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Friends of Scouting Dinner - Randolph, Barbour and Upshur Counties

Prepared Remarks
April 20, 2016

It is great to be here with so many wonderful Boy Scouts and friends of scouting in this beautiful part of our state.

Before I begin, I would like to congratulate Jim Wilson for the well-deserved recognition he is receiving tonight.

I would also like to thank the Allohak Council leadership, including Scout Executive Dale Musgrave, for helping to bring the benefits of scouting to youth in Randolph, Barbour and Upshur counties.

I would especially like to thank Dan Wetsch for inviting me to be here tonight.

Dan’s son Derek is a student at West Virginia University and he has been an active campus leader.

He received a doctorate in pharmacy from our University, which would be a life-defining achievement for most people.

For Derek, it was just a precursor to starting law school.

He either really loves learning or he is desperately trying to avoid getting a real job. Dan, if he says he wants to go to medical school next, it is time to put your foot down.

In all seriousness, Derek is a great example of the Eagle Scout passion for taking on new challenges.

As a college president, I have met many young men who have earned the Eagle rank, and I have gotten to the point where I can often pick them out before actually learning their backgrounds. They just have a confidence and obvious leadership instincts.

I want to congratulate the new Eagle Scouts who are here tonight.

You have accomplished something significant, and if you apply what you have learned on this journey throughout your life, you will accomplish much more.

In fact, if you keep leading and serving for the next 25 years, you might even get the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award someday.

If they gave to me, you know their standards cannot be that high.

Actually, I learned a lot as a Boy Scout —including the knot-tying ability that has served me so well as a leading bow-tie aficionado.

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 boy in tiny Vernal, Utah, my life had four pillars: My family, my faith, my school — and Boy Scouts.

And today, I believe, the need for positive youth development programs such as scouting is stronger than ever.

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.

Many youth also lack the strong families and faith communities that can channel boys’ boundless energy in positive directions.

School has become a high-pressure world of standardized tests. After school, instead of playing ball or riding bikes, children are sheltered inside by fearful parents or chauffeured to structured activities.

In this environment, where can boys take on new challenges, try new things and even experience failure now and then?

And without such experiences, how can we ever expect them to lead?

As management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Educating students to become innovative leaders is not yet a science, and is inherently a messy enterprise.  It is not likely to occur in the safe, predictable, ordered and linear world we tend to put students in.  In a sense all of this can be summarized as the need to teach students to dare, to experiment and to fail with joy.”

What Drucker described is what many children lack—a supportive environment for taking risks and taking on responsibility.

It is a proven tenet of psychology that we gain confidence, not by hearing words of praise, but by conquering challenges.

A recent survey by the National 4-H Council shows that today’s teens are eager to lead.

Eighty-eight percent believe they can make a difference, 74 percent see themselves as leaders, and 73 percent feel a responsibility to lead.

But there is bad news, too: Only one in three teens surveyed feels prepared to lead. While most report having such useful traits as honesty, intelligence and a sense of responsibility, fewer say they have the confidence to lead. Developing that confidence is important to them, and they have clear ideas of what would help them:
  • Experience in leadership positions
  • Encouragement to lead regularly
  • Real-life leaders to shadow who will serve as personal mentors.
What they are looking for, you might have noticed, is exactly what scouting offers.

Consider these results from a survey of men who participated in scouting for five years or more:
  • 96 percent believe scouting helped them build teamwork skills.
  • 95 percent say scouting helped them develop respect for others’ lives and property.
  • 83 percent believe Scouting helped them achieve greater career success.
  • 93 percent said Scouting improved their confidence, and 91 percent said it helped them overcome adversity.
  • 80 percent said Scouting improved their family life while they participated in the program, and 73 percent said it improved their family life in later years.
  • 83 percent agreed with this statement: “There have been real-life situations where having been a Scout helped me to be a better leader.”
As a college president, I believe that increasing educational attainment is critically important for the future of our country. It is especially important in West Virginia, where college attainment rates have traditionally lagged behind the national average.

For that reason, I take special interest in these survey results:
  • Scouts are more likely to earn mostly As in school, to graduate from high school, and to earn college degrees.
  • Men who were Scouts for at least five years also have higher average household income than non-Scouts.
Clearly, scouting is a powerful force for growing leaders.

And Americans are hungry for bold leadership, now more than ever.

We have seen that during this strange presidential election season. As people embrace improbable candidates at either end of the political spectrum, they are expressing frustration with our current leaders and today’s status quo.

Teens see plenty of room for improvement, too. About half say our leaders are doing a poor job addressing the issues teens care about most—college costs, education and the economy.

Eighty-one percent see today’s leaders as motivated primarily by self-interest and fulfilling personal agendas.

In contrast, today’s teens say they want to do so for unselfish reasons – to help others, to make the world a better place, and to improve their communities.

Of course, when it comes to headlines, “Teens doubt wisdom of their elders” ranks with “Dog bites man” for shock value.

But today’s teens may well be correct in thinking that they can do a better job.  At least, we had all better hope they are.

As baby boomers continue to age and retire, millennials are becoming the backbone of the workforce. Today’s children and teens are an even bigger cohort, dubbed “generation z” by market researchers, and they will be surging into our universities and workplaces soon.

It is up to us, their benighted elders, to make sure they are ready.

And I know they will be — if they have a scouting background.

Scouts work effectively in teams. They value community service. They hone their mental and physical fitness. And they take education seriously.

Around West Virginia and around the world, supporters like you fuel Scouting’s life-changing work.

Thank you for nurturing our next generation of leaders.