Michael Malone, Eagle Scout and author of Four Percent: The Story of Uncommon Youth in a Century of American Life, writes about A Century of Eagle Scouts
The Eagles’ service project is the single greatest youth-service initiative in history, and one that has touched every community in America in an important way.
Out of the more than 115 million boys who have passed through the Boy Scouts of America in the last 102 years, approximately two million have become Eagle Scouts, a 2% rate that has climbed to about 4% of all scouts in recent years. Some may have excelled in outdoor challenges and troop leadership, or while earning merit badges for oceanography and entrepreneurship. Yet all have been changed by the experience of what has been come to be called “the Ph.D. of Boyhood.” And these Eagles in turn have changed the face of American culture in ways both obvious and unexpected.
Many went on to notable careers and distinguished service to the country. The list of famous Eagles over the last century includes movie and television stars, six Medal of Honor recipients, Nobel Prize winners, novelists, a number of astronauts (including most Shuttle astronauts), Tuskegee airmen and Japanese-American internees, congressmen, senators and governors, an endless number of corporate CEOs and university presidents, a U.S. president (Gerald Ford), and the first man to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong). But there are other, perhaps less obvious, Eagles as well: sexologist Alfred Kinsley, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and Washington’s disgraced ex-mayor Marion Barry.
Two summers ago, during the BSA centennial parade in Washington, D.C., the adult Eagle contingent of official marchers featured a diplomat, a journalist, military officers, a bomb-demolition expert, doctors and a department-store Santa Claus. Despite what you might think, America’s Eagles are spread across the political spectrum. They include individuals across all races (scouting was officially integrated from the start) who hold beliefs as diverse as other Americans. What they have in common is that they chose a life of achievement and assumed leadership roles at a very young age.
My son is an Eagle Scout, and has taught me the value of perseverance and being goal-oriented at a young age. It takes a (young) man of character to become an Eagle.
To all Eagle Scouts, who have 100 million hours of service to their communities, my heartfelt thanks.
Cross-posted in The Green Room.