May 13, 2015
(Introduced by Jack Cavender)
Thank you, Jack.
You mentioned that I am in my second go-round as president of West Virginia University.
I bet the Board of Governors are now saying to themselves, “Fool me once, shame on me… Fool me twice, well you know the saying….”
Nonetheless, it is quite an honor to speak before you today at this Buckskin Council luncheon.
Speaking of buckskins, I am still trying to get that Mountaineer to let me shoot his musket. You would think that the university president would have that privilege, but yet I can’t seem to make that happen.
As a leader in the higher education realm over the last few decades, it is always refreshing to hear stories about service and leadership.
These stories seem to flow infinitely from a faucet every time I speak at events for Boy Scouts.
Today’s is a prime example, and I think we can all learn from fine folks like Richard Sinclair. Congratulations, by the way, on the Good Scouter Award.
Richard was born in Ireland, so I consider myself lucky he has not tried to deck me for all those things I said back in the day about Notre Dame and the Irish.
But Richard and I have something in common, besides our ruggedly handsome good looks.
We both became Eagle Scouts in our youth.
Richard participated in Virginia; while I participated in Utah.
I grew up in a place called Vernal, an isolated town of 2,000 people. The largest attraction there was, and is, the Dinosaur National Monument.
The irony of the most popular characters in town being 150 million years old was never lost on me.
Growing up in that small community, my life had four pillars: My family, my faith, my school – and the Scouts.
Participating in Boy Scouts gave me intellectual stimulation, discipline, and the ability to work under pressure.
Working to earn the rank of Eagle Scout taught me goal-setting, perseverance, and the rewards of leadership.
As a matter of fact, Wikipedia’s Eagle Scout entry lists me as a noted example, along with Neil Armstrong, Steven Spielberg, and others.
I wonder which of us would people find most inspirational – the first man on the moon, the legendary director, or the guy who looks like Orville Redenbacher?
But as all of you who have earned the Eagle Scout rank know, it is
not a walk in the park – or even a hike in the woods. Our scouts need
solid mentors. That is what Boy Scouts is all about.
And as a University president, I have seen how the lessons I learned as a Scout bring out the best in other young men, too.
Boy Scouts are leaders. They work effectively in teams. They value community service. They hone their mental and physical fitness.
The lessons I learned in Boy Scouts served me well throughout my life and career. And those lessons are even more important for today’s youth.
When I was growing up, television signals did not reach Vernal. For me, electronic entertainment meant radio broadcasts of opera. Today, boys in the smallest towns have access to a frenzied array of electronic distractions.
Even I, at age 71, am a victim of this digitized world. I am always fumbling with my iPhone and trying to navigate everything it has to offer. Pretty soon, we will be splitting atoms with them.
Let me be clear: These technologies serve our society for its betterment but youth, particularly, can lose themselves in these diversions of the modern world.
That is why scouting today is more important than it ever has been.
Scouting connects human beings to real life. It brings kids face-to-face with their peers, their mentors and their live surroundings.
An iPad or video game cannot give you a breath of fresh air.
Some youth also lack the strong families and faith communities that can channel them into positive directions. In this environment, scouting fills a void.
I can also say, for certain, that scouting prepares youth to excel in college. Being a University president for all of these years, one trend has remained consistent among our high-achieving students: The cream of the crop often has experience in the Scouts.
Surveys have shown that Scouts are more likely than their non-Scout peers to earn A’s in class, to graduate from high school, and to earn college degrees.
In recent years, the Boy Scouts have amped up its efforts in building partnerships to develop programs in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
The Buckskin Council provides support for badges such as robotics, welding, digital technology, engineering, and mining in society.
The Scouts have come a long way since I was a young boy.
So in essence, the Scouts is not solely about tying knots and rubbing sticks together.
Today’s Scouts give youth the practical skills to succeed in careers that last a lifetime.
And finally, there is one more crucial piece to the subsistence of our scouting programs: You – the businesses and community leaders who support scouting with contributions – not only from your purse but from your heart.
Many of you know first-hand, as alumni of scouting, that it takes a village.
And in today’s world when times are tough and everyone is strapped for cash, it is more important than ever to give back and support the programs that can elevate our youth into tomorrow.
With that, I encourage you to continue your unfaltering support of this wonderful program because scouting changes lives and scouting supporters like you fuel that transformational work.