Friday, December 12, 2008

My Eagle Scouts

I am so proud of my boys, but what truly makes me happy is watching their relationship mature with them! At Phillip's Eagle Scout Court of Honor, I was nearly brought to tears by Steven's remarks on his behalf. Here they are:

Less than 4% of all Scouts earn their Eagle Badge. To attain this honor, a Scout must demonstrate, above all, a willingness to help others and the leadership ability to organize and carry out an Eagle Service Project.

On December 7th, 2008, my brother, Phillip Clontz, was awarded his Eagle Award, the highest honor Scouting has to offer. I was grateful to be given the chance to say a few words in his ceremony. Here's the transcript.


I remember it was about four years ago when we both were in this sanctuary. I was at my own Court of Honor when my speaker, Scott Thudium, told me that I was about to join an exclusive club, and then asked me if I hoped you'd join it too one day. Do you remember what I said? ("You said no.") I guess you showed me, huh?

Of course, I meant that as a joke. But, really, I remember 14-year-old Phillip Clontz. My kid brother. Up on this stage getting the highest award Scouting has to offer? I'd have had a hard time seeing it. But then I found myself away at college. And though I'd lived with you for fourteen years, I suddenly seemed to see your life in fast-forward. Each time I'd come home, which probably wasn't as often as Mom would have liked, I'd discover that, crazily enough, you had grown up in my absence. I could have conversations with you, like you were a human being.

And then it happened. You were old enough that Troop 96 sent you to National Youth Leadership Training, the same year that I was serving as Senior Patrol Leader. My little brother, stepping up to the responsibilities of being a leader? I was just crossing my fingers that you didn't completely embarass me.

We didn't interact much that week. I think we talked maybe once, when you showed off all the notes you had taken thus far that week. A Boy Scout Nerd after my own heart. But of course I was always asking about you behind your back. "How is my kid brother doing?" I was grateful to hear that you were doing just fine. And I could see you, stepping up to be a leader amongst the 48 other leaders-in-training at the camp.

And so the real nerve-racking time came on Friday night, when we went through the participant list and discussed who we'd invite back for staff the next year. Everyone learns a lot from going through the NYLT course, but it wasn't until I served my first year on staff that the lessons I learned really began to sink in. I wanted you to have that same experience, to have that opportunity. And while there were some reservations from some of the staff, because we try as hard as we can not to invite brothers or sons of staff members just because they're family, you got that invitation letter months later. Which would have been a memorable moment for you as it was for me... except that I totally spilled the beans way before then. Hey, I was proud.

While I had originally planned on retiring after my Senior Patrol Leader year, I realized that I couldn't keep away from the course, and returned as Quartermaster the next year. We were short on staff that year, so I ended up floating around do various jobs for the camp. Since someone needed to man the Quartermaster area at all times, of course I bullied my little brother into doing it. But what surprised be, and I think everyone, is that not only did you handle my job while I was off doing other things, but you actually took over my job. I mentioned at the beginning of the week that we needed to organize the Quartermaster hut, and over the course of the week, you were the one who handled it. I talked to a couple of staffers who'd had reservations about inviting you back. My favorite quote: "I wasn't sure about inviting your brother back at first, but man, he's got his crap together!"

Now you're 18 years old, and still working for NYLT. You're an assistant scoutmaster of the troop we grew up in. Assistant Scoutmaster... holy smokes Phillip you're like an adult now!

But that's what this Eagle thing's all about, right? Different religions, societies, and organizations all have their own coming of age ceremonies. This Court is the Boy Scout's coming of age ceremony. From here on out, the world will look on you with different eyes. You are a representative of your family, church, troop, state and country, among the best of the best. When you tell people you're an Eagle Scout, they will expect more of you, because they know you're capable of it.

I want to tell another joke like I did four years ago. I want to empathetically plead you, "Phillip, try not to totally embarrass us." But I know you won't. You've proven yourself to me, to your family, to your troop, and to the Greater Alabama Council. You've got this, bro.

For a brief moment, I want to talk to the young Scouts in the audience. If me and my brother somehow managed to get our Eagle, any of you can. I can't speak for Phillip, but getting my Eagle was by far the most important secular achievement of my life, more than graduating high school, and even more than graduating college. Well, getting invited back to the NYLT staff was close. In any case, I want to plead with each of you. Get your Eagle. It is worth it. I'm just in grad school, so maybe it's a stretch to say I've hit the "real world" yet. But everyone respects an Eagle Scout. Your peers, employers, everyone. You will not regret it.

And try to get it early. Don't be like me and my brother, and wait until two days before your 18th birthday to turn in all your paperwork. It's way too stressful. Y'see, Phillip and I were in a race. Phillip told me he was going to get his Eagle with more time to spare than I did. As it turned out, though, it was a tie.

But that play is under further review. The referees are checking the instant replay of the last seven years of your life and made the following observation. Phillip joined the Boy Scouts the spring before he turned 12. However, I joined the Boy Scouts the spring before I turned 11. Phillip, I had an unfair year's head start on you. As such, the ruling on the field is reversed, and yes, you won.

Phillip, you're no longer my annoying kid brother. You're one of the most talented, most driven people I know. I'm proud to say you're my brother. And you're not just my brother. You're my friend. I love you bro. Congratulations.

1 comment:

kim s said...

boo hooing over here!