Eagle Scout Title Opens Doors of Opportunity
By Jeff Johnson
The young sailor, already a three-year veteran at age 20, stood before a review board after his application for a college scholarship program leading to an officer’s commission.
The seaman was newly posted to this base. So, the board officers did not know him. The chairman focused on an indiscretion from early in the sailor’s career, and would not let it go; grilling him about it time and again. While the other officers asked questions, the chairman studied the rest of the young man’s record, then suddenly looked up.
“You’re an Eagle Scout?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” the sailor answered.
The chairman slammed the file closed and announced, “We’re done. The application is approved.”
Thus began the university education that would lead Mike McCulley to a career as a captain in the Navy, an astronaut and the president of Houston business, United Space Alliance, LLC.
Eagle Scout; the title that has been described as “a resume in itself” has opened the door of opportunity to hundreds of thousands of its recipients. High school boys, who notoriously procrastinate about everything, rush to finish their requirements in time to include it on college applications. Grown men, with resumes full of adult accomplishments, proudly list it. It is the shared achievement of many American business and professional leaders, which they themselves acknowledge as an important part of their training.
Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott Jr., H. Ross Perot, Astronaut, Neil Armstrong, all Eagles, have praised the trail to Eagle as an important part of their development.
As information entrepreneur and New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg(Eagle Scout), has said, “Whether you choose to become a teacher, a police officer, a doctor or, even the mayor of the greatest city in the world, your experiences as an Eagle Scout will prove invaluable.”
These men value the work that led them to achieve the Eagle rank. It is not a task easily accomplished and, typically, requires four to six years to complete. Only about 4 percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle award. Eleven-year-old boys are not known for long-term goal-setting, yet each year, tens of thousands are inspired by older Scouts to begin this long journey.
Although the requirements have varied over the cen-
tury, that the Boy Scouts of America has offered the advancement program leading to Eagle, the basic idea has remained the same. A Scout begins with the basics, learning how to hike, camp, swim, cook, identify wild plants and animals, read a map, use a compass, make things with knife, axe and ropes, and give first aid.
This is all done in the company of six to ten boys, usually of different ages, living and working together as a patrol. Here, in an outdoor setting which leaves little room for error and encourages that essential adult skill, planning, they learn that they are responsible, not only for themselves, but for their brother Scouts. These experiences teach a great American trait, ingenuity. Scouting is one of the few places in our culture wherein a child has a safe place to make mistakes, and learn from them
After mastering the basics, earning the Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class ranks, the Scout advances by completing merit badges, where he is introduced to 122 subjects, as diverse as citizenship, atomic energy, lifesaving, medicine, music, athletics, collecting and archery. He also serves as a leader in his troop and works with community organizations. By now he has earned the Star and Life ranks, as he completes 21 merit badges required for Eagle.
He calls on all these skills when he undertakes Scouting’s graduate case-study in good citizenship, the Eagle service project. The Scout works with a school, religious institution or other nonprofit to create something of lasting value; a bridge at a park, wheelchair ramps at a shelter, a collection of books for a neighborhood center.
The Scout consults with the leadership of the beneficiary organization, submits a written proposal to his Scoutmaster, raises money, gets materials donated, recruits volunteers, plans work days, supervises the project and reports on the results.
Earning the Eagle award is a man-sized job a boy can be proud of, and one that adults will respect.