Charting the Road to Tomorrow
By Jon C. Halter
A new five-year plan, introduced at the BSA National Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., provides local councils with strategies and tools to bring a better Scouting program to more eligible youth than ever.
More than 3,000 Scouters and spouses came to Washington, D.C., in late May for the 87th National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America, the largest turnout at a BSA national meeting in a decade.
From the meeting at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel, many who attended made the four-mile trip to the National Mall to visit some of the many memorials, museums, and government buildings in the heart of the nation's capital.
Many attractions on and near the mall highlight the nation's past, such as the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives and the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Along with viewing artifacts and monuments, visitors could also glimpse a bit of America's futurethe countless groups of students on end-of-school-year trips that crowded every area of the mall.
For nearly 100 years, as the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training, Scouting has helped prepare such young people for the future.
And with the introduction at the Tuesday-through-Saturday gathering of the new BSA Strategic Plan 2006-2010, Scouters learned about the goals, action plans, and tactics to prepare for the beginning of Scouting's next 100 years. (See "When Tradition Meets Tomorrow".)
The plan "reflects the efforts and input of national committees, local council volunteers and professionals, and many hours of staff time to narrow down the most important issues," BSA executive vice president (and incoming BSA national president) William F. (Rick) Cronk told Scouters at the annual business meeting on Friday.
"This plan is a road map for local councils and serves as the primary tool to ensure that all eligible youth have the opportunity to be a part of the greatest youth program in the country."
A year in review
In a business meeting report, John C. Cushman III, who was ending his two-year term as BSA national president, reviewed Scouting's highlights for 2005.
The year included "strong programs, solid financial growth, and a tremendous vote of confidence in Scouting from our friends in Congress," he observed.
Congressional passage in December of the "Support Our Scouts Act of 2005" allows Scouting "equal access to governmental facilities at all levels," Cushman said. "That includes public lands, parks, and military installations."
He added that "one of the benefits of the process was to realize the almost universal support that Scouting has in Congress."
Cushman reported that 2005 was also "a terrific program year, both nationally and locally." Highlights included the second-highest number of Eagle Scouts (49,895) in one year and the best attendance ever at BSA high adventure bases in a jamboree year.
The 2005 "Race To Cub Scouting" recruitment drivea collaborative effort with the Chevrolet Division of General Motors and local dealerships that is being continued in 2006was highly successful, Cushman noted. "We had 529,757 new Cub Scouts and 2,677 new Cub Scout packs. Also, 109 local councils achieved year-end growth in Cub Scouting."
Local councils "also had a banner 2005 fiscal year." Total income from all sources to local councils was almost $663 million, an increase of more than 8 percent over 2004, while investment income from local council endowment funds was up almost 17 percent. And, "for the first time in history, both total local council capital assets and total local endowments assets topped $1 billion."
Cushman also announced an expanded role for the National BSA Foundation, which since 1996 has "helped donors make major gifts to local councils." Through the new Scout Philanthropy Society, the foundation "will also seek large gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations who have interest in funding Scouting programs and initiatives in several councils, regionally and/or nationally."
Sharing ideas, information
In a workshop on Thursday, Scouters learned more details about successful 2005 Race to Cub Scouting campaigns in the Calcasieu Area Council (Lake Charles, La.) and the Jersey Shore Council (Toms River, N.J.).
That session was one of 24 elective workshops covering a variety of topics, such as Boy Scout growth and retention, popcorn and other product sales, great Friends of Scouting campaigns, council Web sites, effective commissioner service, BSA and the United Way, disaster recovery and business continuation, funding Learning for Life, Scoutreach, international Scouting, Scouting and the Knights of Columbus, Scouting and the Methodist Church, Good Turn for America, and more.
In the exhibit area, Scouters visited with representatives from the National Council and other sources to learn about all areas of Scouting. Displays included the latest merchandise from the Supply Group; details on Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing, high adventure programs, and international Scouting; opportunities for participation in Good Turn for America; resources available from Risk Management, Health and Safety, Scoutreach, Relationships, and Finance Support; the National Scouting Museum; and a sampling of the latest features from Boys' Life.
Heroes for today
Scouters at the national meeting honored a variety of modern heroes, described at the "In Honor of Everyday Heroes" Leadership Luncheon on Friday as "those among us who exemplify the best of the human spirit and who have dedicated themselves both to personal and community achievements."
Among the luncheon's honored guests were seven former Scouts or current Scouters now serving in the military. The seven had been wounded in action and were recuperating at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Also honored were Scout Kevin Stephan, 17, of Buffalo, N.Y., recipient of a BSA Medal of Merit for lifesaving action, and the Rev. Jimmie James, founder and pastor of the nondenominational Greater Things Ministries in Seattle, a Scouter who was instrumental in the formation and operation of a unique pack and troop whose memberssons visiting their incarcerated mothersmeet monthly in a state correctional facility.
Leadership Luncheon honorees also included the five winners of the national Young American Awards, which recognize young people for service, character, and accomplishment (see sidebar).
Another modern-day hero, honored at the Americanism "Duty to Country" Breakfast on Friday, was Eagle Scout Greg Sweeney, 18, of Wilmington, Del., who started a Cub Scout pack for homeless boys. (Read more about the Seattle and Wilmington programs in the News Briefs section of this issue.)
What we do
Heroes were also on display at the recognition banquet, the meeting's Friday closing event, which spotlighted nine of the 11 recipients of the Silver Buffalo Award, the BSA's highest honor for distinguished service to youth at the national level (see sidebar).
In his closing remarks at the business meeting earlier that day, Chief Scout Executive Roy L. Williams, in recalling the influence of one of his own personal heroes (Ralph Sawyers, his Scoutmaster when Williams was a Boy Scout in Dallas, Tex., in the 1950's), noted how one person can have a significant impact on a young person's life.
Williams then read a letter from an Eagle Scout's mother, in which she thanked the BSA for being "one of the most inviting, caring, giving, yet disciplined organizations for helping our [son] grow into the young man he is today."
"This is why we do what we do," Williams reminded the assembled Scouters.
With the new 2006-2010 Strategic Plan as "our bridge to the future," Scouting "must reach out to every eligible child who wants to be a Scout," he said.
"Our time is now and with new commitment, we march forward."
Jon C. Halter is the editor of Scouting magazine.
Copyright © 2006 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.