I would like to thank you for providing me a few moments to honor the newest Eagle Scout from our parish. As we count the ways in which he has earned this distinct honor, I hope to focus my remarks on the future. But prior to moving forward, it should be noted that every future has a past. For this young man, his past has been formed by a loving family. His mother and father and sisters have nurtured him along the path of love and bear great responsibility for the man he has become. In helping to form this man for others, you should know that our loving God smiles upon you. Your efforts have helped build a brighter future—for all of us!
Regarding these men who help form our common future, I have learned from my research at the Boy Scouts of America website that…
- Eagle Scouts are expected to set an example for other Scouts and become the leaders in life that they have demonstrated themselves to be in Scouting.
- They are disproportionately represented in the military, service academy graduates, higher education and academia, major professions, clergy, business and politics.
- Eagles are more likely to exercise for 30 minutes or more every day, volunteer for religious and nonreligious organizations, have closer relationships with family and friends, be in leadership positions at their place of employment or within their local community, donate money to charitable groups, and work with others to improve their neighborhoods.
In short, their very public expressions of service are welcomed and needed and noticed within the communities they live and serve.
Regarding our awareness of such things, the fourth century Doctor of the Church, St. Basil the Great, wrote:
Now, if you notice how the swan, putting its neck down into the deep water, brings up food for itself from below, then you will discover the wisdom of the Creator, in that He gave it a neck longer than its feet for this reason, that it might, as if lowering a sort of fishing line, procure the food hidden in the deep water.
In his observation of the swan, St. Basil calls us to notice the wisdom of the Creator, but also that the swan finds himself procuring food hidden in deep water.
Today, these last two words, deep water, describe the situation our nation finds itself in.
While it is true that we enjoy the benefits of living during times of great material wealth and expanding technology, it is also true that there has developed a widespread belief that our commitment to others is shown by the increasing ways government assists you and me. Using this way of thinking, an enlarged government equates to an increased commitment to others.
But something tells me this is not true. For in looking around, it seems that we are becoming, at an ever-increasing rate, the “I” generation. No, this is not some new generational descriptor (e.g., Boomers, Xers, etc.). Rather, it describes a people whose time is spent texting and emailing and advancing social media until there is no time left. And with no time remaining, what has been left out are the “other things” prior generations took for granted that were so much a part of their lives: forging closer relationships with family and friends, attending church services, engaging in charities, visiting nursing homes, checking in with elderly neighbors, and volunteering in their communities.
Regarding all of this, Wall Street Journal (The I’s Have It, Nov. 16, 2012) columnist, Peggy Noonan, once remarked (of us):
We are becoming a conceited nitwit society, pushy and self-aggrandizing. No one is ashamed to brag now. And show off. They think it heightens them. They think it’s good for business. It used to be that if you were big, you’d never tell people how big you were because that would be kind of classless, and small. In fact, it would be a proof of smallness. So, don’t be showy. The big are modest.
So, who then are these Eagle Scouts? To recall St. Basil’s account of the swan, they are men leading us into deep water and showing us wisdom and what is important in life. They are doing the heavy lifting. They are pointing us toward a bright and hopeful future. They are leading us forward. They are reminding us that those “other things” are mighty important. And they are calling us to remember our better nature.
Just what is this better nature? Simply stated, it is that men and women have been created by God—and made for others. Yes, each of us has been called to do—good!
Our sole Eagle Scout president, Gerald R. Ford, described this best when, in December 1974, he spoke at the Boy Scouts’ Annual Awards Dinner:
It has recently been said that I am too much of a Boy Scout in the way I have conducted myself as President, and so I reviewed the Boy Scout laws and Boy Scout oath. They say that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That is not bad for somebody who knew it 46 years ago. And the Boy Scout oath is, ‘On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout laws, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’ Well, if these are not the goals of the people of the United States, what they want their President to live up to, then I must draw this conclusion: Either you have the wrong man or I have the wrong country, and I don’t believe either is so.
Today, we thank God for all Eagle Scouts across our great land. Thank you for leading us into deep water and showing us our better nature. Thank you for the good you do. We are proud of you! And may God bless you!