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March 7, 2012

Column #1,593

Scouting Builds Men of Character

By Mike McManus

McLEAN, VA – A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I proudly watched our grandson, Jack, who is 11, participate in a “Bridging Ceremony,” in which he moved out of Cub Scouts to become a Boy Scout.  He walked across a small bridge, and was congratulated by such Scout leaders as Admiral Mike Brown, who is one of the 1.1 million volunteers in the program.

Another volunteer who spoke was Jeff Telep, an attorney wearing his Scout uniform, who told us that 63% of Air Force Academy graduates are Scouts, 65% of those at West Point and 70% of Annapolis grads.  He noted that two-thirds of all college graduates were Scouts, 85% of airline pilots, and 89% of senior high school class presidents.

Jeff Telep also volunteers as Jack’s basketball coach, along with his own son, also named Jack.

Scouting is a very important character-building experience for a boy or girl.

Eleven of the 12 men who walked on the moon developed their sense of service as a Boy Scout, as did 26 of the first 29 astronauts. Fully 206 U.S. Senators or Members of Congress began serving others as Boy Scouts, 29 of whom were Eagle Scouts such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Ben Nelson, (D-NE).

            Some 51,473 Boy Scouts became Eagle Scouts last year, of the 2.7 million youth members.  To win such an award, Scouts must demonstrate their understanding of leadership, service, character, personal fitness and outdoor skills at multiple levels. In addition to the 21 merit badges required by the Eagle rank, each Scout must complete an extensive service project that he plans, organizes, leads and manages before his 18th birthday.

For example, Nicholas Kulick, 16, of Highland School in Warrenton, VA led an effort to design and install a small computer network at the Enjijape Primary School in Maasailand, Kenya.  He worked with members of the Maasailand Preservation Trust to install equipment and train students and teachers on IPads and laptops. Because the impoverished east African village didn’t have electricity, everything was connected wirelessly to a cellular Internet router that was powered by solar panels.

Kulik worked with corporations and governmental agencies in the U.S. and Kenya to ensure the equipment would bring the school desperately needed reading material and a new window on the world.

On average, an Eagle Scout will invest 130 hours in such projects to serve others.

Boy Scouts of America was organized a century ago and had its first annual meeting in 1911 at the White House, where President Taft spoke and the first awards for heroism were presented: 22 Bronze Medals.

In 2010 there were 205 Lifesaving Awards given to youth members or adult leaders who “demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life,” 19 of which were “at extreme risk” to the Scout.

The mission of the Boy Scouts is “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices during their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”

The Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

There are 56,000 Scouts in Metro Washington, the second largest Council in the country although the area’s population of 5.5 million is only 8th largest, far behind New York’s 19 million, 12.8 million in Los Angeles and 9.6 million in Chicago.

Why does Washington attract such a large number of Scouts?

“There is a strong military presence and a strong governmental presence that is in tune with the message of service,” said  one of the professional staffers.

 Telep adds, “There is a constellation of interests here, around civics, politics, law, and patriotism which is appealing to the Scouting mindset – people who are looking for ways to make a substantial contribution.  As the seat of the Federal Government, the region naturally attracts strong leaders, many of whom volunteer in Scouting, such as Admiral Mike Brown.”

I asked Jack, my grandson, what he liked about scouting.  He replied, “I like how it helps the environment, and they find fun ways to do so, like when you go camping, if it is messy, you have to clean up. I have become more thrifty and it is easy to help others.”

There’s a future leader of America!

Copyright © 2012 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.

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