Last evening, I was privileged to be honored by the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America as the 2015 Recipient of the Lawrence W. Strattner Distinguished Citizen Award. At the reception I offered prepared remarks after receiving the award. At the conclusion of the event, I was asked by a couple of people for copies of my remarks. I thought that I might post them here:
“Good evening. Let me begin by taking a moment to thank you all for taking time out of your schedules to be here for this event. I’d especially like to thank Laurie for agreeing to serve as our MC this evening, Smitty for delivering the address, and Judge Sacco for that kind introduction. I’d also like to take a moment to recognize my Mom, Fran, and my other family members who have joined us this evening. I have to tell you that it is very humbling…and a little bit unsettling to be standing before this distinguished assembly. Generally speaking, I prefer to celebrate other people’s accomplishments when speaking to a group. Being recognized this evening by the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America…and listed with the previous recipients of the Strattner Award is indeed a humbling experience…and I am truly grateful.
While I was trying to get my thoughts in order and formulate what I might possibly say that would resonate with an audience like this, I had a little trouble picking a theme or focus. Eventually, however, I decided that remarks at a Scouting event should be about Scouting and that allowed me to narrow my thinking. What struck me, is that for nearly my entire life, I have relied on the lessons that I learned from Scouting to guide my actions and decisions. At every step in my life, the guideposts and stepping stones that Scouting introduced to me have been the foundations on which I have been able to build success.
Some of those lessons have been very specific and practical. Scouting teaches lessons about Citizenship, Communications, Survival, Camping, and Pioneering, just to name a few. Some points, like “If your head is warm and your socks are dry, you can be comfortable anywhere,” are valuable life lessons that apply even in Marine Corps Officer Training, or on a SWAT operation. Others like, “Always carry a pocket knife,” may be harder to understand if you weren’t a Scout, but become life-long habits. Many, like “Keep your knife and your hatchet sharp,” may seem ridiculous, but that guy chasing the bear with a hatchet in North Adams probably wasn’t a Boy Scout.
While we can find a little bit of humor in those lessons that Scouting teaches, I’d like to go back a little farther, to basic Scouting values that form the fabric of the program. There are four simple and basic principles that are Boy Scout fundamentals. They are important in Scouting, and in life.
The first, the Cub Scout Motto…. “Do your best.” It is probably one of the first lessons that I learned from Scouting. I don’t think that I was even a Scout yet. I read about it in a children’s book about a Cub Scout Den…it was the first thing that their Boy Scout Den Chief taught them. Thinking back, it is one of the first things that I remember committing to as a Scout. It’s not a bad life rule…Do Your Best…you could do a lot worse for a mantra.
The second is the Scout Slogan…. “Do a Good Turn Daily.” As active Scouts, we tend to look at this as the next big service project, but in life it becomes so much simpler. Doing one nice thing for someone each day isn’t a lot to ask…especially if it is for someone who is close to you and in your daily life. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. A simple gesture, a small expression, a seemingly modest act…they can each make the difference in someone else’s day…and they cost us nothing.
The third is my favorite…the Scout Motto…. “Be prepared.” For nearly my entire life…and all of my career…my friends, family and colleagues have made fun of me…I’m that guy who tends to over pack…a day hike requires a backpack…a weekend trip requires a full suitcase…a vacation sometimes means packing an entire car…and people relish picking on me for that…until it starts to rain, or they run out of water…or they forgot their gloves…then they stop laughing….I may be the guy who over packs….but I’m also the guy who was able to provide ½ a shift with hats and gloves by raiding my patrol and call-out bags…life is full of surprises…when we learn to expect the unexpected, it tends to be a little less dramatic…life gets a little simpler when we take the time to “Be Prepared.”
The fourth of these fundamental life lessons is paraphrased from the Outdoor Code and the Leave No Trace initiative. I sum it up as “Leave every campsite better than you found it.” As a Scout that meant packing out everything that you packed in…and anything that you found leftover from the prior occupants when you got there. As an adult, I’ve expanded that lesson beyond the campsite…Leave everything better than you found it….every team, every program, every organization, every project, every relationship, every policy, every opportunity….everything. Try to leave your mark on everything you touch and make the world a little bit better at every step.
Think about it this way….if everyone went through every day, following four simple rules that every 11-year old Boy Scout knows by heart….Do Your Best….Do a Good Turn Daily….Be Prepared….Leave Everything Better Than You Found It….how much better would our lives be and how much good could we all do? We would all be much better off….That is why Scouting has been valuable to me…it is these lessons…more than any merit badge or survival skill, that have made the biggest difference in my life… that is why the world needs more Scouts….And that is why that it is important that we continue to support Scouts and Scouting…and that is why I think it is important that we are here tonight….and that is why I thank you for your generosity and your support and your continued commitment to Scouting.
Good night and God Bless.”