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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Achieved is the Glorious Work*

"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here”.
I was reminded of this excerpt from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address when preparing for today’s ceremony. The achievement of earning the Eagle rank in Scouting is but one stop in a boy’s life journey, albeit a huge one, and should not be confused with the final destination.  So many tasks had to be completed, activities engaged in, skills learned, so much information absorbed and applied, all in the name of building one unique young man.  Earning the highest award in any worthwhile endeavor, whether it is an Olympic medal, a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize, or the Eagle rank in Scouting, is a beautiful thing.  But it pales in importance to what happened leading up to the attainment of the rank, and perhaps more importantly, what happens next—in the hours and days, weeks, months, and years after the ceremony. 

How does the newly minted Eagle apply everything he’s learned? Young adulthood is an overwhelming experience for many. Mistakes are made—even by Eagle Scouts. How the young adult deals with adversity, pitfalls of all kinds, and temptations, speaks to how firmly rooted "Scouting's timeless values" become in the individual.  It is insufficient merely to parrot the words of the Scout oath or the 12 points of Scout law--they must be lived, deeply, as though the Scout's response to life's challenges sprang from the foundation of his existence and was not merely a thin coat of paint that sloughed off in the first storm.
There's so much to say and perhaps more that will be left unsaid in the weeks and months to come, but I'd like to hit a few salient points:
1) Your Grandpa De Kok and Grandma Brooks are smiling right now.
2) My mom--your grandmom--is back in Michigan, and very pleased. She'd be here if she was able, but look around.  To quote Governor Lang in Mr. Holland's Opus, "There is not one person in this room whose life you have not touched".
3) While the troop and its leaders did give you substantial help along the way with one thing or another, this was an individual achievement that reflects favorably on you, your troop and peers, and your family. This was your bite at the apple, Daniel, your time to shine, and you did it. Congratulations.**
*--Franz Josef Haydn, closing chorus to part 1 of The Creation, oratorio, H.21/2**, 1798.  My sincere apologies. I changed the name of this post and couldn't change the note referencing the title.  To those readers who think I'm one of those horrible ignorant Americans, well, what can I say? The computer wasn't cooperating. 

**--H. 21/2 is this work's Hoboken Catalog number. Various composers with large opuses (Bach, Mozart, Schubert, and even Peter Maxwell Davies in this century) have had fellow musicians and musicologists cataloging their works, sometimes by type of composition, other times by order of composition. The Hoboken catalog is named for Anthony von Hoboken, a 20th century musicologist who published the first edition in 1957.  You're forgiven if your first thought upon hearing "Hoboken" was either Bugs Bunny and a penguin that cries ice cube tears, or Frank Sinatra.

Friday, July 26, 2013

We Didn't Start the Fire*

After last night, I've come to a few conclusions.

1) It isn't right for someone to force another person to open his or her birthday gift ahead of his birthday.  It's awkward for the recipient and their loved ones, who were savoring the surprise with great anticipation.  The recipient was perfectly willing to wait until it was time, but in the interest of expediency, those in charge of the gift decided to do so anyway. Those of you who were responsible, shame on you.  You've cheapened a joyous individual achievement for your own selfish motives.

2) The adult leadership in our troop as a group leaves too much to be desired in terms of personal and emotional maturity. During the recent controversy regarding membership and leadership requirements in Scouting, there was much said about Scouting "not being about sex". I guess that all went out the window with the summer camp mock awards that were given out at last night's awards ceremony.  Not to be a wet blanket, but the next committee chairman needs to address each individual leader's behavior and contributions now if not sooner.  What I witnessed was beyond the bounds of good taste and civility. We represent Scouting when we're in uniform, wherever we happen to be.

3) One of the issues I've been harping on since I started as CC is our relationship with our chartering organization.  When requested by the scoutmaster, I gladly helped set chairs for the awards ceremony. Afterwards, I started quietly putting chairs away, picking up trash, cans and food, and sweeping the floor, hoping that the Scouts and adults would notice and join in.  Alas, I was almost completely disappointed. While I did get a thank you from the senior patrol leader, who really is a pretty good kid, that was about it. Not much help at all from the adults or Scouts.  People, you have to realize that when you're in a covenant (read charter) relationship with a group, for you to leave the meeting room in the state it was in before I started cleaning in effect slaps our partner in the face and says, "I don't respect your feelings, and I'm going to act however I want".

4) I've always thought that the folks that advocate for prospective parents being vetted for emotional and mental fitness to take on the job were, at best, a little off. I'm not all that certain they're wrong any more. I offer the following example:

Medical science and the industrial gases profession have determined that huffing helium is an extremely risky and potentially dangerous behavior, even in small amounts, and should be avoided at all costs, regardless of the comic effect.To wit:

So we had helium balloons at the event last night, and one of the boys was walking around breathing in from one of the balloons.  I told him to stop, and within a few seconds of doing so, one of his fellow Scouts started chanting "inhale! inhale!".  I scolded the second Scout and told him that he shouldn't encourage risky behavior in others, especially after he'd just heard me tell the first Scout not to do it..  I was ripped a new one by not only the boy's mother but the boy's sister for "yelling at (the Scout)".  Unbowed, I told her that I'd gladly do it again if necessary, and that her son was encouraging risky behavior in others. If his feelings were hurt because an adult stepped up and did his parent's job for them, too bad. As an adult in charge of youth, I'd rather deal with hurt feelings (which the child will get over) as opposed to avoidable trips to the emergency room (which may have more tragic consquences).  My advice to the naive parent?  If you won't believe me, ask your son's pediatrician about the dangers of  huffing helium, and GROW UP.

5) In these days of "everyone gets a trophy", it's been refreshing to see Scouting stand for not giving specious, nebulously described awards.  The Scout actually has to do something specific within given guidelines with sufficient documentation to earn a badge of rank, a merit badge, or other special awards such as for saving a life or acting in service to his faith community or others, and I'm perfectly fine with that. Further, it's a good thing to honor others who gone before us in service to Scouting.  That being said, it does not honor their memory to create awards in their name with nebulous or no requirements.  As committee chairman, I'm still waiting for those promised requirements in writing.

6) Still waiting, too, for the Lafayette district of the Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America, to act on my son's Eagle Scout paperwork.  My son called on the 22nd--three weeks to the day after he turned it in--to find out the what his status was.  He was given what I can only describe as a non-answer.  I called, identified myself as troop committee chairman and asked her directly to check into it.  We received a phone call about 20 minutes later saying that the paperwork had been picked up on the 8th but no other information was available.  Life goes on.


*Billy Joel, Storm Front, 1989.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How Can I Keep From Singing?* part 2

Occasionally there are days that make you question your sanity, your raison d'etre, your significance.  This past week was full of them.

Since January 2012 I've taken ten classes.  Up until now my record has been immaculate.
Eight classes, eight A's. Batting a 4.0.  Then I make the fatal mistake of taking on too much. Two five-week summer classes, an internship, and working (I had already dropped my gigs for the summer so I could focus on school work).  I soon realized that even that was too much.  Postponed the internship. My head was swimming and nothing was making sense.  I got sick. Had to finish the classes to graduate on time.  Everything is getting turned in on time (more or less).

Long story short--in the end a herculean effort just wasn't enough.  87 on my Bibliography of the Humanities class (which I'll write about some other time).  I needed 89.9 for an A.

Final score as of today: Nine A's, one B.  If I'd done that as an undergrad, I'd still be celebrating.
In a sense I should be proud of my work thus far, but I really craved that 4.0. It's not like I flunked out, but still...sigh.

I have two good professors this fall--Clark for Bibliography of the Social Sciences and Kreuger for Instructional Techniques for Librarians, and then graduation!  I think I'll bring Turkish Delight to the after-ceremony reception at Dr. Lillard's...

*Rev. Robert Wadsworth Lowry, 1868; text attributed to "Pauline T." in the New York Observer.