The Eagle Court of Honor Book is the definitive guide to staging successful courts of honor: from physical arrangements to promotion to the ceremony itself. Since it first appeared, thousands of Scouters have relied on it to make Scouting's greatest moment just a little bit greater. Now, in a revised and expanded second edition, The Eagle Court of Honor Book is better than ever. This new edition includes twice as many ceremonies (a total of six), more ceremony parts, and a new section on congratulatory letters. Other highlights include nine planning checklists; 20 pages of charges, poems, and quotations; inexpensive props you can make; and support job descriptions. A must for any Boy Scout leader's library.
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As a Scout and a Scout leader, I've had the chance to participate in more than a few Eagle Scout courts of honor (my own included, fortunately). I've seen some good ones and some bad ones; some long ones and some short ones; some that moved the audience and some that could have moved along a little faster.
But I've never seen a perfect court of honor. And perfection has to be our goal. It may be the 10th or 100th court of honor you've put on, but it's the only one that new Eagle will ever have. He deserves the best.
The purpose of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is to help you give him the best.
First Things First
The first thing that must happen, of course, is that the Scout must pass his board of review. On that date, he is officially an Eagle Scout, although his application must still be reviewed by the local council and the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.
You should talk to the person in your local council office who handles Eagle applications to find out about local procedures; this could be the registrar, the office manager, or another support-staff member. Check back with her to find out when the application was mailed to the national office, and make sure you're notified when the application is approved or if unforeseen problems arise.
Now you're ready to start planning. As quickly as possible, schedule a meeting that includes you, the honoree and his parents, and the Scoutmaster. At this meeting, you need to decide where and when to hold the court of honor. The BSA recommends that you schedule the court of honor no less than six weeks after the board of review, but I think you should allow a little more time, just to be on the safe side.
Many troops hold Eagle courts of honor on their regular meeting night (in place of the normal troop meeting), which helps minimize conflicts and maximize attendance by troop members. On the other hand, you may want to consider a weekend court of honor if you expect out-of-town guests to attend. In either case, be sure to avoid conflicts with major school, community, or chartered organization events.
Run your tentative date by the troop committee and patrol leaders council for approval. Then immediately reserve the facility where you want to hold the event. Send a letter to the person in charge of the facility to confirm the details. With the date and location confirmed, you can start recruiting presenters and promoting the court of honor.
At your initial meeting, you should also discuss what type of ceremony the family would like and whether they want to involve any particular people in the ceremony. Decide who should recruit these people and what level of involvement the family will have in further planning. Discuss which expenses are the responsibility of the family, the troop, or the chartered organization.
The Invitation List
Early on, the family should start developing an invitation list. This list should include troop members, non-Scouting friends, other family members, godparents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches and band directors, Eagle board of review members, district and council VIPs, past Scout leaders, those who helped with the Eagle service project, and anyone else who's played a part in the boy's development.
Developing a good invitation list is especially important if the Eagle Scout is older or has not been highly visible within the troop recently. Take the case of a Scout who passes his board of review just before his eighteenth birthday and comes home from college for his court of honor. Many troop members won't know him well, so you'll have to work extra hard to boost attendance.
The parents will probably be responsible for ordering invitations, having them printed, and mailing them. Invitation cards are available from your local council service center, but you can also design your own if you wish.
Sometimes the Eagle Scout adds a personal note when inviting relatives and other people who have been especially important to him. For out-of-town relatives, you might suggest a message like this one: "I know that it may not be practical for you to attend my court of honor because of distance and time constraints. The purpose of sending this invitation is to let you know of my accomplishment. Achieving the Eagle Scout award is very special to me, and I wanted to share this moment with you."
Developing the Ceremony
Your next big job is to develop the ceremony to be used. You may want to start with one of the samples in Chapter 7 and modify it to fit the Scout you're honoring. Your initial meeting with the Scout and his family should have given you some ideas for customizing the ceremony.
As you write the ceremony, think about the location you're planning to use: Will the action take place on a stage? Can you dim the lights for your slide show? Where will the honoree sit?
Once you've developed your script, begin assigning parts. Some assignments will be easy: the Scoutmaster will probably do the actual badge presentation, and the Scout's religious leader is a good choice for the invocation and benediction. Other parts will take some thought: Who's the right person to deliver the Eagle charge, for example? Remember to use any special people the family requested.
Also remember that this is a troop function. You don't need a bunch of VIPs (Scouting or otherwise) on the program to have an effective ceremony. The new Eagle Scout is the VIP.
How many presenters should be involved? Six to eight main presenters is probably the maximum. The more presenters you have, the more complicated the event will be and the more time you'll waste with introductions, entrances, and exits. Your presenters may be Scouts, Scout leaders, or other adults.
Chapter 3 covers the ceremony itself in much greater detail.
Once you've decided who you want to involve in the court of honor, you need to go out and recruit those people. Do this early to be sure that you get the people you want. As soon as they're recruited, send them a printed script with their parts highlighted.
At the same time, you need to recruit some important support people. Support jobs include physical arrangements, publicity, decorations, refreshments, and the printed program. You may also want to recruit someone to solicit congratulatory letters from public officials and other dignitaries. (This is usually a separate job from sending invitations.) Support functions are discussed in Chapter 8.
Part of the court of honor involves giving the new Eagle (and his parents) a number of recognition items. These usually include the Eagle badge itself, the Eagle certificate, a letter from the Chief Scout Executive, an Eagle mother's pin, and an Eagle tie tack (or lapel pin) for the father. The certificate and letter are automatically sent by the national office in the Eagle packet; the other items are purchased from the council service center.
In addition, many troops and chartered organizations give a gift, like a plaque or a neckerchief, to the Scout. One troop I know of gives each new Eagle a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on his board of review date. (For details, contact your U.S. representative or one of your U.S. Senators or visit www.usflag.org on the World Wide Web.)
Some troops also have a large plaque in their meeting place on which they engrave the names of all their Eagle Scouts; you can purchase these and other plaques from the council service center. Be sure to allow time for engraving any plaques that you're using.
Another "item" that's often purchased is a membership in the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA); a life membership makes an especially nice gift. An application comes with the Eagle packet, and at this writing, it mentioned a special fee-$10 versus $25-for five-year memberships for new Eagles. NESA applications are also available at your local council service center, although they don't mention the special fee. Sometimes the family has the NESA and Eagle Scout certificates framed before the court of honor. (For more information, write to NESA, 1325 W. Walnut Hill Lane, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015-2079 or visit www.bsa.scouting.org/nesa/index.html.)
Your refreshment coordinator will need to order a cake and buy cups, plates, napkins, and utensils. Many of these supplies can be purchased from the council service center, where you can also buy Eagle Scout program covers.
You should visit the service center as early as possible in case some of the things you need must be ordered. The council may keep a small supply of program covers on hand, for example, or may only stock one style. You can also order directly from the BSA catalog; be sure to allow plenty of time for delivery.
An Eagle court of honor can be an expensive affair, but it doesn't have to be. You could, for example, use red, white, and blue napkins, plates, and balloons instead of the more-expensive Eagle-logo items.
Expensive or not, decide up front who is going to pay for what. For example, the family could pay for the reception and the NESA membership, the chartered organization could pay for the plaque, and the troop could pay for the invitations, Eagle badge, and other recognition items. Some troops will reimburse the family up to $50 or $100 for any expenses they incur. Whatever arrangements you make should be consistent from one court of honor to the next, and whatever costs the troop is expected to bear should be included in the troop budget.
If the people you've recruited are doing their jobs, you should have little to do in the last few days before the court of honor. Your main task will be to make sure all the parts come together.
A few phone calls near the end will make a big difference. Call all your presenters to make sure they're ready. Call the custodian to make sure the building will be open. Call the senior patrol leader and have him remind all the boys to attend. Call everyone who's supposed to bring something (cake, programs, flags, etc.) to make sure they haven't forgotten.
I recommend that you have a rehearsal, perhaps a few days before the court of honor. By walking through the ceremony, you'll improve the program's flow and spot problems you didn't think about before.
The Big Day
Those involved in the court of honor should arrive long before the program starts. Chairs need to be set up, the room needs to be decorated, the microphones and lights need to be checked, and the thermostat needs to be set. All these chores should be finished at least half an hour before the program is due to begin.
Follow-up is brief but important. Be sure to leave the room cleaner than you found it. Send thank-you notes to the people who helped you (including the custodian and the person who let you use the building). Send a press release to the local newspapers (if they didn't already publish a story). Finally, take some time to evaluate the court of honor and make notes for the next time. Since you did such a great job this time, you'll undoubtedly be asked to plan the troop's next court of honor, too!
(Copyright (c) 1996-99 Mark A. Ray. All rights reserved.)
Table of Contents
|Chapter One Introduction||1|
|Two Planning the Court of Honor||7|
|Three The Ceremony Itself||19|
|Four Scouting Segments||27|
|Five Eagle Segments||47|
|Six The Presentation of the Eagle Badge||61|
|Seven Complete Ceremonies||69|
|Eight Support Functions||127|
|Appendix A Charges||146|
|Appendix B Poems||151|
|Appendix C Quotations||157|
|Appendix D Props||166|
|Appendix E The History of the Eagle Scout Award||171|