Writing the Next Chapter
By Jon C. Halter
The BSA's new Strategic Plan 2002-2005 helps Scouters at the national annual meeting plan the nextand bestinstallment in the epic story of Scouting as the nation's top youth-serving organization.
Scouters touring Boston during the 2001 National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America in late May encountered numerous streets blocked by something called "The Big Dig." The Central Artery/Tunnel Project (its official name) will produce an underground expressway to dramatically improve traffic flow and air quality in one of the nation's oldest and most congested major cities.
The Big Dig shows how a city with countless treasured historical buildings and locations, some dating back 300 years or more, can renew and improve itself without destroying the qualities and values that distinguish it from its counterparts.
Preserving timeless values while continually working toward improvement. For more than 2,000 Scouters and spouses, that concept also expressed why they had assembled in Boston for the BSA's 82nd national annual meeting.
The meeting's opening event, the Duty to God Breakfast, featured as guest speaker Commissioner John Busby, national commander of The Salvation Army. He described how The Salvation Army greatly values its relationship with Scouting, a partnership begun in 1929. (See Partners in Service in this issue for more information about the relationship between the BSA and the Salvation Army.)
Busby also praised the BSA for maintaining its traditional values-based program in the face of challenges by proponents of "moral relativism," a philosophy "which is assumed by many to be an absolute." In response, "The Boy Scouts of America has drawn a line in the sand, and we congratulate you for it."
External challenges to Scouting's program were also addressed at the National Annual Business Meeting by BSA President Milton H. Ward. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2000, confirming the BSA's right to set its own membership and leadership standards, Scouting faced "widespread attacks" from detractors seeking to "censor our message and intimidate our traditional supporters," Ward said. "I'm very proud of the way that we have stood up to these challenges and the way that we continue to fulfill our mission of serving youth."
Despite the challenges, "2000 was a great year for Scouting," Ward announced. "Total council net assets increased in all three fundsoperating, properties, and endowment" and "even with all the focus on our constitutional issues, local United Way [contributions to Scouting] increased." The BSA endowment emphasis also continued to be successful, as "accumulated cash in deferred gifts to local council funds totaled more than $2.2 billion dollars."
A plan and its tools
Scouting's goals for the immediate future were summarized in the new National Strategic Plan 2002-2005, introduced by Roy S. Roberts, executive vice president of the BSA National Executive Board and chairman of the Strategic Plan Committee.
Some tools and methods for achieving the Strategic Plan's objectives were explored in five seminars and 16 elective workshops. They covered a variety of topics, such as building chartered organization relationships, developing Cub World and Cub Scout Resident Camp programs, new directions in training, opportunities for growth in council Venturing programs, and use of unit management software and the BSA's ScoutNET system.
The Council Commissioner Leadership workshop focused on the critical role commissioners play in traditional unit membership growth.
"Quality program and quality leadership are the two variables that can determine the success or failure in achieving our mission," BSA National Commissioner William F. (Rick) Cronk told an audience of council and district commissioners. Commissioners are "the quality control mechanism in Scouting," he said. The individual support they provide leaders is critical in preventing dropped units, and "the way that we can most dramatically improve the number of youth in Scouting is to avoid losing them as often as we do."
Youth tells its story
The outstanding Boy Scouts and Venturers honored at the meeting offered evidence of just how valuable the efforts of adult Scout leaders are in determining the program's success.
At the annual Scouters' Luncheon, Venturer Hong-Ly Thi La, speaking for herself and the four other recipients of the 2000 Young American Awards said, "We believe Scouting plays a very important role in our lives, helping to prepare us to be ready for any challengeOe[and] we are proud to be a part of the Boy Scouts of America."
Another noteworthy young speaker, Tim Brox of Fresno, Calif., told how he looked forward to being the ninth Eagle Scout since 1928 to represent the BSA as a participant in a scientific pro ject in Antarctica. And Carey Mignerey of Roswell, Ga., described the valuable lessons he learned from individuals he met in 2000 during 130 days of travel as national chief of the Order of the Arrow.
Scouters at the Americanism Breakfast heard from John Linkhart, Eagle Scout from San Antonio, Tex. Selected from more than 2,700 applicants, he received the 2000 Mabel and Lawrence S. Cooke Scholarship, a four-year, $48,000 grant that represents the top award among the numerous grants available in the National Eagle Scout Association scholarship program. "Service to others is a big thing for me," John said. "I genuinely like helping other people."
The most dramatic presentation, however, came from Eagle Scout Evan Michael Todd, a recipient of both a national Young American Award for achievements in and out of Scouting and a BSA Honor Medal for his actions in helping fellow students during the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. His message to Scouters at the business meeting contained both a concern about the lack of traditional values in American society and an appreciation for values he learned through Scouting.
What we are all about
The sentiments expressed by Evan and other youth leaders exemplified "what we and Scouting are all about, shaping the lives of young people," said Chief Scout Executive Roy L. Williams in his concluding remarks.
"Scouting is not a single story, but rather a hundred million stories, stories of Scouts, leaders, and parents, and even chartered organizations," he noted. "They are the stories of goals set and achieved, of lessons taught and learned, of lives touched and changed forever." Scouting's current critics "would like you to believe that our story is finished," Williams said. "But I've got news for youthe story's just beginning."
He expressed his deep appreciation for Scouting's countless volunteer leaders, who "embody the spirit of cheerful service that is the heart of Scouting; they are the very soul of our organization." And together, with the latest Strategic Plan as a guide, "We're going to write the next chapter of this epic story of Scouting."
Jon C. Halter is the editor of Scouting magazine.
September 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.