[ Home ] [Writing Index Page ] [ About David ] [ Galleries ] [ News ]
SPEECH FOR EAGLE COURT
June 19, 1989
Scoutmaster, Scouts, Ladies and Gentlemen, and, most especially, Trevor,
I'm not often intimidated. Of course, that may well be due more to a lack of sense than to anything else. But, in any case, I must confess that Trevor managed to intimidate me thoroughly a few days ago.
On June 7, about mid afternoon, he called me at work and asked if I would speak at his Eagle court: to give the Eagle “Charge” to him during the ceremonies. I told him I would be honored, and blithely went on about the afternoon's work. But, in truth, I have rarely felt more inadequate to a task in my whole life.
I assume that parents, by virtue of their status as parents, become somehow magically endowed with the wisdom for such things; that they just know what to say and when...and how. But I'm not a parent. The closest I come is having two cats. I don't have to tell them what to do in life and they probably wouldn't listen if I did.
So, I borrowed a copy of the scout and Eagle books to see what they might tell me. In those books I read the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. I also read the Athenian youth's pledge and the pledge of Chivalry, both of which helped to inspire the Scout Oath and Law.
Now, that's good stuff! I could see why anyone would want to charge a young man to live up to those ideals and to live the remainder of his life exemplifying the spirit of the Boy Scouts.
But Trevor, in my humble opinion, already does that. If he didn't, he wouldn't be here tonight; he wouldn't be one of the less than 2 percent of all scouts to attain the Eagle Scout rating.
I don't have to tell Trevor to be those things embodied in the Scout law, he already is.
I don't have to tell him to keep on being that, he knows that he should
and, I'm sure, he really wants to. If I didn't believe that of him, I wouldn't be here tonight.
But, is that enough?
Well, the Bible says that if you, “Train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it."
Those must have been much simpler times because I believe, based on simply looking around me, that a serious problem will come in maintaining those ideals in the face of the massive, continual assaults on them he will encounter as he continues to grow into adulthood.
We act as if teaching kids to be able to memorize those ideals, and to act properly ‑‑ at least when being observed ‑‑ is enough. I am here to tell you that it isn't.
Oh, some pockets of us still try to instill in our youth the ideals which the Scout law codifies so well. But we, as a culture, provide little ‑‑ or no ‑‑ real training for the moral, spiritual, and intellectual combat it will require to sustain those ideals in the world left to us by the “me” generation.
In those archaic, biblical times when Proverbs 22:6 was written, youths were trained for the anticipated combat of life. In those simpler times, adults knew not only what ideals should be taught, they knew where the attacks on those ideals would come from, and how. The training of their youths extended beyond just the teaching of ideals, it extended into the training necessary to try to preserve those ideals against hostile forces.
But things change...and they seemed to have changed quickly.
Somewhere in our cultural march from warrior to businessman, from scale armor to starched shirts, we have lost our keen awareness of the struggle. As the weapons of strife evolved from the sword to the keyboard, we relaxed our attention. We forgot the elemental distinctions between warriors and just fighters.
“This isn't really combat anymore,” we said, “it's just business."
“We're not really under attack anymore, “we declared, “ that's just some people doing their thing."
Or, “Yeah, I know they kill and enslave their neighbors,” our leaders told us, “But if we'll be nice to them, they'll be nice to us."
We could not possibly be more in error.
I must confess, I've sometimes fallen into the same trap. I've often told my business colleagues that real stress is only when the other team is shooting back. But I've been wrong: real stress is also when your values are under attack and you are helpless to protect them.
Stress is found in the constant fight against the constant pressure to force you to ignore integrity as an antique concept, to have you bury a God they declared long since dead, to trample a flag deemed no longer relevant, to do anything to close the deal, to put death into your body in the name of pleasure.
What history tells us clearly is that while ideals and a vision for the future are necessary to the development and growth of an individual or a culture, sadly, they are not bullet proof.
We, as adults, need to get a grip on ourselves and realize it is time to train our youths as warriors again. Not necessarily with a sword or gun ‑‑ but with knowledge and integrity, the proper weapons to face the everyday battles they will encounter for their spirit, their upbringing, their ‑‑ and our ‑‑ future.
As young people, like Trevor, go out into the world, their upbringing, no matter how sound, will be under a constant, unfaltering attack.
Drugs... “Making it The Easy Way”... Academic and corporate politics... “The Bottom Line”... “The Fast Buck”... These and hordes of other weapons will be used to hack away at the battlements of their basic beliefs. Those attacks will come to them wherever they are ‑‑ from the halls of school to the halls of congress.
There isn't time in these few minutes to provide the training for that combat. But there is time for a few guidelines. Because I believe we need a new crop of warriors, I'm going to put these guidelines in those terms and seek inspiration from their ranks.
For the warrior, REALITY is the teacher...and the test.
In the mid 1600s, a warrior in Japan did an amazing thing. Miyamoto Musashi, Samurai to the current Tokunagawa Shogunate, retired... alive. According to some chronicles he had engaged in over 1500 known encounters of personal, deadly combat and battlefield events, and had never lost. As an old man, he retired to the solitude of a mountain cave and began to paint and to write.
He wrote a small, esoteric booklet for would‑be warriors in which he listed 9 rules they must follow if they were to be successful with their “strategy” ‑‑ his euphemism for combat.
Trevor, I'd like to share these rules with you and use them as my charge to you. They are not easy, and not always easy to understand, sort of like life itself. But you, as you grow to adulthood, and the society to be composed of you and your generation, are playing in a high stakes game where the price of failure is destruction.
The first rule is: “DO NOT THINK DISHONESTLY”.
Though it may sound similar, this first, critical rule is far different from simply telling you to “BE HONEST”. The act of being honest, i.e. not telling lies to others, is an EXternal act: the simple coincidence of words and facts. What this rule is talking about is INternal and far more extensive. This is an admonition to be critically, brutally honest with yourself, about yourself.
Assess your strengths without modesty and your weaknesses without excuse.
Recognize, as you assess these aspects of yourself, that every strength is a potential weakness. A sword stroke that can hew down a tree — if it strikes true — also leaves you out of balance. The key is knowing that, and honestly dealing with it. Make the strike if it is called for, but make it when the weakness leaves you less vulnerable.
Being honest with YOURSELF attunes you to your own mixed feelings and doubts. But rather than submit to those as weaknesses, turn that awareness into a strength. Used properly such doubts can help in wise considerations of actions, in planning contingencies, and in understanding and dealing with those who oppose you.
External honesty has meaning only when based upon internal honesty. If you don't know or can't face the truth about yourself, then you cannot hope to be honest with others.
Be wary of those others who do not think honestly; they are an open trap waiting only for a false step. Some acquaintances, despite knowing your obsession with honesty, will still choose to believe someone else's false stories. Shy away from them too, for no matter your relationship, when the time comes and you really must count on them, they will likely not be there for you.
The ancient Greeks said that knowing oneself was the key to everything. It was both the means and the goal. It was true then. And though we've let it drift away from being a core element in our educational objectives and rarely seem to teach it anymore, it is still true now. Thinking honestly within the environment of self knowledge is the essential foundation for the warrior. There can be no happiness if what we believe in is not what we do. All other rules flow from this one: do not think dishonestly.
Oh yes, about lying... If you ONLY think honestly, the concept of lying is simply no longer an issue. Once it is only the truth that remains in your thoughts, it is all there is to tell.
Musashi's next rule is: “THE WAY IS IN THE TRAINING”
To the oriental, the term “WAY” had cosmic connotations. It was the path of life as well as the path of specific enterprises. And, as used here, “training” really refers to both the art and the discipline of LEARNING.
It takes education— knowledge—to deal with today's complex world and its complex challenges. The warrior of old knew that you could not fend off an attack if you didn't know how to parry and feint. Today, you can't fend off the onslaught of stupidity except by knowing the facts.
Few things will shut down a drug hustle faster than a recitation of the physiological responses to the toxins. Only training in management and project skills can prepare you to defend against the proclivity of taking the “easy way” in the office.
As a scout you trained and learned survival skills for the outdoors. And from that experience came your confidence to enter that environment safely. To enter the current world, you will need survival skills of a different sort.
Remember too, that training means constant practice. You cannot lead a life of ease and expect to be able to wield a sword when the bad guys are at the gate. You cannot expect to count on your ideals and values if you do not practice them constantly until they are second nature.
The third Rule is: “BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH EVERY ART”.
Musashi was really talking about the martial arts here, and was referring to the problems of the warrior having to face some new and confusing form of combat. By learning something about every art that an adversary might use, the warrior was better able to cope with the attack and devise a defense. Here, ignorance was death.
Still, the rule has application. The slick talk of the drug dealers and the clever arguments of peers out “for a good time” can easily confuse and blind you to their attack if you are unprepared.
You must know the enemy's ways if you are to stand against them. Too often people live in a narrow world of one‑viewed opinions and conclusions. They blindly accept some line as truth and then attempt to do battle with other opinions about which they know nothing. You can spot this in a moment for the approach rapidly degenerates into calling the other proponent some name implying terminal ignorance, or questionable parentage, usually in escalating volume.
When that fails, then the only response left is to smugly refuse to go on or to even listen to the other side. When someone stops listening and trying to ferret out every single scrap of information available, regardless of their original belief in it, then you have someone who has come into a battle of wits unarmed.
In the battle for our societal future, here too ignorance is death. Learn all sides of the argument, try to understand the foundations and conclusions of all approaches and all methods of discourse. Be prepared in the confidence that you know what they know. Its a major advantage.
The fourth rule is: “KNOW THE WAYS OF ALL PROFESSIONALS”.
The rule above spoke of knowing your antagonists. This one speaks to knowing your allies. Know their strengths and weaknesses, know their talents and skills.
No matter how good you are, there are forces against which you cannot stand alone. Depending on the situation, know to whom you can turn that will best serve the encounter at hand. The success of any endeavor is rarely achieved alone.
And as for yourself, learn from these allies. Become a generalist. Add their strengths to your strength. With a widened perspective you can view your environment in new ways; recognize interrelationships you had not seen before; Learn in ways impossible before.
The fifth rule is: “DISTINGUISH BETWEEN GAIN AND LOSS IN WORDLY MATTERS”
This, like the first, is a critical rule, both for survival and for progress.
In order to prevail, the warrior of old needed to be able to tell when he was winning and when the tide was turning against him so he could make the necessary adjustments to his tactics. He had to remember his true goals and see the flux of the situation in light of those goals not just the short term effect of the moment.
He knew the difference between the ideals he fought for and the methods he must use in their defense.
He knew the difference between strategy, which considered the bigger picture of the whole operation, and tactics, which considered his particular encounter. He had to be alert for the dangers of going for the obvious, easy kill and, as the cliché says, “winning the battle but losing the war.”
But for some reason, probably not very flattering to human intellect, that knowledge, though still critical has fallen into disfavor. So, like countless groups before us, our society, generally, seems to find it hard to make the distinction this rule demands.
Instead, we are far too busy widening the cracks that separate our citizens than we are in searching for ways to fill them in and bind us together. Not only have we failed to learn from the negative experiences graphically presented by history, we seem utterly unable to learn from positive ones either. We forget, for example, that the early power this country enjoyed came precisely because of the wealth of ideas and challenges that stemmed from our racial, intellectual, and spiritual amalgamation. Like steel, it was our alloy that made us strong.
Oh, sure, we can quote historians from Herodotus to Toynbee as they insist that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But we pay no real attention; we make no efforts to really learn or to understand either history or its lessons.
And the results, AS ALWAYS, in tribe after tribe, culture after culture, empire after empire, is that the people have chiseled away the mortar that held them together and crumbled under their own weight.
· Celtic villages were so engrossed in fighting each other they paid no attention to the advancing Goths until it was too late.
· The Franks under Charlemagne became the new Roman Empire because the Eastern and Western empire were too busy with their petty quarreling.
· The Great Khan and his horse warriors have gotten the "press coverage” and the blame for the dark ages, but the truth was, they rode over the ghost of an empire that was already dead and just didn't know it.
· My ancestors, the highland Scots, fell to the British because they were too involved in killing each other to properly watch their borders.
· Despite a beautiful spiritual and philosophical foundation, the Indian tribes were far too busy tilting against artificial windmills —each other—to devote their combined attentions and strengths against the real enemy: us.
As always hate and fear ‑‑ paranoia destroyed what hope and spirit had created. They lost sight of what, in the big picture, was gain and what was loss. They won a few short sighted and misguided battles but, ultimately, lost the war.
The sixth Rule is: "DEVELOP INTUITIVE JUDGEMENT AND UNDERSTANDING FOR EVERYTHING”.
In personal combat, thought is too slow. Analysis can't defend against attacks: it is too rigid, too inflexible, too predictable. The more the concious mind of a warrior is involved, the more easily it is controlled by an opponent.
The trained warrior “Feels” his way through an encounter— or at least that is the way it looks to an outsider. He picks up on the rhythm of his opponent's movements, senses as much as sees the muscles tense and the eyes narrow, feels the slight cocking of an arm or leg, hears the creak of the floor or the soft brush of a hand changing a grip on a weapon, and he KNOWS what is coming as if he were the other man. And knowing that he starts his defense virtually before the attacking move is set in motion.
Real life is just as complex. It is impossible to capture the whole picture through simple analysis. Just when you've about got it figured out it changes. So what can you do?
If there is time to think, do it: use the intellect you've trained and expanded. But if not, use your intuition. If you have prepared yourself in advance for moments like those now facing you, if you have opened yourself to learning from your experiences, from YOUR reality not someone else's, then let your impulses guide you. If your immediate response is “Don't do it” or “This is not right” then don't do it.
The seventh Rule is: “PERCEIVE THOSE THINGS WHICH CANNOT BE SEEN”.
This really should be, “PERCEIVE THOSE THINGS WHICH MOST PEOPLE
DO NOT SEE”. This is no esoteric guide to the supernatural, though it may appear so to the T.V. dulled brain. It really is simply an extension of the last rule. Be keenly observant. Clues to behavior, to identifying factors that determine others' perceptions and actions are all there for the witness sharp enough to see them.
People's words and behavior are determined by their beliefs and vice versa. Some behavioral scientists have referred to this as a person's “belief window”. A person will act in unwavering accord with the belief windows through which they currently perceive the world. To know one's belief window is to be able to predict their behavior — and to know whether or not this is someone to be around.
For example, I've known people on whose belief window is written, “MY way is the RIGHT way, and I see things absolutely correctly”. If you are involved with such a person and a problem occurs, where do you suppose they will look first for a point of blame? By definition it cannot be himself, therefore, guess who is left?
The eighth Rule is: “PAY ATTENTION EVEN TO TRIFLES”.
An ancient samurai saying went, “From one comes many” meaning that little things add up until they spell victory or defeat. The direction of the sun or the wind, the tightening of a strap, the closing of a cover— all little, trifling things that can have grave consequences if left unattended.
Remember the old ditty, “For want of a nail a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe a horse was lost...etc.,” till finally the battle was lost? Deal with problems while they are small. Put that last honing stroke on your blade. Re‑read that small but crucial paragraph of the text for the upcoming test.
Modern project management theory shows clearly that even the most gigantic project is really made up of a series of small, usually fairly easy tasks. Properly broken down to these trifles and then performed a trifle at a time, the project grows to completion and success.
But a single unattended trifle can bring a whole project crashing to a halt—or worse. The Challenger shuttle disaster was a classic example of one trifle— checking a seal—bringing the whole project, and more, to a halt. So too, a trifle performed at the wrong time can cause serious delays while other parts are redone or modified.
The “WHOLE” may be greater than the sum of its parts, but take away a part and you'll quickly discover it just doesnt add up.
And the last rule is: “DO NOTHING WHICH IS OF NO USE”.
As a warrior your energy is precious to you, it is the fuel for your action. Don't burn a drop of it needlessly. Even when under attack, the warrior knows there are times to DO NOTHING except maintain a state of alertness. Waiting and watching may be precisely the proper course of action.
Overactivity can harm a project just as surely as overwatering kills a plant. Allowing yourself to be caught up in overzealous, obsessive activity like a squirrel in a cage wastes energy and power and depletes internal resources you may need later.
Posturing and pompous displays are for the hopeful not the attained. The true warrior has nothing to prove, no status to guard, no stage to be centered on. Except for his loyalty to his master, which in this case is embodied in the ideals of the scout law, he is self sufficient and self contained. His power comes from within, not from without, and certainly not from the belittleing of others. These guidelines, codified for one type of combat, work equally well in others. Whether you are being trained to fight off the hostiles at the city wall, or avoid the attacks of people who will be amazingly hostile to your
ideals, they provide a foundation on which to build.
But guidelines such as these ‑‑ or any others ‑‑ need to be kept in perspective. These so‑called “rules” are no more than “tools” to help maintain the ideals contained in your scout law ‑‑ they are not those ideals themselves. They are not substitutions for them either. They are guides to the tactics needed to fight for the lifelong protection of those basics that have brought you this far.
Trevor, you have, by bringing yourself to the point of becoming an Eagle Scout, already carried yourself head and shoulders above the crowd. You have shown your ability to go beyond the simple requirements by earning over half again as many badges as you need for this rank. You already have taken the first steps down the road of training to become
a modern warrior in defense of honesty, integrity, and personal moral character—things we as a society seem frighteningly in need of.
I charge you to continue on that course; to make the Scout Oath and Law not just words but a way of life.
I am proud to know you, to be your friend. And I would be proud to help you any way I can.