During my first year as principal at a large El Paso high school, I was invited to attend the yearly induction ceremony of the National Honor Society. The sponsor seemed pleased when I told her I would be honored to be in attendance.
I arrived a few minutes early expecting to find a seat somewhere in the audience. The sponsor met me at the door to the packed auditorium seemingly relieved that I had made an appearance. She quickly ushered me to a seat almost directly behind the podium. A printed program for the evening’s proceedings had been placed on the seat and as the ceremony began, I casually opened it and began to read. I’m sure the blood drained from my face as I read, “Keynote Speaker: Keith J. McClellan.”
Now, I’m hard of hearing. Perhaps that is why I had apparently missed something when the sponsor had issued her invitation. I’m not really sure what actually happened, however, I was sure that I was in deep trouble. I was totally unprepared to deliver a major address to the school’s best and brightest students and their parents. What to do? As I tried to appear calm and confident on the outside, my mind raced as I broke out in a cold sweat.
I have been involved one way or another in Boy Scouts since I was nine years old. The principles of the Scout Law came to mind. I pulled out my Day-Timer and began to jot down some notes in order to organize my thoughts. All too soon, it was my turn to speak and the sponsor gave me an undeserved, very complimentary introduction.
For the next fifteen to twenty minutes I went over the basic principles of Scouting’s fundamental tenets and urged the students to find happiness and success in life by applying them in daily living:
“A Scout is trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him.
“A Scout is loyal. He is loyal to those to whom loyalty is due.
“A Scout is helpful. He cares about other people. He helps others without expecting payment or reward. He fulfills his duties to his family by helping at home.
“A Scout is friendly. He is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races, religions, and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
“A Scout is courteous. He is polite to people of all ages and positions. He understands that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
“A Scout is kind. He treats others the way he wants to be treated. He knows there is strength in being gentle. He does not harm or kill any living thing without good reason.
“A Scout is obedient. He follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he seeks to have them changed in an orderly way.
“A Scout is cheerful. He looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way and tries his best to make others happy, too.
“A Scout is thrifty. He works to pay his own way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He is careful in his use of time and property.
“A Scout is brave. He faces danger even if he is afraid.
“A Scout is clean. He keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses friends who also have high standards. He avoids profanity and pornography. He helps keep his home and community clean.
“A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” (The Boy Scout Handbook)
At the conclusion of the program, a parent approached me and congratulated me on the “informal but informative and inspiring speech.” I breathed a sigh of relief.
The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” On that occasion I wasn’t prepared. Or was I? Years of trying to apply certain principles in my life had engrained them into my being. I know I fall way short but, at least, I have something at which to aim.
Governor Rick Perry wrote a book entitled “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts are Worth Fighting For.” H. Ross Perot, writing in the book’s Forward said: “As you read this book, remember that the last phrase of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a question: ‘Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.’
“If all of us were to live the principles of Scouting, the answer would always be a resounding, yes!” Comments? email@example.com