D.S. reported in our November-December issue that his troop’s Eagle Scout ceremonies are lacking innovation and excitement. What, D.S. asked, can be done to make Eagle courts of honor more memorable? Readers offered many ideas.
As the father of two Eagle Scouts (and soon three), I have been involved in planning and performing Eagle ceremonies. Here is some of what I have learned.
The ceremony should be what the Eagle wants, followed by what his parents want, and then what the troop can do to support the Eagle and parents. Never let imagination be overruled by troop traditions or “ceremony by committee.” There is no right or wrong (or official) ceremony.
The Internet is a great resource for Eagle ceremonies; type “Eagle Ceremonies” into any search engine and stand by for more ideas than you thought possible.
Assistant Scoutmaster C.H.
My oldest son, Kyle, loves camping, and he chose to have his Eagle ceremony during a troop camp-out. The site was a clearing in a local state park overlooking Puget Sound. Guests faced the sound, with trees behind them.
To begin the ceremony, Kyle and another Scout blew their trumpets to call for the colors. The Scout color guard carried the flags in from the trail. The trumpeters then played the national anthem. It was extremely moving.
When it was time to receive his Eagle Scout neckerchief, Kyle again did something special: He called up his younger brother as well as my husband and me. After receiving his Eagle neckerchief and presenting our parents’ pins, Kyle gave his troop neckerchief and pewter pin of a flying Eagle to his brother with the charge that he, too, become an Eagle Scout.
Because the state park was far from home, not as many people attended as would have had it been a traditional ceremony. But then, how many Eagle Scouts can say that eagles circled their ceremony as if to welcome one of their own?
Webelos Den Leader T.M.
Both my sons are Eagle Scouts. As their Cubmaster and Scoutmaster, I always had a camera at my side to record their Scouting careers on 35mm slides.
For each Eagle ceremony, I put together a three-minute slide show beginning with their first pinewood derby cars, following with their adventures in Webelos Scouting, into Boy Scouting, summer camp, their entry into the Order of the Arrow, and their Eagle service projects. As background music, I used the movie soundtrack from the movie “Last of the Mohicans.”
Almost 20 years later, the slide show is still occasionally requested for special events and to recruit new Scouts. On one occasion, the show even recruited a Cubmaster.
Council Camping Committee Member L.S.
The Internet is a great place to go for new and different Scout ceremony ideas. Check outhttp://www.eaglescout.org/finale. This wonderful Web site takes you from planning and preparation through execution of the Eagle Scout court of honor and offers many diverse ceremony templates.
As with any ceremony, the key to a memorable Eagle ceremony is to start planning early.
Troop Committee Member K.P.M.
Troop 102 has produced 69 Eagle Scouts in its 30 years and has established a number of traditions for successful Eagle Scout courts of honor. Here are a few.
- Eagle Presentation Kit—It includes the Eagle Scout medal and embroidered patch, a pin for the Eagle’s mother, and a tie tack for his father.
- Flowers—The troop provides a red rose for the Eagle’s mother, grandmothers, and sisters.
- Eagle Display Case—We have a walnut display case with space for 100 brass plaques for Eagles and 20 for Scoutmasters. The new Eagle’s name and the date of his board of review are engraved on his plate, which he fastens to the case as part of the Eagle ceremony.
- Indian Headdress—The troop has an Indian chief ceremonial headdress, which was made by an Order of the Arrow member. As part of his court of honor, the new Eagle adds a large white feather. The headdress is used for Webelos Scout graduation ceremonies and for the troop’s OA calling-out ceremonies.
- Recognition—Have an adult leader write letters requesting proclamations and other recognitions from local, state, and federal officials. Display them at the court of honor.
Assistant Scoutmaster R.L.B.
When a Scout in our troop completes the requirements for Eagle, he is totally in charge of what, where, and how the ceremony occurs.
We have had Eagle ceremonies at camp-outs, troop retreats, quarterly courts of honor, even at a boy’s home. Every ceremony has been unique and exciting to watch develop, and it is even more exciting to see the leadership that each new Eagle Scout gives to its preparation.
His parents are encouraged to support the Scout or to limit him as they see fit, but to allow him to develop the ceremony.
Some boys have utilized ideas from Mark A. Ray’s book, The Eagle Court of Honor Book (Ray Publishing, 1999), which can be ordered on the Web from http://www.barnesandnoble.com($10.95). Many of them have participated in other Eagle ceremonies and have gotten ideas from them, but this has not caused copycatting.
Troop Committee Chairman E.H.
For an interesting innovation, I suggest an “Eagle pillow” for the new Eagle’s badge to be displayed on. The design can be found in the pamphlet BSA Cross Stitch (BSA Supply No. 33172). All that is needed is someone to do the design in needlepoint or cross-stitch and stuff the pillow.
District Commissioner L.J.
Marion, Ohio S
To make by son’s Eagle court of honor more personal, I went through my photo albums and chose 15 pictures of him throughout his Scouting career. The first showed him as a Tiger Cub. For the rest, I tried to include photos showing him with other boys who would be attending the ceremony.
We had the photos made into slides, and my husband and I wrote an accompanying narrative about our son’s trail to Eagle. It was a surprise for our son, and everyone enjoyed it.
In 40 years as a professional Scouter in six local councils, I attended more than 500 Eagle courts of honor. One stands out.
The site was a real court, with a real judge in his robe. The bailiff wore a Scouter’s uniform. The prosecutor and defense attorney were Scouters who conferred in advance to plan questions and answers. The jury was 12 leading citizens and officials of the chartered organization.
Presentation of the case took less than an hour and covered such questions as: Why should this Life Scout become an Eagle? What does Scouting mean to the boy? What’s the value of a Good Turn? What does “Be Prepared” mean?
The judge read the jury’s verdict and declared the boy worthy to be an Eagle Scout. He then complimented the Scout, his parents, troop leaders, and all who touched his life on the trail to Eagle. The judge called the parents and boy to the bench and presented the Eagle badge.
Retired Scout Executive J.W.A.
San Diego, Calif.
Our troop’s Eagle court of honor master of ceremonies asks those who have earned the top awards in Scouting to stand, tell their name, and when and where they earned their award. Those invited to stand and be recognized are Eagle Scouts, King and Queen’s Scouts (we have a dad who is a Queen’s Scout), and Gold Award earners from the Girl Scouts. This is very impressive as part of the ceremony.
Troop Committee Member D.D.
Our troop includes a part of the program designed to involve younger Scouts. Using a simple candle-lighting ceremony, a Scout recites the 12 points of the Scout Law. A voice from a hidden microphone reads the explanation for each point, but not from the current Boy Scout Handbook. I copied a few lines from the 1965 edition of the handbook. The “old style” language of the interpretation gives a fresh insight into the Scout Law that has both Scouts in the troop and graying heads nodding in agreement.
We use a similar idea to highlight the ranks leading up to Eagle, using a Scout of each rank to represent that rank. The involvement of the younger Scouts gives them a part in honoring the new Eagle and encourages them to advance to the top rank.
Our troop believes the best Eagle Scout ceremony occurs when leaders, members of troop, and parents have a part in honoring the new Eagle. We have found it best for the speaker to memorize our Eagle court of honor script. This gives dignity and animation to the ceremony and holds the audience spellbound. No one blinks, except for tears.
The nice part about speaking from memory is that the speaker can add or subtract to his heart’s content as long as he covers the memorized parts. Also, the program can be broken into parts so that speakers are responsible for only short sections.
Our ceremony is about 10 minutes in length and is made up of material from Woods Wisdom, the program guide.
The troop in which I earned my Eagle badge in 1974 had an awesome Eagle ceremony based on the then popular TV program, “This Is Your Life.” The Eagle’s parents were asked to prepare a biography of their son, including his goals and aspirations. The Scoutmaster’s wife, who had a flair for creative writing, put it into story form.
The story would be read by an adult who had mentored the new Eagle Scout or of whom the boy was especially fond. I had the honor to be presented my “This Is Your Life” story by our mayor, Mr. Tooker, who was loved and highly respected by the members of the troop. Bound in a simple folder with the story were photos, certificates, and letters of congratulation for me.
In our troop, each Eagle Scout, with guidance from his parents and Scoutmaster, plans a ceremony most meaningful to him. For our son this meant an evening ceremony at the county forest preserve. He picked the speaker for this ceremony. He also asked a Boy Scout leader who is a poet to write a poem to commemorate the occasion. The poet wrote a wonderful, humorous poem about our son’s Scouting history.
Music can make the ceremony memorable. Some friends played the Philmont hymn on bassoon and oboe during the ceremony. Another friend played “Taps” at the end.
Our last Eagle ceremony ended with everyone being asked to sign a National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) banner to give the new Eagle Scout as a keepsake. (Two types of NESA banners are included in the BSA’s Supply catalog.) It makes a wonderful memento of the occasion.
Troop Committee Secretary J.A.
Many years ago, when I was a Scoutmaster, an Eagle candidate arrived at his court of honor in uniform but without a neckerchief, and therefore without a neckerchief slide. When it came time to present the Eagle neckerchief, there was a bit of fumbling until a slide could be borrowed.
After that, I always made a one-of-a-kind slide for each of my Eagles. Each boy had exhibited some unique character trait or talent, or had gone through some experience that could be illustrated in the design of a neckerchief slide.
Presentation of the slide became part of the ceremony, giving me the opportunity to give special praise to the new Eagle. He would also have a memento to remind him to preserve the trait or talent that earned him the slide.
We have taken ideas from various sources for a standard script that our troop uses in all ceremonies. With this script in hand, we sit down with the Eagle candidate and let him add ideas of his own. So even though all our ceremonies contain the basic stuff, no two are alike.
We try to include all those who have had an impact on the Eagle’s advancement. I end all ceremonies with a Scoutmaster’s Minute, and I do my best to make it an inspiration for those Scouts who will one day be Eagles.
For earning his Eagle badge, my son Chris was given a unique gift—a beaver-chewed birch log that had been decorated and carved to resemble a chieftan’s pole. This type of pole is used in some Native American cultures to recognize the person whose turn it is to speak. Chris suggested that we use it for his Eagle court of honor.
An Order of the Arrow member wearing full Indian costume was master of ceremonies. We adapted the traditional Trail to Eagle ceremony to center around an Indian youth who grows to become a full-fledged warrior. When guests came forward to make presentations, they were given the chieftan’s pole in turn.
Finally, the pole was given to Chris for his response, a perfect end for the court of honor.
Troop Advancement Chairman G.R.K.
For my son’s Eagle court of honor last October, I made a display of all his Scouting memorabilia. I bought a science fair display board and glued or pinned on patches, certificates, and a Cub Scout T-shirt he had designed for his pack. In front of the board, I placed his pinewood derby cars, pottery, Indian lore items, etc.
Also in front was a new Cub Scout shirt on which I had sewn all of his badges; it was loaded! The display was a big hit.
For my son’s Eagle court of honor last May, one of our V. I. P. guests who had been a prisoner of war arranged to have a military color guard for the ceremony. He had also secretly arranged for a flyover by an F-16 Phantom jet just as the color guard was presenting my son with an American flag.
Troop Committee Member L.M.