By Monty Hagler
The snow is falling fast in Greensboro, North Carolina as daylight fades away and the temperature drops. It’s been more than two years since we’ve seen snow, and I’m sitting in my office looking out the windows as my dog Nigel snores in his bed beside my desk.
I need to be handling client work, but I’m still processing the news that the Boy Scouts of America has declared bankruptcy in an effort to deal with sexual abuse lawsuits. It’s been a slow downward spiral for Scouting over the past few decades and it makes me sad, even though I have not been involved in Scouting since high school.
A significant part of who I am today was forged in Boy Scout Troop 147 in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Our troop was big, active, boisterous. We camped, hiked, rappelled and explored the state. We took on community projects, learned new skills for merit badges and developed a deep respect for God, Country and serving others.
I vividly remember our adventures. Planning for a 10-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail that turned into a 20-mile slog because of rain, fog and detours. Exploring the southern U.S. during a three-week bus trip to hike and camp in New Mexico. Uncontrollable laughter after leading new scouts on a Snipe hunt. Warming numb hands over a roaring fire while camping at Cane Creek in a bitter January cold snap. Pride in becoming an Eagle Scout in front of my parents, friends and church congregation.
There is no question that the Boy Scouts of America failed many boys by failing to protect them from sexual predators who masqueraded as caring adults. I feel deeply for their pain. But I also know that there are hundreds of thousands of young men who, like me, owe a tremendous debt to the leaders who gave their time, talents and knowledge to serve as troop leaders. Men who deserved and honored the trust we placed in them.
To Bill McKenzie, Henry Springer, John McPherson, Dave Marquis, Bruce Fowler and other Scout leaders from my past … Thank You. I will raise a toast tonight in your honor and memory as I watch the falling snow. Change comes to all organizations and institutions, and I do not know what the future holds for scouting. I do know the world needs more men like you and more people who aspire to the ideals of scouting’s oath.
On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country. To obey the Scout law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
I don’t remember how to tie a bowline or sheepshank knot any more, but I can recite that oath without hesitation and I deeply believe in the Be Prepared motto. The core values of scouting are ingrained in my view of the world. Which is not to say that I don’t fall short in living up to them. I do. But I know where the North Star is, and Scouting taught me the tools, skills and determination to get back on track when I stumble. For all of our sakes, let’s hope Scouting finds its way back on track as well.