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Eagle Scout Court of Honor acceptance speech delivered by Patrick Morey

June 13, 2011

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The following is an inspiring example of how young people still find their identity in Scouting. This is a transcript of an Eagle Scout Court of Honor acceptance speech delivered by Patrick Morey, 18, who recently graduated from Medford High School and is headed to Ithaca College, majoring in English. His Eagle project was clearing trash and debris from a choked fire access road in woods near the high school. The road is now accessible not only to emergency vehicles but has attracted hikers. It was a perfect example of the new environmentalism advocated by noted authors such as Richard Louv, (Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle), who say that caring for the outdoors is not just hiking in a national park but by bringing nature back to cities and suburbs.

Morey, a member of Troop 416 in Medford, wrote that for years, he was so embarrassed to be a Scout that "I split myself into a school-filtered Patrick and a scout Patrick and promised that one would not betray the other." But it was the years of canoeing, hiking and building things in the Scouts that gave him "hope, courage, confidence and. . .identity," in a world where "the scouting program and I have become so intertwined that it's impossible to discern where the input of one created the product of another."

Patrick’s speech, as sent by his family, follows:

There are seven years between me and the beginning of this path, seven years of work, frustration, experience, excitement, and boredom. In these seven years, I have spent hour after hour roaming the woods, I have canoed for fifty miles, I have learned to build a fire and work with others. But above all, better than any lesson taught in scouts, I have discovered something I can claim to be truly and inarguably meaningful.

And I’ll be honest: when you really get down to it, sometimes it can be an impossible feat to discover something truly meaningful. This is a difficulty many people have without ever fully realizing it: most times it’s because it’s dreadfully easy to find a substitute for meaning. For a nominal charge, a person can buy a new phone and some clothes and a few friends, and then they’ll feel contented until they suddenly decide they need to buy a new phone and some more clothes and a few more friends. If enough people do this on a regular basis and they see enough other people doing this as well, then it only takes a short time for them to lose sight of why they began this whole process to begin with. Of course, happiness is the ideal end product of any decision, but happiness requires an immense amount of effort and thinking and searching, so much so that most times true happiness is hardly an accident. Maybe there are plenty of people who can stumble upon satisfaction through fortune alone, but I am not one of these people. It’s hard for me to function without having some sense that what I’m doing I’ll remember and cherish long after the banalities that surround it dissolve in a mixture of time and forgetfulness.

I apologize if I lost you in the previous; it’s alright, I get lost sometimes too. But there is a reason I bring it up, even with the risk of losing you in the fray while I add a few minutes to my speech that I could easily cut out in place of smiles and thank-you’s. I’ve built such a contrast between my time in scouts and my time in modern America that I have to illustrate one to explain the other. And here’s my explanation: in a world where so much that takes place is done out of obligation and social pressure, Boy Scouting provides meaning to an age group that is routinely denied it.

Out of all the possible programs for children to join, there is no doubt in my mind that the Boy Scouts stands among the best. No other program gives young children the opportunity for them to realize that they are no less capable in achievement than anyone else. Upon entering scouts, the newest boys only have to earn a few easy certifications before they have the same abilities as the oldest scouts. For example, if a youngster new to the program earns his Totin’ Chip within his first week, then he has right to use knives and axes as much as the most experienced scout. In my mind, this is phenomenal encouragement for the young man. Few other persons would likely tell the eleven-year-old boy that he can handle himself just fine around these dangerous tools, because, gosh, when you think about it eleven is really young and knives can be really sharp and if you use them wrong you could slash and artery and bleed to death before you enter the seventh grade. It would be easy to believe that, and many people do, but fortunately for us, the BSA believes in its youth instead.

And I hate to say it, but the BSA is in the minority. If you don’t believe me, just look at all the other things children are expected to spend their time on. For example, let’s say that you’re sixth grader, you’re twelve years old and you are phenomenal at mathematics. When you get into your math class in sixth grade, you realize that you’ve already learned all this and there’s no reason to be in this class, so the teacher just tells you to sit there and read a book. There’s no reason it should go like this; the teacher could easily put you in seventh grade math, but that’s not how things go. You’re in sixth grade and you have to suffer through sixth grade math because that’s the way it has always been and that’s the way it shall stay. There’s the unspoken patronization present when adults treat kids this way: it’s essentially the belief that society should shield its kids from difficulty and minute danger, because, as we all know, pre-algebra is a dangerous thing and twelve year olds have no right to be anywhere near it.

So maybe at school you have to waste a year sitting there quietly and missing on everything the world has to offer for an hour of each school day. If any of you have ever experienced a similar situation, I think you can relate to the intense, possibly existential frustration. And if so, I feel your pain because for a long time I was thrust into the problem and left without a solution. My time in school left me feeling empty and worthless because there were no alternatives to the defeat of being too young to participate in life.

But Scouts changed that. It’s funny: for a period of time at the beginning of middle school I sort of didn’t know what to do with myself and I had no idea who I was, and at the time there was no foreseeable solution. At the time, I was a Boy Scout, but I was embarrassed to say so because I was afraid my classmates would compare me to those lisp-talking, merit badge enthusiast Boy Scout stereotypes that some cartoon writer invented decades ago. And so I kept my mouth shut and I split myself into a school-filtered Patrick and a scout Patrick and promised that one would not betray the other. And then something changed; I don’t remember what but I’m glad it happened. The two figures became one and suddenly everything made sense and I knew who I was. I’m not saying that I’m living solely for scouts, but eventually I realized that the type of person the program tries to build its youth to become was the person I was today. It’s daunting for new scouts to see an Eagle Scout and hear of all the requirements it takes to earn the award all while having to maintain an illustrious moral character. However, the thing that nobody usually tells them, or you, is that this person is just a version of yourself that’s waiting to get out and only needs a bit of encouragement and guidance to do so. To be honest, I never thought I could reach Eagle; even as I moved closer, I never felt like the type of person exemplified in the scout manual. But now that I’m here, I realize that I never really tried to be the moral character of the Eagle, because I already was. The requirements leading to this rank aren’t meant to build young boys into Eagle Scouts; the requirements simply make them realize that they were good people with moral worth the entire time. By presenting the boys with extreme difficulty—and let’s be honest here, camping is not at all easy—the BSA allows boys to try to achieve as much as they possibly can. No eleven-year-old could possibly complete all the requirements without help and improvement over time, but no one is going to stop him from trying. And this, above all, is the greatest thing a child can be given: the belief that he is worth something at this exact moment, not that he will become someone once he’s older.

And I’d tell the benefits that being a scout has brought me, but I honestly don’t know. The scouting program and I have become so intertwined that it’s impossible to discern where the input of one created the product of another. I can, however, tell you what I’ve developed in my years of scouting. There are lists of the positives: hope, courage, confidence, and one is wholly apparent now: identity. I cannot imagine who I would have been without what I’ve experienced. Each adventure stands in my mind fresh and vivid, heavy with meaning and warm with fondness. And as I piece them together and place them one after each other to form a seven year thread, I’ve discovered the most important thing the scouting program has given me: a childhood.