Honoring Yesterday, Preparing for Tomorrow
By Jon C. Halter
Scouters at the BSA National Annual Meeting looked to efforts like the 'Race to Cub Scouting' national roundup campaign to strengthen Scouting as America's premier youth-serving organization.
Exactly where is Grapevine, Tex.? The answer was quickly apparent for the 2,000 Scouters and spouses from across the country as they arrived for the 86th National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America in May. The meeting's location was the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, located on Lake Grapevine, only minutes north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
The three-day session focused both on the impact of yesterday's Scouting volunteers on today's leaders and on the BSA's latest recruiting campaign and new collaborations designed to bring Scouting to more youth than ever.
Because of that, the location of the new Gaylord resort, which opened in 2004, seemed both ideal and symbolic, being equally close to two facilities with particular significance for Scouting's past, present, and future.
Less than 20 minutes to the east, next to the BSA national office in Irving, Tex., the National Scouting Museum contains an extensive collection of displays and exhibits. They represent nine decades of Scouting history and include a gallery of paintings that feature works by both the legendary Norman Rockwell and the BSA's current official illustrator, Joseph Csatari.
A short distance to the west in Justin is the Texas Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR's newer and top racing venues. Its oval track is well known to champion race driver Jeff Gordon, Scouting supporter and official spokesman for Cub Scouting's new national roundup campaign, "Race to Cub Scouting: It's Fun at Every Turn!" (See article Cub Scouting's National Roundup Hits Full Speed)
Tribute to volunteers
Many of those attending the national meeting were national, council, district, and unit volunteers, representing the backbone of Scouting, without whom the movement could never have had its unparalleled record of character-building and leadership training for youth.
And tribute to the contributions of volunteers past, present, and future was the meeting's recurring theme.
"It is volunteers who are at the leading edge of our efforts to deliver the promise of Scouting to youth and families," said BSA President John C. Cushman III, himself a longtime volunteer, at Friday's annual business meeting. "The experience a young person has in Scouting is almost 100 percent dependent upon the adult leader."
In reporting on his first year as BSA president, Cushman reminded Scouters that "when I took this position just one year ago, I committed to you that my focus was going to be on the futurein particular our future growth.
"[But] years of experience have taught me that you do not move forward by forgetting where you came from...you move forward by building on your past successes.... Our past successes were, and our future successes are, dependent on our focus on the value of individuals.... We are in the people business!"
In enumerating "some of the statistics about Scouting that keep me excited," Cushman cited:
'A great year for Scouting'
In his business meeting report, BSA Treasurer Aubrey B. Harwell Jr. noted that "2004 was a great year for Scouting."
In announcing that "general operations of the National Council had a surplus of 11.6 million dollars," he emphasized that surpluses both "demonstrate financial responsibility and provide funding for special initiatives which otherwise wouldn't be possible, such as Good Turn for America, the Soccer and Scouting program, and additional capital improvements at high adventure bases."
In his business meeting comments, Chief Scout Executive Roy L. Williams observed that Scouting's achievements for 2004 occurred "at a time in our history where morals, values, and the kind of character-building lessons our parents taught us are being tested and questioned."
During such times, Williams said, Scouters can take pride in the fact that "we currently have over 1.2 million volunteers, and we serve 4.8 million youth. In addition, Quality Units are up, Quality Districts are up, and the number of Quality Councils took a nice jump. I am also proud to report that our overall council finances were significantly stronger in 2004."
Racing to success
At the Leadership Luncheon on Friday, the past, present, and future came together in a variety of ways.
Joseph Csatari, who has been the BSA's official illustrator since 1977, and his wife, Susan, unveiled the official painting for 2005.
Not surprisingly, the subject was Cub Scoutingwhich is celebrating its 75th anniversary this yearand specifically the pinewood derby (which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2003).
The pinewood derby was the focus of another meeting event, a race-off held in the Cub Scouting Division's booth in the exhibit area. Local councils entered specially made cars, all of which would later go on permanent display at the National Scouting Museum.
The Leadership Luncheon's main purpose was to promote the national "Race to Cub Scouting" roundup campaign, including the fact that General Motors, through its Chevrolet Division, has agreed to be a national sponsor of Cub Scouting for 2005 through 2007.
The partnership represents "a new collaboration between two great American institutionsCub Scouting and Chevrolet," Tom Peters, General Motors chief designer of performance cars (and a Scoutmaster in the Detroit Area Council), told the luncheon audience.
Some of Chevrolet's contributions will include:
"The car will ultimately be placed in the National Scouting Museum," Peters announced.
Scouters also learned about the Race to Cub Scouting in a Thursday workshop highlighting successful council roundup plans.
The session was one of 19 workshops covering a variety of topics, such as details about the new National Youth Leadership Training, tips on council fiscal management, how to keep Cub Scouts from dropping out before they become Boy Scouts, how to get positive Scouting stories published in local media, and more.
Spirit of determination
The recognition banquet on Friday spotlighted the recipients of the Silver Buffalo Award, the BSA's highest honor for distinguished service to youth at the national level, and the five winners of the national Young American Awards, honoring young people for service, character, and accomplishment (see sidebar).
In his closing remarks at the business meeting earlier that day, Chief Scout Executive Roy L. Williams expressed his gratitude to Scouting's countless volunteer leaders for continuing to make a difference in the lives of young people. He also reminded them that they are part of a proud tradition and continuing legacy of service.
"A flame was lit 95 years ago that represents the heart of Scouting, [and] each of us in this room and...around the world is a vessel to ensure this flame remains ablaze," he declared.
"We do this through the spirit of determination, which is passed on like a burning candle in the night, burning with the desire for excellence and achievement....
"Today the trusted keepers of the flame will pass the torch to those who are prepared to press on with cause, through the spirit of determination.... "I wish you well, and I am honored to be on this journey with you."
Jon C. Halter is the editor of Scouting magazine.
Copyright © 2005 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.