Aug 03 2015

A Debt of Gratitude

Category: Boy Scouts,characteramuzikman @ 12:30 pm

My scoutmaster, Don Powell, passed away today. I re-post this in his honor. Thank you, Don. Thank you for helping so many boys become men.

 

I spent much of my youth in the Boy Scouts.  Simply put, it was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  In fact I think a lot of what has shaped my character can be traced directly back to my Scouting experience.  To this day I take great pride in the fact that I earned the rank of Eagle Scout -  it still appears on my resume, some 35 years later.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a very active Scout troop.  We hiked, we camped, we climbed mountains and floated down rivers, we performed community service and we went to Scout camp. We were out camping at least one weekend every month of the year and a couple weeks during the summer. I was even fortunate enough to travel to other countries as a Scout.  It was a tremendous experience.

But what made the greatest impact on my life was not the camping, or the hiking or the mountain climbing, or any of the other activities.  No, what helped me to mature and to learn about life was being around the men who volunteered to be Scout leaders and to give so selflessly of their time.  Men who often had just 2 weeks paid vacation each year, and regularly spent both of them on a Scout trip.  Men who had wives who must have been angels.

I was blessed to encounter men all along the way who taught me what growing up was all about.  Men who took the time to spend time with boys and to point the way to manhood.  Most I knew just by their first names, some had Scouting nicknames like Jolly, Bubbles, Rock-Ape and Kahuna – names that sound so silly now but seemed to fit the men so well at the time.  In some cases it was years before I actually knew their real names.

It was always a shock to me when I found out what jobs these men had in the “real” world.  They were electricians, phone company linesmen, defense contractor technicians, construction workers, teachers – blue collar workers almost to a man.  Their jobs seemed so small and insignificant, compared to the lives they lead as Scouters and as heroes to me and many other boys like me.   I almost never saw them wear anything but scout uniforms and almost all the interaction I had with them were on a dusty mountain trail or out in the woods around a campfire.  Years later when I would chance to meet one wearing civilian clothes I often thought how awkward and out-of-place they seemed in long pants and a necktie.

These men were not perfect. But that didn’t matter.  They were men who cared about helping boys become men.  In fact, the man who was my Scoutmaster for many years was anything but a dynamic or particularly inspiring person.  He was soft-spoken, not very graceful, kind of shy and kept a full beard to conceal big ears that stuck out quite a ways from his head.  (One time he did shave off his beard and scared us all very badly). But he loved Scouting and it was infectious.  He loved the outdoors and he took us there so we could learn to love it too.  He loved and respected boys and he earned the love and respect of the boys he was with.  He provided opportunity for us to experience, to learn, and to grow.  He wasn’t exceptionally articulate, or a motivational speaker, most of the time he did his job simply by showing up and teaching us how to do things like build campfires, paddle a kayak, and set up tents.  But oh… those were such valuable times.

My old Scoutmaster lives a quiet life these days.  He is retired, he survived a bout with cancer and has a little trouble getting around now.  He will never win a medal, he’ll never be written up in a newspaper or a magazine. No one will erect a statue of him in a city park after he is gone.  But he has an enviable legacy.  For scattered all around this country (and perhaps the world) are a group of now grown up boys who themselves have families, careers, and lives in their communities.  Men like me.  Men who remember what they were taught about honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, honor, duty, perseverance and other important building blocks of character.  Men who form a living tribute to those who took the time to help them when they were boys.  Men who are now engaged in passing along those same values to the next generation, perhaps even to a group of young men in a Boy Scout troop, sitting around a campfire somewhere.

The farther I move through life the more I appreciate what these men did for me and what a tremendous debt of gratitude I have for them. I wish I could track them all down and thank each of them individually, but I wouldn’t know where to look and I’m also pretty sure at least some have passed by now.  Others just moved away or faded away, leaving Scouting when their boys grew older, returning to their very normal lives.    So, In lieu of a personal word of thanks to each, let me just say it here once for all.  Thank you.  Thank you all very much.  I found my way to manhood.  It was right where you told me it would be. My hope and prayer is that if you saw my life today you would think the time you invested in me was time well spent.


Jul 04 2010

The Americans Who Risked Everything

Category: character,freedom,liberty,USAamuzikman @ 10:06 pm

With thanks to Rush Limbaugh for sharing these great words penned by his father.    May we never forget.  It is worth taking the time to read this as we celebrate our independence and remember the price that was paid by so many.

My father, Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr., delivered this oft-requested address locally a number of times, but it had never before appeared in print until it appeared in The Limbaugh Letter. My dad was renowned for his oratory skills and for his original mind; this speech is, I think, a superb demonstration of both. I will always be grateful to him for instilling in me a passion for the ideas and lives of America’s Founders, as well as a deep appreciation for the inspirational power of words which you will see evidenced here:

Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren’t nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that “the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them.” All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president’s desk, was a panoply — consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!”

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. “Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York.”

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase “by a self-assumed power.” “Climb” was replaced by “must read,” then “must” was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called “their depredations.” “Inherent and inalienable rights” came out “certain unalienable rights,” and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: “I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American.” But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half – 24 – were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.”

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.

They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: “Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

“The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

“If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers’ faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, “but in no face was he able to discern real fear.” Stephan Hopkins, Ellery’s colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered — and his estates in what is now Harlem — completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.

Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton’s parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington’s appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: “Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country.”

William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.

Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson’s palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, “Why do you spare my home?” They replied, “Sir, out of respect to you.” Nelson cried, “Give me the cannon!” and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson’s sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson’s property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man’s heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: “No.”

The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house – in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged “parchments” we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

“Sacred honor” isn’t a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders’ legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.

Rush Limbaugh III


Oct 11 2009

Pity Poor Polanski

Category: character,virtueamuzikman @ 3:38 pm

The L.A. Times reports today that “Roman Polanski is depressed and in an “unsettled state of mind” as he begins his third week in a Zurich jail, his attorney told two Swiss newspapers.”

Gee that’s terrible.  I wonder if Samantha Geimer ever had any bad days after Polanski raped and sodomized her when she was thirteen.

Of course many in the film business have circled the wagons around one of their own.  The list of signatories to the petition “demanding” the release of Polanski is appalling in it’s length.  To think there are this many humans on earth who believe Polanski’s resume’ trumps his despicable actions is simply nauseating.  Perhaps all of those who signed the petition would like to send one of their young children over to meet the “great” director – alone – at Jack Nicholson’s house.  Whoopi Goldberg will be there as acting chaperone, so no parent need worry.  There will be no “rape-rape” while Whoopi is in the house.

But I do wonder if Polanski will actually be extradited…  I wonder if he will serve jail time…  I wonder if he will be sodomized while in jail…

Well, if he is, at least we know it won’t be “rape-rape”.  And if his attacker plays his cards right, a long list of celebrities may sign a petition demanding HIS release!

UPDATE: Dennis Prager has an excellent article on this same subject.


Aug 13 2009

A Contrast of Two Lives

Category: characteramuzikman @ 10:10 pm

Wednesday July 26, 2009: Ed Thomas, football coach of Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg, Iowa, is shot and killed by a mentally disturbed former student.

Thursday, June 27, 2009: Pop star Michael Jackson dies of an apparent cardiac arrest, possibly brought on by a drug overdose.

Could there be two lives more unalike, more disassociated, and more stark in contrast.  And yet, they were brought together for at least a moment, by a shared sordid and sensational means of death and accompanying national headline.

The death of Coach Thomas has already been forgotten by most. His death would have been anonymous had it not been for the headline-grabbing manner in which he was killed.  I also happen to believe the story would have rekindled gun-control debate in the press for a longer period of time had Michael Jackson’s death not pushed it from the front page the following day.

The reason everyone knows about the death of Michael Jackson is obvious – he was arguably one of the most famous celebrities on the planet.  The manner in which he died is yet to be determined, though there is already sinister speculation and allegations of a drug overdose.  And with celebrities, especially this one, there will always be reasons their death remains in the news long after they are laid to rest.

Much can be said about the lives of these two men.  Both were very influential within their sphere of influence, one in a town of 1,900 people, one on a world stage.  Both deaths had a profound impact on those who knew them.  Both met with what we would all agree is an untimely death.  Both apparently died at the hands of another, though the full truth about Michael Jackson may never really be known. But there are some very important differences to note and as I do so I intend no disrespect to the memory of either man.

While Michael Jackson enjoyed an amazing level of popularity and success as an artist that few ever obtain, he paid dearly for his celebrity in private life.  With great fame and fortune come equally great pressures as ones personal life is exposed in the public spotlight. Most celebrities struggle constantly with keeping a degree of privacy and normalcy in their lives.  Rumors of personal eccentricities from quirky to criminal followed Michael everywhere.  Serious charges of pedophilia left him forever tainted in the public eye.  And whether or not Michael was a pedophile his penchant for surrounding himself with young boys would hardly be considered normal.  Michael was also obviously uncomfortable in his own skin.  Repeated plastic surgeries throughout his life are not symptomatic of someone who has a healthy self-image.

We mourn the loss of Michael Jackson largely because of nostalgia.  His music was so popular and inextricably linked to a season of our lives.  When the music maker dies it also somehow brings an end to that part of our lives associated with that music.  When I was a young boy I remember crying very hard upon hearing a news broadcast announcing the death of Walt Disney.  I had never met the man, but I had certainly been to Disneyland and understood all things Disney would never be quite the same again.

We mourn the loss of a great artist.  We mourn also the passing of that season in our own lives.  We are sad we’ll never hear or see this great talent again. But for the most part, much like it was for me with Walt Disney, we mourn the memory, we do not mourn the loss of Michael Jackson, the man.  A man whose life was sadly warped and twisted by forces beyond the control of the tender, gentle soul he seemed to be.

In stark contrast is the life of Coach Ed Thomas. No one achieves fame or fortune by being a high school football coach in a very small Iowa town.  Apparently he was a very successful coach (including 2 state titles and 4 team alums who are now in the NFL) and as such received more lucrative and higher-profile college coaching offers but turned them all down.  I think it is safe to say he had other priorities that were entirely unrelated to fame or fortune. A year earlier when a tornado ripped through the middle of their small town it was Coach Thomas who stood as a pillar of strength, galvanizing their community to rebuild as they buried their dead.  Such deeds never seem to garner great publicity but it is clear what this man meant to his community.  Phrases like “he was the rock this community was built on” and descriptions such as “our icon” give testimony about the sort of man that was Ed Thomas. (click here to read more about the life and death of Coach Ed Thomas)

2,500 people attended the funeral of Coach Thomas.  That is 131% of Parkersburg’s population.  (If the same percentage of L.A.’s population had come to Michael Jackson’s funeral the attendance would have been almost 13 million)

Two lives entirely unrelated but for their deaths.  Two lives about as different as two lives can be.  But what is the significant difference to me?  i think I can best sum it up this way:

I might point to Michael Jackson and tell my son, “When you grow up I want you to sing like he did.”

But..

I will point to Ed Thomas and tell my son, “When you grow up, I want you to be the kind of man he was.”


May 26 2009

E for Effort?

Category: character,college,education,higher education,musicamuzikman @ 9:30 am

I spend most of my occupational time teaching these days.  It is the most recent step in a career evolution that has spanned 33 years and counting.  I was fortunate enough to have figured out ways of making my passion my vocation and thus have enjoyed a professional career in the music virtually all my adult life. There was a brief detour for a couple years in real estate investing or what is now called “house-flipping”.  The one good thing I can say about that is…I survived (just barely).

The full-time teaching chapter of my story has so far occupied about ten years, though I have taught in some capacity pretty much since I got out of college.  I suppose that means I’ve been around long enough to have formed some opinions and perspectives on the subject of learning, particularly in the area of music.  I freely admit the following observations are purely anecdotal, based on nothing more than my own life experiences and would not stand the challenge of academic rigor.

To put it bluntly, many college students with whom I come in contact on a daily basis display a disturbing lack of passion, curiosity, self-motivation or determination. There are very few young people I encounter with any real fire in their belly! Continue reading “E for Effort?”

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Nov 28 2008

My Personal Thanksgiving

Category: character,virtueamuzikman @ 12:59 am

I am an Eagle Scout.  I say that with no small amount of pride for I consider it to be one of my proudest achievements.  It is the highest award given by The Boy Scouts of America and it represents a great deal of commitment and hard work.  It also means I had some great fun and amazing experiences during my years in Scouting. Thankfully, (so far) the Eagle Scout Award is still recognized as a major milestone in the life of a young man and a positive reflection of leadership and character.   I know much of my character was shaped through Scouting and I will be forever grateful for how it helped my journey to manhood. I will also always hold a debt of gratitude to the wonderful men who gave of their time so selflessly and who willingly shared of themselves to help me and other boys navigate their path to manhood.

It is only now with the passage of years I can look back with clarity and see ways in which my character was forged.  The lessons were simple but profound, sometimes learned through planned activities many times just in the course of having fun in the outdoors.  Scouting taught me self-reliance when I had to cook my own food or go hungry.  I learned perseverance each time I lugged a full backpack to the top of a mountain.  Honesty and integrity were always before me, modeled by the men who guided me and provided opportunity. Responsibility came as I assumed leadership positions and learned to make decisions that affected others. Teamwork was always a priority in challenges and obstacles that could not be overcome alone.  Resourcefulness came as I learned to survive with only what I carried on my back for days at a time.  Through activities ranging from cooking to climbing, fire starting to map reading, mountain climbing to fence building I traveled the path from boyhood to manhood in the special camaraderie that is Scouting.

Time was always taken to consider character and to learn about virtue, often through stories.  Some of the most profound moments of my boyhood took place around a campfire as I listened to tales of Indian warriors, brave soldiers, intrepid explorers, and other heroes, both real and fictional.  Also from my first recitation as a Tenderfoot Scout to this very day I have never forgotten the Scout Oath and Law – noble ideals, the cornerstone of what it means to be a Scout.

One glance at the news headlines shows our country seems to be shedding virtues like a dog’s winter coat in the spring. Our great nation seems to have lost the virtue of self-reliance – we now have bailouts and handouts.  We don’t honor honesty or integrity, we tolerate lies and corruption.  We have no real leaders, only people who will do and say whatever they must to get what they want.  There is no sense of perseverance, instead we are quick to point a finger of blame and demand “justice” at the first sign of difficulty in our lives.

As for me, I want no bailout, no handout, no benefits I have not earned, no redistribution, rebate, or refund, nothing universal and nothing guaranteed.  I just want the freedom to succeed or fail by the sweat of my brow.  I want to live a life of freedom, virtue, character and strength and I want my children to learn to do likewise. Corny? Perhaps.  But the principles of Scouting were never meant to be trendy, they were meant to build leaders.

Our country has been blessed by many men who, as boys embraced Scouting, followed the Eagle trail, and then applied the lessons learned as adults.  In fact the list is pretty impressive. I am proud and thankful to count myself among them.

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