scoutmaster, being elected to the Order of the Arrow and serving as Scribe for the 1964 National Jamboree at Valley Forge, and on earning the rank of Eagle Scout.  “I can’t say that Scouting planted the idea of public service in my head, but I can say it prepared me for it,” he writes.  The rest, as they say, is history:  Perry moved from the Texas legislature as a Blue Dog Democrat to State Commissioner of Agriculture as a Republican, then Liet. Governor and Governor when G.W. Bush was elected president.

As he explains the values of Scouting to a general audience, Perry also takes on all comers in the “War on the Scouts”, which he links to the larger “culture war” pitting traditional values of service against new doctrines of selfishness and moral relativity.  He takes on feel-good sports leagues and parents looking for Baby-Sitters of America; the 30 lawsuits in 30 years against the BSA’s membership standards; the ACLU and Mitt Romney‘s exclusion of Scout volunteers from the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City (that should make for an interesting campaign debate).

It would be easy to think this book is a partisan hack—it prominently features blurbs from David Keene, Sean Hannity, Ken Blackwell, and Newt Gingrich (again with the campaign debates and they shared a book last year).  Yet Rick Perry, like Ronald Reagan, grew up a Democrat.  He talked to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and FBI Director William Sessions, Ohio State University president Gordon Gee and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Michael Dukakis.  He talked to J.W. Marriott Jr, CEO of the largest hotel chain in the world, and he talked to his old friend Riley Couch, who remenised, “We completed things, and we received merit badges that proved it.”  As Perry notes:

The Boy Scouts didn’t hand out badges for trying.  They handed out badges for getting the job done.

That’s the thing I see in this book.  Yes, I get excited about defending the BSA, but the thing of this book is that it defends the Values of Scouting.  Its not about defending institutions, although it does that.  On My Honor is about defending the values that make America great.  I can get excited about that.

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A Scouting Movement, not a Program

February 21, 2011

Is the culture of expertise killing the Scouting Spirit?

We are in our 1st year after the 100th anniversary of the founding of Scouting in America.  The Centennial celebration of the BSA is over, and we can consider the lessons learned from the last century to continue into the next.

As a Scout, I was blissfully unaware of the inner workings of the Scouting program.  I can’t say that my troop was or wasn’t pointed toward the “True North” of Scouting as a boy-led troop.  We got along, we had fun, I made Eagle as did many of my friends.  My Scoutmasters gave much so us Scouts could do what we did.

They did something right, as I came back to Scouting as an adult.  In packs and troops and crews in different Councils along my journey, I realized how different Scouting is from other youth activities.  Scouting has a few paid staff in Council offices, but the program runs on volunteers.  Volunteers who it seems are increasingly difficult to recruit and retain.  And I blame the Soccer Moms.

Many of us in Generation X were brought up believing that if Mom (and Dad) really cared they would get us “professional help”.  Paid day care providers knew better how to raise us and professional teachers knew better than mom and dad how to educate us.  Only losers settled for mom or dad volunteering as coach.  They hired the soccer coach when they really cared.  Plus, it gets mom and dad off the hook for spending time with their kids—just let the experts deal with it.

Scouting isn’t immune to the culture of expertise.  In the early days, the experts were men like Ernest Thompson Seton, and even Lord Baden-Powell himself, but Scouting was a Movement, not a program.  Before BP issued his handbook, boys across the English-speaking world had picked up on Scouting all on their own.  Then volunteer Commissioners picked up the gauntlet.  Then, over time, we have come to rely more and more on professionals and experts.  The Movement gives way to policy and procedure and program.  Edicts come down from Dallas and the rest of us are expected to comply.

Excuse me if I sound less than inspired by the bureaucracy.

I believe the Scouting Movement is the most powerful enabler of change available to young people today.  Where else can a young man or a young woman go and run the program themselves? Where can they go to practice everything they need to know to be a success later in life?  Not on the basketball court where the coach anoints his favorites and yells at the rest.  Not in the classroom where the teachers teach to a test rather than to real life.  Who wants to be that?

Who wants to go to “Scout School”?

Perhaps it is time for us to listen to Prof. Hertz from BP’s homeland (though I have no idea of her opinion of Scouting, as a liberal European I doubt she’s on our side; no matter).  Perhaps it is time to rely less on the Scout Executives and more on the Patrol Leaders Councils.  Now, the Scout Law says specifically that a Scout seeks orderly change, not disobedience, but it may just be time to seek that orderly change by doing what’s right instead of what’s right now.

  • It may be time to worry less about the meaning of the term “active”, and more about how we help Scouts do stuff they want to be active in.
  • It may be time to spend less time recruiting “Friends of Scouting”, and more time recruiting Friends into Scouting.
  • It may be time to do less “training”, and do more learning.
  • It may be time to set aside the prescribed Scouting Program, and take up again a Scouting Movement.

I’ll get right on that, right after the next Committee meeting…

-johnS

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Come Visit My Grave

May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008

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Come Visit My Grave ©

Written By James D. Rolfes
I am a Veteran under the sod.
I’m in good company, I’m up here with God.
Come to my grave and visit me.
I gave my life so you could be free.
Today is Memorial Day throughout this great land.
There’s Avenues of Flags, Parades and Bands.
I can hear music, the firing squads and taps.
Here come my comrades, the Legionnaires, the Blue caps.
One of them just put a flag on my stone.
Some day he’ll have one of his own.
Some think of this day as just a day free of toil.
While others are busy working the soil.
They say they have plans, other things to do.
Don’t put us aside as you would an old shoe.
Come visit my grave in this cemetery so clean.
This is what Memorial Day means.
There are many of us lying in wake less sleep.
In cemeteries of green and oceans of deep.
It’s sad that for many who fought so brave.
No one comes to visit their grave.
They died so you could have one whole year free.
Now can’t you save this one Day for me?
There are soldiers, sailors, airmen up here.
Who went into battle despite of their fear.
I’ve been talking up here to all of those men.
If they had to do it over, they’d do it again.
Look, someone is coming to visit my grave.
It’s my Family, for them my life I gave.
My wife, I remember our last embrace.
As I left the tears streamed down your face.
I think you knew the day I was shipped out.
I wouldn’t return, your life would be turned about.
There’s my daughter that I used to hold.
Can it be that you’re nearly twenty years old?
Next month is to be your wedding day.
I wish I could be there to give you away.
My son’s here too, Dad’s little man.
Always love your Country, do for it what you can.
There is one thing that really did bother.
Is seeing you grow up without the aid of your Father.
I wish you could all hear me from up above.
That’s a father’s best gift to his children is love.
And what better way to prove my love to the end.
Is that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I see it’s time for you to go home.
Your visit made it easier to remain here alone.
Don’t cry honey, you look too sad.
Our children are free, you should be so glad.
Daughter, thanks for the bouquet so cute.
Thank you son for that sharp salute.
Come again, I forgot, you can’t hear me from up here.
But I know you’ll come visit me again next year.
I hope all veterans are treated this way.
On this day to remember, Memorial Day.

Troop 25 participates in the annual Memorial Day service at the local high school gym.  After the veterans have decorated the graves and returned to town, our Scouts present a wreath of remembrance, while the Girl Scouts lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The gym is set up for graduation the day before and the Memorial crowd is dwarfed in the large room.  I was honored to be asked to read this poem this year.  As is said, too many have plans, other things to do.  It seems like each year there are fewer veterans and their families gathered there.  I googled the text on a website gone 404 now, but did find this from Iowa nearby:

“As the roster was read this morning, there was a lot of friends on there,” says Jim Rolfes, American Legion 9th District Commander, who served in Vietnam.

“I think you knew the day I shipped out, that I wouldn’t return. Your life be turned about,” reads Rolfes, from his poem Come Visit My Grave

“Someday my name’s going to be on that list so I suppose it’s getting a little harder,” says Rolfes.

You can see this bit of the author of the poem on camera here.

The Google cache said it was OK to use.  I hope it still is.

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