Welcome to the first edition of The Vanguard Beacon – a regularly published web-based newsletter of the Vanguard International Scouting Association – designed to support Latter-day Scouts, Scouting families and adult leaders throughout the world. This is the successor publication to “The Bridge” – which was first published in time for the 2019 “Vision 2020” Conference at Philmont Scout Ranch. I express my personal appreciation to our staff for their hard work and vision in preparing this publication – and for their future efforts to support you and your involvement in Scouting. I also appreciate each of you who has chosen to become a Charter, Lifetime or Annual member of Vanguard International Scouting Association. We are grateful to serve you and others like you who are committed to strengthening the Rising Generation through Scouting.
We have been through a very unusual time in the history of the world, filled with new terms like “COVID-19,” “social distancing,” “Mask Up!” “seven-day average positive test rate,” “green, yellow, orange and red” risk levels (now “high”, “moderate” and “low”); limited public gatherings; Church at home; political and social unrest and public distrust unparalleled in our lifetimes; earthquakes, tropical storms and other natural disasters; economic instability; Zoom conferences; virtual graduations; and the list goes on and on. It is probably these anomalies that we will associate with the year 2020 as the years pass. Moreover, on January 1st of this year, we saw the departure of the Church as a Scouting charter partner, after over 107 years; the consolidation of a number of councils; the BSA’s bankruptcy filing to allow for reorganization and resolving the thousands of recent child abuse claims – nearly 90% of them based on allegations over 30 years ago; holding limited summer Scout camps due to COVID limitations and state and local gathering and distancing rules; cancellation of Philmont Training and Scout Adventures for 2020; and Scout Troops meeting “virtually” via Zoom for their troop meetings. This has been, indeed, a time of unparalleled and often gut-wrenching change.
And, yet, amidst the change, there are those things that remain the same within Scouting. The principles of the Scout Oath remains a constant reminder (especially to those in the public eye) that honesty is the best policy; that a life worth living is one that is “physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight;” that there are always opportunities for a Scout to “do a Good Turn daily,” to help other people at all times, to be prepared and to live the principles of the Scout Oath and Law always.
Scouts were memorizing and learning to live by the Scout Oath and Law, the Scout Motto and the Scout Slogan in 1910 – and things haven’t changed in over 110 years. In August 1907 Baden-Powell, Scouting’s Founder, gathered his first Scouts on Brownsea Island to test the principles of his new Scouting for Boys. In the over 113 years since then, those time-tested principles have only become stronger and more ingrained in the lives of those Scouts who have walked the trail to Eagle. Even for many of those who haven’t become Eagle Scouts, the impact of their Scouting experience has been life-changing. In fact, most are surprised to learn that Baden-Powell was primarily interested in a boy achieving his First Class rank – because that was the level where he had learned the Scout Oath and Law, Scout Slogan and Scout Motto, had learned basic First Aid and other life-skills and understood the importance of living in accordance with those principles and applying those life skills to build a happy and successful life – and improving the world around him. (For more on this, see my Commissioner’s Corner No. 1 at Vanguardscouting.org.)
Little has changed in Scouting in those 113 years following the Brownsea Camp. Oh, there are more merit badges reflecting the needs and interests of our youth today – like Robotics, Kayaking, Search & Rescue, Game Design, Sustainability and Animation to name a few. And there is, in the beginning of the Boy Scout Handbook, information about youth protection for youth and parents alike. And some of the First Aid skills have been updated based on medical advances. But other than those improvements, Scouting today is much the same as it was 113 years ago – just a lot safer! If you are wondering if that is true, just pick up a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook at your local BSA Service Center and you will be impressed!!!
In addition, the Scouting program has remained remarkably constant over the decades since the Brownsea Camp. This week Scout troops met in their normal troop meetings to learn Scouting skills, sing Scout songs, have Flag ceremonies, watch cooking demonstrations, learn to tie knots, make preparations for a winter Klondike Derby, learn about Leave No Trace camping, participate in patrol competitions and Scouting games, learn what it means to be “reverent” and do your duty to God, learn leadership skills, etc. And this weekend, thousands of Latter-day Saint Scouts (as well as Venturers and Sea Scouts) – now young men and young women (in separate troops) – will take to the hills for their monthly weekend camping adventure. While they are there, they will pass off Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class requirements; build campfires, cook their own meals, learn to read a compass and follow and map – and perhaps do some geocaching, learn leadership skills (by DOING), learn relationship-building skills (BY WORKING TOGETHER), work on merit badges, learn to care for the American Flag and how to respect it through proper care, raising, lowering and folding of the flag, singing songs and telling stories around the campfire, and the list goes on and on – just like when I was a boy.
And at the end of the day, or at the next court of honor, there will be those who receive their “Totin’ Chip” patch, their First Aid merit badge, their Tenderfoot badge, one or more of the 137 merit badges available as of April 2020 or a number of different patches and awards. (My wife once said, as we walked out of a Wood Badge Beading ceremony in 1982 where I received my Wood Badge beads, “It’s amazing to me what a grown man will do for a bead or a feather!”)
And yet, in spite of the patches, badges and awards that are available to our youth today, no one really seriously argues that it is about the badges – much the same as one world-class cyclist wrote “It’s not about the bike!” At the end of High School, a graduate receives a framed diploma. Same at the end of college. (I even got one for graduating from Kindergarten – a Herculean task for some like me.) And yet, it is not about the diploma, but the learning and preparation for life that it represents. In various organizations, awards are given to recognize achievement and encourage progression. Those take the shape of trophies, patches or badges, certificates, letters of commendations, ribbons, and other forms of recognition. Advancement and recognition have always been a part of Scouting, and still are recognized as a vital part of the eight Methods of Scouting. Even in the Church over the years we have had various forms of recognition of progress, as youth have strengthened their faith and learned their duty to God, including bandelos, Duty to God, On My Honor and Faith in God medallions, Young Women Medallions, and “emblems of achievement” for the new Church program for children and youth.
In the Vanguard International Scouting Association, we currently have two religious awards that can be earned: The Light and Truth Award (for Cub Scouts) and the Vanguard Religious Award (for older youth and registered leaders). Again, it is not about the badge, but about whether the youth or adult earning the award accomplishes the end goal: the increasing of personal faith, commitment to the Church, understanding one’s personal duty to God and developing a lifelong commitment to serve God and his/her fellowmen. We are excited that so many are already working on these awards and will feature some of them in this edition and subsequent editions. I am working on my Vanguard Religious Award and invite you to join me in earning this award. I think you will find, as I have, that it takes a good deal of planning and focused effort – but is well worth that effort and is helping me to grow closer to the Savior each day.
One final thought as we begin this new tradition of The Vanguard Beacon newsletter. This will be a growing and developing publication. If you have suggestions for improvement, please don’t hesitate to share that with us. You can share that with our Editor, Rachel Armstrong McIff at email@example.com or with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles W. Dahlquist, II