Monday, October 20, 2014

Century of Civilization Training

We take a break today from commenting on painful decay and problems in the news, and instead look at some positive signs of civilization.
Mr. Spherical Model recently volunteered as a district commissioner for one of the 27 districts in the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. So that put us on the invitation list for the gala in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Council—which began a few years after the original founding of BSA in 1910. It is the largest Boy Scout council in America (maybe in the world). And a lot of good has been going on during this century.
I’m usually a compulsive note taker when I hear speeches, but I hadn’t prepared with a large notebook in my bag. Nor was it convenient to pull out writing materials in the relative dark at our dinner table. So I missed a lot I wish I could share and have to depend mostly on memory.
There were three recent Eagle Scouts who spoke, all impressive young men. They talked about service and family, mainly. The keynote speaker was the current national president of BSA, Dr. Robert Gates. Yes, you’ve heard that name before. He was an Air Force officer early in his career, recruited by the CIA during the Johnson administration. He served in government for 26 years, including the National Security Council, and as head of the CIA during George W. Bush’s administration. After that he served as president of Texas A&M University (there was a “whoop” that arose from the audience every time that school was mentioned; I guess it’s a Texas thang). And now, in his “retirement,” he has taken on the biggest organization in the world for building civilized men.
Robert Gates, President of BSA
photo from Wikipedia
Despite his serious demeanor, he was a fun speaker. He had a couple of funny anecdotes about Washington, DC. One quip was, “The road of humility is not well traveled there; you can take that road and never meet another soul.” And he told a couple of stories about LBJ’s legendary self-regard, in which he needed reminding that he was not God. In one, during a prayer breakfast, LBJ interrupted the person giving the prayer (a name I recognized but can’t recall now) saying he should speak up, because he couldn’t hear. And the quick answer was, “That’s because I wasn’t talking to you.”
Gates talked about a particular campout with his son, what was supposed to be a primitive camp. But the atmosphere was interrupted somewhat by the several security vans that surrounded him, because they were tasked with protecting him as a high ranking CIA official.
He said that his many busy years of government service did interfere with his getting more involved in Scouting in those days. But the real reason was that no one asked him. I thought that was an important point. This is true for much of the volunteer work that gets done in society; people step up and do the work when someone asks them to, letting them know their service is needed and will be appreciated. What a bonus if the service is done in an organization with such a record of success!
The Sam Houston Area Council now has about 58,000 scouts, plus about 20,000 adult volunteers. Many of these (most) come from church congregations that sponsor troops. In our church most of the volunteers are asked to serve. Expressing interest usually leads to being asked, but it’s expected that, if you’re asked and you can serve, you will. Training follows. The latest position for Mr. Spherical Model, as commissioner, though, was not through the church, but through district leadership. It’s an honor, but also a challenge. Something years as a scout master and scout committee chair for the local troop has prepared him for.
This crazy troop are all grown now, most are married
and graduated from college, and four serve in the US Military.
There are plenty of ways to serve, as an adult. I’ve done a number of them. I spent three years as a den leader. I’ve been a merit badge counselor—something practically everyone could do to help. I’ve also been the mom who helps monitor advancement for boy scouts, through cub scouting, and on through Eagle. Our family produced one Life Scout (second highest level), and one Eagle Scout, by the age 18 deadline.
Then there’s the service as needed, like when a scout is doing his Eagle project and is recruiting help. And sometimes there are bigger opportunities. November 15, for example, is a community-wide Day of Service the Boy Scouts are sponsoring. Don’t wait to be asked.
There are various places I’ve listed the qualities individuals need to develop for civilization to thrive. The Boy Scout Law is one of those, worth repeating:
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
A Scout, or any person, who develops those characteristics becomes a civilized human being. We need more of those. The best way to grow a boy into such a man is to have a dad and mom who show the way. Scouting can be a tool those parents can use to help them.

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