Over the years as a school administrator I attended many seminars and conferences designed to improve leadership skills. But the best, most effective leadership training I ever received was “Woodbadge” training by the Boy Scouts of America at Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. It was leadership training in an outdoor setting. After eating our own campfire cooking for a week the final meal prepared by a competent chef was a real treat. I recently came across a story told by Thomas S. Monson about a similar Woodbadge experience:
“Tired, hungry, a bit bruised after their [Woodbadge] experience, one [Scouter] asked the chef why he was always smiling and why each year he returned at his own expense to cook the traditional meal for Scouting’s leaders in that area. He placed aside the skillet, wiped his hands on the white apron which graced his rotund figure, and told the men this experience. Dimitrious began:
“’I was born and grew to boyhood in a small village in Greece. My life was a happy one until World War II. Then came the invasion and occupation of my country by the Nazis. The freedom-loving men of the village resented the invaders and engaged in acts of sabotage to show their resentment.
“’One night, after the men destroyed a hydroelectric dam, the villagers celebrated the achievement and then retired to their homes.’ Dimitrious continued: ‘Very early in the morning, as I lay upon my bed, I was awakened by the noise of many trucks entering the village. I heard the sound of soldier’s boots, the rap at the door, and the command for every boy and man to assemble at once on the village square. I had time only to slip into my trousers, buckle my belt, and join the others. There, under the glaring lights of a dozen trucks, and before the muzzles of a hundred guns, we stood. The Nazis vented their wrath, told of the destruction of the dam, and announced a drastic penalty: every fifth man or boy was to be summarily shot. A sergeant made a fateful count, and the first group was designated and executed.
“Dimitrious spoke more deliberately to the Scouters as he said, ‘Then came the row in which I was standing. To my horror, I could see that I would be the final person designated for execution. The soldier stood before me, the angry headlights dimming my vision. He gazed intently at the buckle of my belt. It carried on it the Scout insignia. I had earned the belt buckle as a Boy Scout for knowing the Oath and Law of Scouting. The tall soldier pointed at the belt buckle, then raised his right hand in the Scout sign. I shall never forget the words he spoke to me: ‘Run, boy, run!’ I ran. I lived. Today I serve Scouting, that boys may still dream dreams and live to fulfill them.’ (As told by Peter W. Hummel)
“Dimitrious reached into his pocket and produced that same belt buckle. The emblem of Scouting still shone brightly. Not a word was spoken. Every man wept. A commitment to Scouting renewed.” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign Magazine, Nov. 1982, 19-21)
The Protestant minister Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “Men will work hard for money. They will work harder for other men. But men will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause. Until willingness overflows obligation, men work as conscripts, rather than following the flag as patriots. Duty is never worthily performed until performed by one who would gladly give more, if only he could.” (“Vital Quotations” compiled by Emerson Roy West, 1968)