Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Each of Us a Corp of Discovery

August 30, 2013

Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Back to school time is a good time to remember Scouting is NOT Scout School.

Scouting is boy-run, bottoms-up.  School is adult-run, top-down.

Scouting is a game for learning.  School is learning, so we can play games.

Scouting is a gang of eight (the patrol), all for one and one for all. School is all about individual achievement, as a cog in too-often a nameless bureaucracy.

Scouting is not competition for school or sports, but a compliment. We do well what they do not. Successful teams, like Lewis & Clark’s Corp of Discovery, follow universal truths with a strong dose of adaptation–to team members’ strengths and weaknesses, and to their changing environment. And each Troop does this not because we have to, but because we WANT to…go higher, last longer, be better citizens and men.

Yours in Scouting.


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.


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.


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.



SM Minute—Bull’s Eye

September 23, 2012


Scoutmaster Minute—Bull’s Eye

Many years ago a young man traveling through the countryside noticed that on many of the barns was a large bull’s-eye painted on it with an arrow squarely in the center of the target. He thought he would like to meet the great archer, and asked around until he found out the name of the man, who lived in a nearby village.

He introduced himself, and asked the archer for a demonstration of his great skills. “Sure,” said the archer, and they walked to the outskirts of town to a barn. He carried his bow and a quiver of arrows and several buckets of paint and some brushes. He selected a barn site, and carefully took aim at the barn, and hit it squarely in the middle. Then he walked up to the arrow, and carefully painted the bull’s-eye around the arrow.

He then proudly stood back and admired his work.

The moral of the story is to not be misled by things as they sometimes appear. Often, things are not as they seem.


(from Troop Program Resources, pp.19-20)


Erickson earns Eagle Scout Recognition

September 7, 2012

Local coverage by Rebecca Hudson, courtesy of the Murray County News

Three is a charmed number in many ways. For Ryan Erickson and his family, it represents the ultimate achievement to be had in the Boy Scouts of America: the rank of Eagle Scout. Ryan, along with his two older brothers Jake and Ben, has reached that goal and was officially recognized at a ceremony held Sunday afternoon.

A member of the scouting organization since he was 12 years old, Ryan says that he has worked his way through the various ranks on the way to the top achievement. “It was a lot of work,” he admits. As he worked his way through the requirements, Ryan says he got bogged down for two years working on the life skills badges.

“And I didn’t feel determined to get it [Eagle Scout rank].” But as he progressed and got older, he found scouting to be very rewarding. “I liked it a lot then I was 15 or 16 years old because it was more enjoyable,” he explains. “It’s been a lot of fun doing activities and learning a lot of stuff,” he adds.

Earning the coveted Eagle Scout award is no easy task. Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges and demonstrate Scout spirit through service and leadership. Planning, organization and management of an extensive service project is the final leg of the journey.

For his project, Ryan singled out a much needed landscaping renovation at the Shetek Lutheran Bible Camp. The perimeter of the main camp building had been overgrown with plants and weeds and posed a definite challenge for him. Undaunted, he went to work at creating a new design to replace the aging rocks and plants that had been there.

Last October Ryan, along with a select group of helpers, moved in bricks and plants and other materials necessary to transform the overgrown landscaping near the camp building into a tastefully updated makeover. In all, Ryan’s project entailed 137 hours of labor. VIP Floral donated all of the plants while the camp paid for the rest of the materials.

Though Ryan’s project work date had to be delayed a week because of some personal health issues, Ryan says that it ended up going much better than he had originally planned. “I got many compliments from people who have seen it and think the job was well done,” he says.

Ryan is now headed off to college at St. Cloud State University to pursue a computer science degree. But he will remain a lifelong Boy Scout, joining the ranks of nine local scouts who have preceding him in achieving the Eagle Scout rank.

Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men. The title of Eagle Scout is held for life, thus giving rise to the phrase “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”

The Eagle Scout Service Project is the opportunity for a Scout to demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project for the benefit of any religious institution, any school, or his community. The National Eagle Scout Association researched the total volunteer hours of the Eagle service projects ever done and it came a total of more than 100 million hours of service. Each year, new Eagle Scouts are adding more than three million more hours.

Ryan and his brother Jake both did their projects at a local bible camp, near our district Scout Camp on Lake Shetek.


Recruiting Time—Inviting New Players to the Game of Scouting

August 31, 2012
Wolf Cubs in Virginia

Wolf Cubs in Virginia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recruitment is a never-ending task… and it is a constant opportunity to spread the “game with a purpose” to new youth and adults, year ’round.

My Council has made the move to Spring recruiting.  There’s a big push to get Leaders at the April Roundtable, with “mandatory” attendance for a bonus on popcorn sales.  Biggest roundtable of the year… which is too bad, because its the most boring roundtable of the year, except maybe August, another “mandatory” meeting where they go over annual budgets.  No wonder few Scouters come back for the good stuff the rest of the year.

Is your Spring and/or Fall recruitment like our roundtables?  A one-off, boring lecture or high-pressure sales campaign?  “Come to our Big Meeting and Buy Into Scouting!”

Or is recruiting just one more part of your Scouting year?  Do you make it easy for boys to join when it’s convenient for them?  Do you make it easy for Adults—parents, alumni, other volunteers—to pick up whatever ball is in the air and start when it’s convenient for them?

I hate to admit it, but our Scouting program, especially our Pack, has been a School Year program.  We tried Spring recruiting, but fell down on the job during the summer and those Cub Scouts who joined in May never came back.  We’ve also burned out our long-time Cub leaders, such that we’re having trouble even doing Fall recruiting this year.  They say hindsight is 20/20, but I’m really seeing the value of giving every adult a job sometime somehow during the year.  Finding ways to get parents to buy into Scouting as a family program, not just another activity where you hire a coach and drop the kids off.  To schedule more events for guests to build relationships instead of making a sale.

That as it is, I offer our mistakes not as a complaint, but as a parable.  We can look at recruitment as a chore, or as a chance.  A one-time event, or as a way of doing business.  Our ongoing opportunity to invite new players to the game of Scouting.  I’ll try, if you will too.


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.

# # #

Cross-posted from  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.


Change is the Only Constant in Scouting… and Life

June 6, 2012

The Sioux Council got a good fluff piece on the local tv news today. Their angle is the tired old trope that the world is passing us by. Oh, poor Boy Scouts:

Now some changes are in store to keep the organization relevant.

In an effort to get more boys interested in being scouts again, the Boy Scouts of America are introducing a number of new things to entice all types of kids.

While I’m all for keeping up to date, I’m not sold on the idea that we have to change Scouting. The reason I, myself, am involved in Scouting is because of our unchanging ideals. What we change is how we deliver Scouting. It’s the process, not the principles.

Change is the only constant in the world.  That’s true in life, and in Scouting.  Yet we must be careful that we don’t confuse why we are Scouts, with how we do Scouting.

And as always, Do Your Best.


p.s. I thought our Council Exec did a great job in the interview.


Scoutmaster Minute—The Founders

January 29, 2012
Baden-Powell, Robert

SM Minute—The Founders

Next Sunday is Scout Sunday, when we celebrate the founding of the BSA by William D. Boyce on 8 February 1910.  Boyce, as you know, brought Scouting to the US from England, where the movement was started by Robert Baden-Powell.

Robert S.S. Baden-Powell

As a youth, Robert Baden-Powell greatly enjoyed the outdoors, learning about nature and how to live in the wilderness.  After returning as a military hero from service in Africa, Baden-Powell discovered that English boys were reading the manual on stalking and survival in the wilderness he had written for his military regiment.  Gathering ideas from Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard, and others, he rewrote the manual as a non-military nature skill book and called it Scouting for Boys.  To test his ideas, Baden-Powell brought together 22 boys to camp at Brownsea Island, off the coast of England.  This historic campout was a success and resulted in the advent of Scouting.  Thus, the imagination and inspiration of Baden-Powell, later proclaimed Chief Scout of the World, brought Scouting to youth the world over.


(adapted from Troop Program Resources)