Message from your President
Some Thoughts on the Scout Law
The Scout Law. What a remarkable statement of purpose! Lord Baden-Powell first penned the Scout Law in 1908. That version was adopted by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 1910. Some changes were made in the language to “Americanize” it, and in 1911 the current Law as adopted by the BSA. 1911!!! For over 100 years Boy Scouts have been held to the same high standards. The 12 Points of the Scout Law have endured, and remained relevant for 100 years!
Much has been said of the 12 Points of the Scout Law. Over the years many have endeavored to describe each Point, and to expound on the values and virtues of each. Countless discussions have arisen around campfires across this country, with the purpose of determining which of the twelve is the most important; which provides the most guidance to Scouts. Is it Trustworthy…..Is it Loyal….or is it Reverant? I surely don’t have the answer…no one does. And I must admit I have little or nothing to offer regarding the values and virtues inherent in each of the 12 Points.
But as I thought about the Scout Law, it became clear that there are three words in the Scout Law that get VERY LITTLE attention, but may be as important to the Law as the 12 Points; three words that speak volumes about Boy Scouting as an organization, as a movement. And three words that guide the boys that join, and the young men that are created….
A Scout Is… Yup, that’s it! A Scout Is…. Sound silly?; maybe so. But here are my thoughts about each of these three words. Hopefully by the time I finish, I will have given you some thoughts to “chew on”.
A…. This is a singular term; not plural. It does not say “the Patrol”, or “ the Troop”. So much in Scouting goes to development of the social and leadership skills of the group. But here, with one VERY SHORT word, it is made clear that the Scout Law applies to the INDIVIDUAL. It is clear that what follows this word is very personal. As we recite the Law we are immediately reminded that this is about US; our self! The BSA could have adopted a Scout Law that began “All Scouts are….”. But they didn’t. And over 100 years later, each time we recite the Scout Law, we are reminded that each of us has an obligation to ourselves to live up to the high standards set before each and every Scout.
Scout… This seems pretty obvious, right? But turn the idea on its head. Not only does it say “the 12 Points” that follow are specific to the group, “Scout”. But, as you begin to recite the Law you clearly define yourself! I am a Scout. I am not someone who is thinking about joining and giving this “Law-thing” a test drive. Nope. I AM A SCOUT! I declare that and submit myself to everything that follows. The rank of Scout is earned by completing very few requirements. One of which is to recite, understand, and agree to live by the Scout Law. Each boy coming to Scouting must declare himself a Scout, and know that as an individual, he will be held to a code of conduct; The Scout Law.
Is…. I DON’T think “IS” is just a convenient way to get on to the meat of the Law; the 12 Points. Rather this is a HUGELY important word! There are many phrases that could have been used in the place of “IS”…
- “will endeavor to be…”
- “should give some thought to being…”
- “will work hard on being…”
With the use of this one little word – is – a Scout is saying ”I agree to immediately BE THESE THINGS”! I am these things… I AM Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful…. A Scout declares that from that moment forward the 12 Points are a part of him…. He “IS” those things. And a Scout knows immediately what is required of him in the organization. Not only has he made these Points a part of him, but every other Scout has done the same; the Scout standing next to him; the 1st Class Scout who is teaching him Scout Skills, the Star and Life Scouts who are providing senior leadership to the Troop, the Eagle Scouts on Camp Staff, and the adult leaders as well. All have said “these 12 Points of the Scout Law ARE a part of me, they are in me, they are how I live my life”.
So we ARE saying an awful lot with these three words! I suppose we could modify the Scout Law, and begin it like this…..“As an individual, I declare myself to be a part of the organization of Scouting, with all the rights and obligations that are incumbent with that, and I declare that I am transformed to a person that does and will continue to live within and exhibiting these traits….” There is a little more packed up in those three words than you may have thought!
So…. Did I make my point? I hope next time you raise your right hand and give the Scout Sign, you will pause just for a moment to think about what you are about to say…”A SCOUT IS…”!
Steve Chesnut, President
The three most important words in the Scout Oath….”On My Honor,…”!