In My Own Words
Thoughts on Education, Artistry, and Leadership

Remarks at the Court of Honor of Boy Scouts of America Troop 8
May 5, 2008 at 7:15 PM
Evangelical Covenant Church of Hinsdale, Illinois

Some of you may know my grandfather, Dick Reck. He was a Troop 8 Committee Member for several years, and served on many, many Boards of Review helping Scouts like you on the Trail to Eagle. Until last week, he was living happily at home with his wife of 67 years until he was taken by ambulance to Hinsdale Hospital, where he is now being treated for pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg, in addition to his ongoing memory problems. Last week, some of you may have seen me arrive to the meeting tardy and out of uniform, because I had been visiting him in the intensive care unit and giving my grandmother a much-needed break.

As I sat with him, he was fidgety. He began reaching up, grabbing for something. He found it, turned it over in his hands, took something out. Then when he tried to bring this something to his mouth, I asked, “Grandpa, what are you doing?”

“I’m having a graham cracker,” he replied.

I was confused. “How is it?” I asked.

His face twisted in frustration, working his jaw in futility. “It doesn’t bite,” he said.

In fact, there was no cracker at all. It was all in his imagination. I offered him a cup of water to distract him and when the nurse came in to check on us, I told her about what had happened and that graham crackers were a favorite snack. She stepped out and then returned with a small package of real graham crackers.

In short order, my grandfather was again searching for his imaginary crackers, and so I took a real one from the package and gently guided his hand to it and helped him bring it to his mouth. He was so weak I had to hold it in his hand for him, but when he finally took that tiny bite and tasted it, he sighed in relief and relaxed. As the nurse stood watching, I said, “Thank goodness for small victories.”

And then she made a comment that truly surprised me: “You know, there aren’t very men who would have he patience to do that with so much care.” I said thank you, or something like that, and she left. But I started to wonder why this was such a revelation to her. Why do I do these things? How? He was a successful research chemist and my former Den Leader, and watching him, my 87-year-old grandfather, slip away into dementia is a saddening, terrifying experience. How am I prepared for this?

I find my strength in the lessons I have learned in Scouting, and so must you. Scouting can teach you many things that help you in life, and you don’t always get a patch for it. Sure, we get merit badges in cooking, life saving, and… basketry, but the real lessons are in those things we do every time we come together as a Scouting family. Here, we learn how to be good friends and do good work. We learn how to communicate well, take on responsibility, and carry it out. And we do it all under the guidance of the Scout Oath and Law, and those ideals don’t evaporate when we take off the uniform. They must be something we live, every day, with every person we meet, with every thing we do.

A Scout is brave. A Scout is kind. A Scout is helpful. These lessons, and all the others that taught me to live with the Spirit of Scouting, let me be prepared now to help my brother in Scouting, my grandfather, who earned his Eagle Scout rank in 1940 in Explorer Post 333. Some day, I hope, these lessons will help you be prepared for your life’s challenges.

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Do not ever, ever breeze through those words. They are your guide to help you live the Spirit of Scouting, through the tough times, and the celebrations.

So tonight, as we celebrate what you have done in the Spirit of Scouting, I would like you to also reflect on what you can do—what you will do—guided that Spirit. Like Scouting, life is an adventure: “Be Prepared.” 


Daniel M. Reck earned the Eagle Scout rank in 1999 as a member of Troop 8, Hinsdale, Illinois, and was recognized this year for 20 years of service in the Boy Scouts of America.

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