From the District Chair - We're all in this together!

Posted on Feb 8 2013 - 5:48am


Button Gwinnett Scouters ,

I was fortunate to speak to many of you a few weeks ago at our, Annual District Awards & Recognition Banquet.

For those of you who were not able to attend, I addressed the group, providing my vision for Button Gwinnett District. I'd like to share these thoughts with you.

Why I'm Passionate About Scouting:

  • No other youth organization compares to the BSA in its mission of preparing young people to make ethical and moral decisions over their lifetime by instilling in them the Scout Oath and Law… I'm not sure about you, but I've never found another organization with such a simple, but powerful mission to serve the youth.
  • The time I get to spend with my son (and with my six-year old daughter who will eventually join a Venturing Crew) is priceless. While in college, my fraternity big brother, an Eagle Scout, had a wonderful relationship with his father. His father was his Scoutmaster and I remembered how close the two were and how impactful Scouting was to them. They were great role models for me in the kind of father I wanted to be.
  • This is my way of being able to pay back and pay forward:
    - My father died when I was 15 and a few of my town's men took ownership of my development and mentored me. It had a huge impact on me during a very difficult time.
    - A lot of our youth come from single family homes and need father figures/mentors in their lives.
    - The fact that I can be a mentor and have other men mentor my son means so much to me.

Our district is at a critical inflection point:

  • The dynamics of our Scouts and their families are changing. So many of you travel for a living and our youth are involved in so many activities that compete for their time. Our values may be timeless, but we have to make sure that the program we use to deliver these values is relevant!
  • Our demographics are changing. Gwinnett County is considered one of the most diverse suburban areas in the U.S. Did you know that there are over 30 languages that are spoken in our county? We have so many emerging cultural groups in our area that are under-represented. We need to make sure that we're reaching out to ensure that all of our eligible youth are being exposed to the Scouting movement as Scouting ahs such a positive impact in improving our community.
  • These wonderful programs that we deliver (Events, Camps, Facilities, etc.) take money to operate and maintain. The economic challenges of the past few years have meant that it costs more to deliver the same experiences. We have to challenge ourselves to increase our district fund-raising contributions to ensure that we have a strong council, which means we continue to deliver fantastic programs and camps. 

In order to meet these opportunities and challenges, we must focus on 3 things:

  1. Put Youth First - There's a lot of things that we spend doing in the course of a Scouting year. We need to make sure that everything we do is for the benefit of our youth. If we put their interests FIRST (not our politics, or our accomplishments for our pride or egos), then we are helping them to develop the leadership skills and tools to lead purposeful lives. It begins and ends with the youth!
  2. Remember that our time as volunteers is an investment that benefits ourselves - One hundred years after Arthur Eldred of New York earned this nation's first Eagle Scout Award, independent research demonstrates the significant positive impact Eagle Scouts have on Society every day. The study conducted by Baylor University, "Merit Beyond the Badges", found that Eagles Scouts are more likely than men who have never been in Scouting to:
    • Have higher levels of planning and preparation skills, be goal-oriented, and network with others
    • Be in a leadership position at their place of employment or local community
    • Report having closer relationships with family and friends
    • Volunteer for religious and nonreligious organizations
    • Donate money to charitable groups
    • Work with others to improve their neighborhoods
  1. Remember that we ALL have to be in this together to succeed - One of my concerns with district activities is that we too often rely on one person or one unit to shoulder the responsibility (burden) of carrying out an activity that benefits all units. If you were at the District Banquet, you heard me talk about various definitions of "The District" I received when I posed the question to friends/fellow Scouters:
    • A geographic body of Scout units
    • An organizational entity that organizes activity for Scouts
    • A black box - an unknown entity - "I know there is a district... but I don't know who it is or what it really does..."

I proposed what I feel the definition of a district is: "A community of like minded people who are invested in transforming the lives of youth." 

Based on this definition, we are all in that community and we need to share the load. As the old saying goes, "many hands make for light work."

One of my goals this year is to reinvent some of our programs to ensure that the execution and success of activities in the district are shared evenly, since we all benefit from them, and so that no one person and group has to shoulder the burden every year. 

To illustrate my point, I shared a "Scoutmaster Minute" with the audience that I hope you find relevant to our goals, entitled: Growing Good Corn 

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.  

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. 

"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked. 

"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn." 

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves. 

So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all. 

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn. 

I'm excited to be working with all of you in the Button Gwinnett District to transform the lives of our youth! 

I'd love to hear from you… Feedback and questions are always welcome. Feel free to contact me at committeechair@gwinnettbsa.org 

Yours in Scouting,

Terry Walls - District Chair