Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leave A Trace

The following are the remarks I gave at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor on 15 June, 2013.


Let me tell you something you may not know or remember about ATS1. He used to bring a very unique sense of style to the Scouting uniform. In his earlier years, I remember bright blue and yellow shoes, and I remember a hat of pink, blue, and green. The bill of the cap never seemed to be pointed in the same direction, and was almost never facing forward.

While discussing this once with another leader, we concluded that it was a shame that ATS would one day decide that he was too cool for Scouts; that some day he would leave the program. ATS would never be an Eagle Scout.

The final nail in the coffin, we decided, would be when ATS went to National Youth Leadership Training. If you’re unfamiliar with NYLT, it is a week-long immersion program for teaching theory and practical lessons in leadership. During the program, however, there is an intense level of silliness. They sing bizarre (and sometimes obnoxious) camp songs; they make bad jokes; they perform skits with debatable laugh value. All of these are things that cub scouts love, but many boy scouts grow out of them around age 13. It was here, we were convinced, that ATS would decide how uncool Scouting was and begin his exodus.

Scoutmasters don’t know anything.

ATS came back from NYLT having decided that Scouting is cool. And gradually, the brightly colored shoes and the funny hats stopped showing up with his uniform. Instead, his uniform was pressed, always had the neckerchief, and always looked sharp.

Very early in a scout’s career, we introduce the principles of Leave No Trace. These principles are intended to help guide our actions in the outdoors so that we minimize the impact on the environment. Following these principles helps ecosystems thrive and leaves them in a condition that others may come and enjoy.

Some of the more obvious applications of these principles involve using established fire rings rather than creating new ones. Outdoorsmen are encouraged to sleep on ground that is durable (another word for hard). One of my favorite applications involves how to act when a pool of mud crosses the trail you are hiking. Most people see the mud and instinctively try to walk around it. But doing so wears down the ground around the mud pool, and eventually causes the muddy area to grow. To leave no trace, it is better to walk straight through the mud, so that less of the area is impacted.

The Leave No Trace principles have served to both protect the environment and enhance the outdoor experience.

There is another set of principles in Scouting that we teach, but we’ve never given them a name. One name we could choose for these principles would be “Leave A Trace.” And you should know that ATS has left a lot of traces.

As I mentioned before, when ATS returned from NYLT, the way he wore his uniform changed. Not only that, but he subtly, and perhaps unknowingly, began to influence other scouts to take pride in wearing their uniforms. Under his leadership, scouting stopped being a place to come and goof off. It became a place to look good while you goofed off. His persistence in encouraging the uniform rubbed off on the adults, even, and his influence continues even now. Leave a trace.

ATS has been an active participant in his high school's Student Group On Race Relations. He has led sessions for children and teenagers to teach them how to prevent bullying and intolerance, and he has trained other people to lead those sessions. Leave a trace.

If you ever get the chance to go down to our meeting space, you’ll see a beautiful, free standing wall separating our meeting space from the dance floor on the other side. This is a large, ambitious, and technically challenging project that not only made our space look better; it also protected the investment of the Verb Ballets dance equipment. Most importantly to our troop, it made possible the return of dodge ball. Leave a trace.

Shortly, ATS is going to be awarded his Eagle Scout. It is most certainly a well earned award. And at this time, I want to remind you, ATS -- this is not an end. This is only a beginning. I want you to pin on that medallion, hold your head high, and walk out into the world ready to leave traces of yourself that make better all the places you go. Leave a trace that improves your university; leave a trace that improves your family; leave a trace that improves the lives of those you associate with; and leave traces that improve yourself. This is the charge of an Eagle Scout -- to earn the rank of Eagle now, and to spend the rest of your life showing the world why you deserve it.

Thank you, ATS, for the traces you have left in my life. We are all looking forward to seeing the many traces you leave in your future.

1The honoree's initials

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