By Robert Peterson
Featuring the illustrations of Norman Rockwell
The Boy Scouts of America will be 90 years old on Feb. 8, the date in 1910 when Chicago publisher William D. Boyce filed incorporation papers for it in Washington, D.C.
The BSA is marking that milestone with a yearlong, three-phase celebration focusing on values and leaderspast, present, and futurein Scouting and in the community.
The first phase of the celebration, Salute-A-Leader, began on Nov. 1 of last year and ends Feb. 5, just before the start of Scouting Anniversary Week.
Salute-A-Leader helps remind people of leaders who were the role models of their youth, and it highlights Scouting's role in developing young leaders.
Many local councils have incorporated the Salute-A-Leader theme into activities like Eagle Scout recognition banquets, fall camporees, and Klondike derbies. Councils distributed special Salute-A-Leader postcards for people to send to leaders who were important to them in childhood.
The anniversary's second phase, Rekindle the Spirit, from Feb. 6 to June 15, is designed to draw BSA alumni, primarily adult Eagle Scouts and Order of the Arrow members, back into the fold as volunteer leaders.
Unit leaders are urged to make a presentation to their chartered organization focusing on the place of Scouting in the community. The presentation concludes with an invitation for chartered organization members to become Scouting volunteers.
Similar presentations are suggested for the members of the Scout council's National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) chapter and the Order of the Arrow (OA) lodge. NESA and OA members may be invited to a daylong outing or weekend camp-out that will evoke pleasant memories of Scout camping.
Some Scout troops have scheduled reunions at which adult alumni are invited to become leaders. To reach other former Scouts, news releases and op-ed pieces telling about the local council's search for old Scouts may be submitted to community newspapers.
Some local councils may try other ways of recruiting leaders, such as "Seniors on Scouting," or S.O.S., in the Jersey Shore Council, Toms River, N.J. S.O.S. is a small group of older Scouters who recruit others among their fellow senior citizens.
S.O.S. founder John Thuss said, "It's a slow process, but there's a spark in some of them, so what I try to do is get the spark going."
The final phase of the anniversary celebration, from June 15 through Oct. 31, is called the BSA Great Leadership Search.
The council promotion will showcase adults and youths who are exemplary leaders, both in- and outside of Scouting. Adult nominees might include teachers, pastors, mentors, and others who have a strong commitment to instilling the principles and spirit of the Scout Oath and Law in young people.
A volunteer in each community within a local council will collect nominations and assemble a team of judges. As many as five adults and five youths might be nominated and publicized as the community's finalists. Their nominations then will go to the council's Activities and Civic Service Committee, which will choose the five adult and five youth winners for the council.
The winners will be honored at a special council event. They will receive a certificate or other gift. They might also be featured in a full-page ad in the local newspaper. In addition, if the council can find a corporate or individual donor, each winner might be given a scholarship. (Scholarships for adult winners would benefit a nonprofit, youth-serving organization in which they are involved.)
The 90th Anniversary theme, "Celebrating 90 Years of Strong Values and Leadership," emphasizes how the BSA has been and will continue to be the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership development.
The segments that follow describe some elements of Scoutingfrom the ideals and values, as expressed in the Scout Oath and Law, to the dedication to service as reflected in the Good Turn, to the impact and significance of the Eagle Scout Awardthat have helped to shape the lives of the more than 100 million Americans who have been members of the BSA since 1910.
The illustrations, which capture so well the BSA's emphasis on "strong values, strong leaders, character counts," are from the more than 50 annual paintings produced by artist Norman Rockwell for the BSA from 1925 to 1976.
Contributing editor Robert Peterson is the author of The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure.
Eagle Scouts Reflect Values and Leadership
The crème de la crème of Scouting are boys who reach the pinnacle of the Boy Scout advancement trailthe Eagle Scout Award. Only about 2.5 percent of boys who join troops make the grade.
The first Eagle badge was awarded to Arthur R. Eldred, a member of Troop 1 of Oceanside, Long Island, N.Y., on Labor Day 1912. Eldred had the most prestigious Eagle board of review in history; it was made up of Chief Scout Ernest Thompson Seton, National Commissioner Daniel Carter Beard, and Chief Scout Executive James E. West.
A million and a half Scouts have earned the Eagle badge since Arthur Eldred. About 40,000 Scouts a year have been earning their Eagle rank in the past few years.
Eagle Scouts are universally recognized as young men with strong values and great leadership potential. Each year several men who earned their Eagle award at least 25 years earlier and have fulfilled their early promise are given the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
About 245,000 Eagles are members of the National Eagle Scout Association, which provides service to local councils.
The BSA's Ever-Expanding Program
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has steadily expanded the reach of its value-based programs. Here is the progression:
Boy Scouting, 1910. For boys 12 to 17.
Sea Scouting, 1912. For boys over 14.
Lone Scouts, 1924. The BSA absorbed the Lone Scouts of America.
Cub Scouting, 1930. For boys 9 to 11.
Air Scouting, 1942. For young men 15 and older.
Exploring, 1946. For young men 14 to 20 who wanted advanced Boy Scouting.
Inner-City Rural Program, 1965. Emphasis on hard-to-reach boys.
Webelos Scouting, 1967. The third year of Cub Scouting was made an introduction to Boy Scouting. (In 1988, Webelos Scouting became a two-year program.)
Coed Exploring, 1969. Young women aged 14 to 20 joined posts.
Tiger Cubs BSA, 1982. Program for first-grade boys and their adult partners.
Varsity Scouting, 1984. For boys 14 to 17 who like sports as well as outdoor adventure.
Learning for Life, 1991. BSA subsidiary offers values-based curriculum for classrooms in kindergarten through high school. (Career-interest Exploring became part of Learning for Life in 1998.)
Hispanic Emphasis, 1991. Efforts to serve Hispanics redoubled.
Scoutreach, 1992. Reemphasized Scouting in inner-city and rural areas.
Venturing, 1998. For young men and women 14 through 20. Venturing crew's activities are limited only by members' imaginations.
The Scout Oath and LawOur Strong Values
Scouting has changed in many ways since its founding in 1910. But one thing has not changedthe BSA's bedrock values as expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
The Oath and Law are directly descended from pledges written for British Scouts by Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder. He included the first Oath and Law in Scouting for Boys, the first Scout manual, which was published in 1908.
In 1911, while the BSA's National Council was laboring to "Americanize" Baden-Powell's program, a 10-man committee was appointed to rewrite the British Oath and Law. James E. West, the first Chief Scout Executive, who had been on the job for only a month, led the discussion.
West was responsible for the Oath's final phrase (not in B-P's version) "to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
Baden-Powell's Law had nine points, covering the virtues of trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, and thriftiness. The BSA's Scout Law followed that lead, but at James West's urging, three points were addedbravery, cleanliness, and reverence.
For 90 years the Oath and Law have been fixtures at troop meetings. Save for the Pledge of Allegiance, they may be America's best-known vows.
The Valueand Valuesof Good Turns
The first edition of The Boy Scout Handbook put it this way: " ... the final and chief test of the Scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting. This is the proof of the Scout."
The emphasis on the individual's Good Turn (saving a stray cat, helping a senior citizen across the street, running an errand) continues to this day. But the Good Turn concept has grown into something much bigger.
In fact, it began growing early on. In 1912, when the fledgling BSA had perhaps 50,000 members, it undertook a national Good Turn by promoting a "Safe and Sane Fourth of July."
Since then there have been scores of national Good Turns. Some of the most notable have been huge campaigns to help the nation's war efforts during World Wars I and II, aiding the needy during the Great Depression, get-out-the-vote campaigns during Presidential elections, nationwide conservation programs, and Scouting for Food, to stock food pantries for the needy.
Currently the BSA is on the last leg of a three-year campaign to perform 200 million hours of community service. The pledge was made to retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, who heads the volunteering effort called America's Promise.
Recognizing Strong Leadership
The Boy Scouts of America relies primarily on the dedication of its volunteers. And the BSA program for volunteer recognition provides a way to honor leaders for service and achievement from the unit level all the way to the National Council.
Cub Scouters can earn special medallions by fulfilling requirements covering tenure, training, and accomplishments. There are medallions for Cub Scout den leaders, Cubmasters, Webelos den leaders, den leader coaches, Tiger Cub coaches, and Cub Scouters who don't head up a unit.
Similarly, Scouters in Boy Scouting are eligible to earn the Scouter's Key and Scouter's Training Award. Scouters who complete Wood Badge requirements are eligible to wear the coveted beads. Outstanding Scoutmasters may earn the Scoutmaster Award of Merit conferred by the National Eagle Scout Association.
Adult leaders are eligible for the same awards given to youth members by the National Court of Honor for heroism or meritorious service. They may also earn the gold-medal William T. Hornaday Award for distinguished service in conservation.
The three most prestigious awards granted by the Boy Scouts of America are not earnedthey are bestowed by local councils, regions, and the National Council for outstanding service to youth. These awards are the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope, and Silver Buffalo.
Since 1931 local councils have presented more than 50,000 Silver Beaver Awards to Scouters for distinguished service to a council's youth. The Silver Antelope Award was created in 1942 and goes to Scouters for exceptional service to youth on a regional level.
The highest honor bestowed by the National Council is the Silver Buffalo, which is awarded for truly extraordinary service to the nation's youth. Fewer than 600 have been given since the Silver Buffalo was instituted in 1926.
Unlike the Silver Beaver and Antelope, the Silver Buffalo is sometimes given to people outside Scouting who have been role models or have given distinguished service to youth. Recipients include retired Gen. Colin Powell, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman; "Peanuts" comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz; former Grambling State University football coach Eddie G. Robinson; and Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund.
'The Brotherhood of Cheerful Service'
The Order of the Arrowis an honor society for Scout campers who exemplify the values of the Scout Oath and Law. The OA aims to crystallize the Scout's habit of helpfulness into a life of leadership in cheerful service to others.
The OA is unique in one respect: Its members are elected by their peers in the troop or Varsity Scout team, not by OA members. They must hold First Class rank and be experienced campers.
The Order of the Arrow was born in the summer of 1915 at Treasure Island Scout camp on the Delaware River north of Trenton, N.J. The camp was operated by the Philadelphia Council (now Cradle of Liberty Council).
Camp director E. Urner Goodman and his assistant, Carroll A. Edson, founded the Order of the Arrow. They based the OA's lore and ceremonies on the lore of the Lenni Lenape Indians who had occupied Treasure Island in earlier times.
Today there are Order of the Arrow lodges in most local councils. The membership nationwide is 176,000.
Lodges do a great deal to promote the local council's outdoor programs within units and give volunteer service at the council's camp.
Duty to God: The Religious Emblems Program
A Boy Scout taking the Scout Oath pledges to do his "duty to God." In the Scout Law, he recites, "A Scout is reverent."
But Scouting espouses no creed and favors no faith over another. Rather, its programs complement the aims of all faiths. As one result, religious bodies are prime chartering organizations of packs, troops, and Venturing crews.
Major religious bodies have programs to recognize Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers who demonstrate faith, observe their creeds and principles, and give service. The awards are special emblems given by the religious body.
They are not Scouting awards but reflect Scouting's values. They are given for completing fairly demanding requirements that may take a year or more to complete. Some religious bodies have adult recognitions, too.
For detailed information about religious emblems, see "Religious Emblems Programs," BSA Supply No. 5-206C.
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