Speeches We Like: Peggy Rowe speaks to Eagle Scout Moms

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See on Scoop.itConnect Eagle Scouts To Your Unit, District or Council Committee
Keynote Speech for the first annual gathering of Eagle Scout mothers: It’s such fun to be in a room full of people who have a common interest. The last time I had such an experience was last year when my husband and I attended the Annual National Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America. “An intimate breakfast gathering in Jacksonville, Florida,” we were told. We watched, along with 2000 other Scouting parents, leaders, and supporters as our son Mike was presented with the Distinguished Eagle Scout award. He told about his Scouting journey, and how it has affected his career, his choices, and his life in general. We are proud of our son’s accomplishments, of course, but prouder still of his remarks that morning. Mike told the story of a 16-yr-old Boy Scout who dove into deep water, pulled a drowning man from the bottom of a pool, and performed a lifesaving procedure. Mike’s younger brother didn’t mention his heroics to our family until later that evening. Dinnertime was often the only opportunity our active family of five could be together. When we asked how Scott’s lifeguarding duties had gone that day, he shrugged and said, “Well, I might have saved a guy’s life.” Mike looked at his brother, Scott, in the audience last year, and as he held the Distinguished Eagle Scout medal that hung around his neck, he teased, “Scott doesn’t have one of these. But Scott saved a man’s life. Some people have medals, and other people have mettle.” There was applause, of course, but not for Mike. It was for his younger brother and for all the other unsung heroes out there. Mike enjoys telling people how he was forced into scouting by two parents who insisted, “You’ll love it, Mike. It will be good for you. You’re doing it!” But what he doesn’t tell you is that he was a shy, introverted kid who hated being the center of attention. As a child he dove into the hall closet or under the kitchen table every time the doorbell rang or there was a knock on the door – so that nobody would look at him. I pictured him as a miserable recluse someday. He was a neat freak, with such an aversion to dirt. Forget mud puddles or mud pies; this child wouldn’t even touch Play-Doh or finger paints. In 2010, my husband and I attended the 100th anniversary BS Jamboree at Fort AP Hill – where we watched our former neat-freak son –- being brought into an enormous arena in the bucket of a Caterpillar front-end loader and deposited on the stage. There, our shy, introverted son, who didn’t like people to look at him – spoke to over 80,000 scouts, leaders and guests. “I would not be where I am today, had it not been for Scouting. A Scout is clean but not afraid to get dirty.” He told them that he patterned Dirty Jobs after the Boy Scout model. The only difference being that Boy Scouts achieve their goals through a lens of “service,” and Dirty Jobs, through a lens of “dirt.” It was a good move, committing our son to scouting all those years ago. But what they don’t tell you is something that every mother in this room knows. When you commit your son to scouting, you commit your entire family to Scouting. I was so naïve. I thought that being a Scouting parent meant buying a uniform and delivering my son to meetings and other activities. I was even willing to make brownies or cookies for special occasions. Silly me!!!! In no time, our other sons, Scott and Phil, had joined Cub Scouts and Webelos. It was easier for them; they wanted to do everything big brother did. Before long, I had the privilege of sewing endless badges and patches on four uniforms, because naturally, by this time, I was a den leader. It was like being a teacher again, planning weekly meetings, activities, and field trips — as 7 or 8 little boys invaded our basement every Tuesday afternoon – whether I was ready or not. My husband was an active committee member and the Institutional Representative, since Troop 16 met in our church. We were both merit badge counselors. No more carefree weekends for the Rowes. When there wasn’t hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, spelunking…John was helping to whittle chunks of balsa wood into racing cars or loading recycled newspapers or Florida oranges into our station wagon. I was busy sewing on badges and patches. A Court of Honor was a mixed blessing. Sure I was proud of our sons’ accomplishments. I tried to smile at the pile of new patches and badges ready to be sewn on. There was a recruiting poster on the church bulletin board. I remember one committee meeting in particular where I suggested adding a ‘truth-in-advertising’ clause about parent involvement. They thought I was kidding. At the same meeting, I raised my hand to suggest that a Scout’s first merit badge should be a mandatory ‘sewing’ badge. It suddenly occurred to me that they might make me the ‘sewing-merit-badge counselor.’ I put my hand down. Everyone in this room knows the benefits of Scouting. There are testimonials from CEOs, presidents, astronauts, tradesmen, engineers, businessmen, and even TV personalities. But how cool is it to go to a Scouting Expo and eat peach cobbler that your son prepared with his own hands and cooked in a Dutch oven, or to watch a son assist younger scouts on a high ropes course he has helped to design and construct? When I asked our sons what their mountaintop experiences were in scouting, I expected to hear about a canoe trip on the C&O Canal, a scouting Expo, a hike up Old Rag Mountain where black bears ravaged the campsite at night, or maybe even a week spent at Philmont Scout Ranch. But they all agreed that it was the week they spent at Broad Creek Scout Camp each summer. Our oldest son credits Scouting with teaching him to stick with a task and see it through no matter how difficult or unpleasant, another son is grateful to Scouting for prying him away from his books and forcing him to interact with other boys, and our youngest says that Scouting made him more self-reliant. As a mother, I can attest that Scouting makes parenting easier. Sure it’s work, but it structures lives and gives us access to resources for our children we would not otherwise have. It helped us to know ours sons better. Who knew that our 13-year-old son had the stamina and determination to swim a mile at summer camp, or to perform life-saving skills? Who knew he could scale a cliff and rappel back down to the ground? Thanks to Scouting, Scott worked his way through college as a lifeguard and leader of an outdoors adventure group. Thanks to Scouting, Phil was channeled into wholesome, productive activities. And whoever thought that I would one day turn on a television and see our meticulous neat-freak Eagle-Scout son standing knee-deep in steaming manure, stripped to the waist, with his arm up the rear-end of a bull, or a cow, or a horse…? Thank you Scouting, — I think. Of course, the most memorable experience for John and me was that quiet, peaceful, self-indulgent week in 1977 — the year all three of our boys left for camp together. They were 16, 13, and 11, and not even the smelly mess returning with them at the end of the week could spoil those seven days for us. And I don’t even resent you younger Scouting mothers for having the luxury of iron-on patches and badges – really, I don’t….

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