You tell me: How would you define the term ‘Eagle Scout’?

What is an “Eagle Scout”?

The question seems deceptively simple. I mean, we know an Eagle Scout when we meet one.

But coming up with an eloquent way to define Scouting’s highest honor is harder than it seems.

Just ask Anthony C., a Life Scout who sent me this e-mail last week:

Dear Bryan,

This is Anthony C., Life Scout, and I am working on acquiring my Eagle Scout rank. I am doing a presentation to my local park board on building a disc golf course and in my presentation I have a slide on defining an Eagle Scout, but I have not been able to come up with a good definition. And all of the definitions I have seen are too conceited or just don’t explain what an Eagle Scout is. If you could send me a definition it would be greatly appreciated.


Anthony C., Life Scout

Thanks for the e-mail, Anthony, and congrats on being just a couple of steps away from the Eagle Scout Award.

For definitions, my first stop is always the trusty Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Here’s the listing:

  1. a Boy Scout who has reached the highest level of achievement in Scouting
  2. a straight-arrow and self-reliant man

The first definition, though accurate, seems pretty boring to me. That alternate definition, though? Love it!

But there must be an even better way to define the term “Eagle Scout.” So let’s see what you, the  Bryan on Scouting readers, come up with.

Share your definition of “Eagle Scout” by leaving a comment below.

38 thoughts on “You tell me: How would you define the term ‘Eagle Scout’?

  1. Recently a Young Friend of mine received the Spirit of The Eagle Award. Although Sam has been working steadily toward Eagle Cancer has interfered & will take his Life before he is able to complete the requirements. What follows is an excerpt & I think helps define “What is an Eagle”:
    From the Court of Honor:

    Samuel Moore

    The Boy Scouts of America recognize and award young men whose lives exemplify the ideals of Scouting, and those who have touched so many people with such amazing gifts.

    Troop 1397 of Clarksburg and Damascus, MD recognizes and bestows upon you the Spirit of the Eagle Award.

    Your courage, determination, fighting spirit and joy of life have impacted countless people – more than you can possibly imagine.

    Your bravery in the face of obstacles has been inspirational. Your faith has been tested and found to be strong, and you have been a beacon of light in the darkness for so many people. Your joy of life has turned many from sadness and tears to love and laughter.

    You have lived according to the ideals of the Scout Oath and Law….

    The leaders and members of BSA Troop 1397 have found that you exemplify the highest standards of Scouting and that your accomplishments have reached the pinnacle of Scouting ideals and goals.

    We therefore present you jwith the Eagle Spirit Award.

  2. The Highest Rank in Boy Scouts, earned by male teens with good character traits, high morals, and the ultimate respect for self and others. Takes on a project from start to finish.

    (I was a Scout Leader from 1995 to 2009 and have seen a number of scouts Earn this Rank. Like the phrase, Once a Marine always a Marine, Once a Eagle Scout, you are always an Eagle Scout.)

  3. I am an Eagle Scout class of 2011. Although it seems pretty recent this distinguished honor has had a huge impact on my life. An Eagle Scout is one who has achieved the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America, however there is more to it than just that. An Eagle Scout has shown his community that he is a reliable man. If he sets his mind to something it gets done. He shows and leads by example. He isn’t all about himself however he is about others.

  4. The scout that has earned their Eagle is one that has learned to live his life under the protocol of scouting through his journey . As well as the required badge work and the supervising of his Eagle project. A scout that fully lives up to the twelve points of the Scout Law, that obeys the Scout Oath, that dedicates his life to helping others deserves it. A young man that has learned every tool both to live in the wilderness and be a productive member of society earns it.

  5. An Eagle Scout is someone who is ‘Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrify, Brave, Clean, and Reverent’ long after his days as an active Boy Scout are over. He knows how to follow instructions, but is not afraid to take the lead if asked or needed.

  6. Reblogged this on Troop 113's Blog and commented:
    …the final and chief test of the scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting. This is the proof of the scout. It is practical religion, and a boy honors God best when he helps others most. A boy may wear all the scout uniforms made, all the scout badges ever manufactured, know all the woodcraft, campcraft, scoutcraft and other activities of boy scouts, and yet never be a real boy scout. To be a real boy scout means the doing of a good turn every day with the proper motive and if this be done, the boy has a right to be classed with the great scouts that have been of such service to their country. To accomplish this a scout should observe the scout law. [1911 BSA Handbook]

  7. An “Eagle Scout” is a resourceful, thoughful, fearless, creative, flawed crybaby with a heart of gold; whose strength is maintained through daily exercise, diet and meditation; and while not a fool is determined to be of service to anyone at literally any time when asked respectfully and honestly. The Eagle Scout hates evil, inequities, and dishonest people and attempts to work within the “system” to right the wrong and bring to daylight those who prey on others for their own gain. The Eagle Scout knows and appreciates right from wrong, day from night, black from white; but works within that grey area where most issues and problems occur and where he stands the best chances of helping make the issue or problem succeed. Only males may wear the Eagle Scout medal, earned through two and a half or more years as a registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout and meeting demanding requirements for intemediate steps toward Eagle. The principles behind being an Eagle, however cuts across both sexes and makes the term universal in meaning and in execution.

    An Eagle Scout IS, by the program’s defination, “Prepared for Life(tm)”.

    People see Eagle Scouts in action every day, although they frequently gloss over it in the daily run of being human. Eagle Scouts are those in business who pass on a “can’t miss deal” because the way the “deal” was crafted was illegal or in their minds or hearts, immoral. Eagles are the ones which may not be the one initially volunteering for tasks — but once volunteered or directed, ends up frequently as the “leader” or “the main person” in charge simply because of his enthusiam for helping other people. Eagle Scouts are those who stand up and take the hits — figurally and literally — from those who want to take advantage of someone’s fraility, or lack of defense, or their failure to observe their surroundings. Eagle Scouts open doors for others and wait until older, slower people get onto planes, trains and buses before they do. Eagle Scouts know several ways to play with their food but also know when the appropriate time is for such play. The same is said for personal behavior, speech and gestures. An Eagle Scout knows so many things because he reads, listens and observes. He is willing to share those things but knows his own limits and the patience of others.

    A visual media example of an Eagle Scout is found in Angus MacGyver, portrayed for seven years on television by actor and outdoorsman Richard Dean Anderson. The character, an agent for a secretive spy agency, knows how to carry and use a gun but refuses to use one; seldom kills anyone or anything except as food; respects others property and enjoys music, reading and hanging with his friends. His weapons of choice: the Eagle Scout’s weapons: his head, his heart, and his multiblade (Swiss Army) pocketknife. On the television show, he frequently credits what he learned in Minnesota through the Boy Scouting program and was unafraid to reveal that fact to anyone who asked him.

    The series was so popular that in an August 2007 survey commissioned by the McCormick Tribune Foundation, Americans polled voted MacGyver as the favorite fictional hero they would want to have if they were ever caught in an emergency. Says a lot for an Eagle Scout from a rural state.

    The character never said “I’m an Eagle Scout”. Nor did he ever wear an Eagle pin or display his Eagle certificate in his home. What he did, said and acted upon however, became undenialable: Eagle Scout.

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  9. A young man who is well prepared to enter life as an adult with a level head on hos shoulders; self-confident, but modest. Able to act bravely in the face of danger or adversity. Willing to help others at all times.

    In other words – Someone you would want your daughter to date, and then marry.

  10. An Eagle Scout is a person who has shown tremendous responsibility. It’s a promise made to himself and those around him that he will act thoughtfully and deliberately in all parts of his life.

    In a way, attaining Eagle can be seen as a rite of passage for young men – it is the culmination of years of hard work, learning and fellowship that signifies self-motivation and trustworthiness. It is respect from peers, elders and society as a whole – something not easily earned.

    • Does an Eagle Scout really act with deliberation in all parts of his life? Aren’t there instances when he doesn’t? I find your definition too much on ‘pre-thought’ before an Eagle takes action on your wording of “he will act thoughtfully and deliberately in all parts of his life.”

      • It can be argued both ways… but I think yes. Deliberation is thinking your actions through and not being impulsive, which is a large part of being an effective leader. In a crisis situation of course quick action is needed but, in calm times, “looking before you leap” is paramount to life success.

  11. The ideals are already there for Anthony’s presentation. (The ideals being the Scout Law, Oath, Motto and Slogan.) Instead of looking to us to define the definition or researching the definition of an Eagle Scout, Anthony should look instead at those that made Eagle and ask himself what they show him. Also Anthony should ask himself why this project and why he is tying it into an Eagle Project. Why this project for the town instead of another idea? What does Anthony hope to accomplish? What does Eagle mean to Anthony himself? These types of questions would best serve to help Anthony rather than our definition answers.

    One of the hardest things I think some have is trying to be ‘humble’ yet having to sell their project and ultimately themselves which can be a contradiction of humbleness. Looking at it from ‘doing a good turn daily’ helps put things in perspective. This is true in many spheres of life and not just on eagle projects hence the reason behind why Anthony is struggling with such a simple definition of Eagle. It really is a personal question yet an important slide that sells the project idea.

  12. Bryan I have a scripture from the Old Testament that refers to the strength of Eagles.
    Isaiah Chapter 40 verse 31 Quote: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not be faint. At our hikes in places like Mt. Whitney we often refer to this scripture to inspire our Scouts to continue to reach higher heights and goals in their journey thru life. An Eagle Scout is the pentacle of success as a young man in Scouting. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

  13. An Eagle Scout is some who exemplifies the aims of Scouting (oath, law, moto, & slogan) and is willing and capable to lead others to do so also.

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  15. A lot of good definitions here, so I am going to flip this a bit. I earned Eagle Scout 30 years ago. Upon reflection, I realize that I did not always do my best and I did not always live up to the Scout Oath and Law. I also realize that these are ideals and we will always fall short.

    What I have come to realize is that earning Eagle Scout is a moving goal that did not end when the medal was pinned on my chest. It symbolizes those ideals and keeps me moving to wards them. Whenever I tell someone that I am an Eagle Scout, I then have to act like an Eagle Scout. I have summed this up for new Eagle Scouts: “You don’t make Eagle, Eagle makes you.”

  16. Like many things in life, there are those that will define the rank by listing out the requirements it takes to get there. While that is part of the equation, it is so much more than a checklist of to-do’s. An Eagle embodies the inner strength a young man achieves by taking the journey. It’s those experiences that define the man in the years to come. The destination is fine and dandy once it is achieved, but for those that truly live by the Scout Law, Oath, Motto, and Promise, being an Eagle in your heart does not require the colorful square knot, badge, or medal to be on your uniform for others to know your true character and worth. In my youth I truly did not understand what the hooplah was about at my Eagle ceremony and I couldn’t tell you one tenth of what the politicians said about my achievement. However, as the years passed and I saw how my day-to-day life was affected by wanting to live by a code of ethics, I began to see the gift that becoming an Eagle afforded me. Achieving the rank of Eagle against all of the physical, mental, and social obstacles in our youth has it’s merits and challenges, but living the life of an Eagle and returning back the gift to your community, your children, and the youth of tomorrow is truly the start of a long and fruitful journey.

    To define an Eagle is a very complex formulation of words since it means so many things to so many people. It can be explified in a variety of ways such as the boy who fights back against a bully. The young man who heroically rescues a pet or another human being. It can also mean something far from grandiose and is shown as a boy who can think through a challenging problem, organize a set of opportunities for a solution, and execute it because he has been exposed to a multitude of experiences that prepared him for the challenge. Not every Eagle has saved a life directly, but I would say that every Eagle has learned the simple lesson that our critical thinking and leaderships skills (that we accidently got over the years) prove that we can all achieve so much more as a group than alone. Also, we may just turn out to be a friend, a listening ear, or mentor to others that need to know they aren’t alone and that there is someone they can trust.

    Quite simply in my mind an Eagle is the culmination of all that we as a society hope and deem to be good. Isn’t it more the vision of all that we hope to be and not so much what we actually do that is at the essence of an Eagle? With any luck, the actions of an Eagle support that superhero vision that we all hope to live by in our Oath and Law. But I can also die a happy man even if every boy just begins his Life’s journey with the foundation of experiences that an Eagle has had the foturne to endure.

    • Like Ed and Robert have addressed, I believe that an Eagle Scout is one who accepts and holds dear the Scout Law and Promise, and pushes himself to strive for that ideal in daily life. The real mark of an Eagle Scout (youth or like Ed, Robert, and I…shall we say “veteran” or “experienced”) is that the Eagle Scout continues to push for that ideal, despite whatever challenges he may face. You must accomplish more than a simple list of requirements to achieve Eagle Scout, you must desire to improve your ability to serve your community by being a better you. That motivation may ebb and flow, but should never dissipate.

  17. A Boy Scout who completes the requirements for the Eagle Rank. That’s pretty much it.

    Anything else pretty much depends on the individual Scout. If a young man wants to make it mean more or something different, then it’s up to him.

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  19. An ‘Eagle Scout’ is a Scout who possesses all the best qualities of Scouting. Earning the Eagle rank is not required to be an ‘Eagle Scout’. Not everyone who holds the Eagle rank is an ‘Eagle Scout’.

  20. An Eagle Scout is one who has demonstrated leadership in action while maintaining – to the best of his ability – the ideals of Scouting (Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan).

  21. An Eagle Scout is an individual who has completed the requirements for that rank in the Boy Scouts of America, and who, in his conduct and character, exemplifies the aims and ideals of Scouting. Whether still active in Scouting or not, an Eagle Scout seeks to better himself in order to better serve others and his community.

  22. An Eagle Scout is someone who has finished something that is never done. Many boys join the program. All learn and profit from it. The Eagle is the one who may have been distracted by those two fatal odors – perfume and gasoline, or may have been involved in sports or other activities, but he is the one who ultimately kept focus and met the physical, mental, and moral requirements. This doesn’t make the other scouts or non-scouts something less; rather it shows the Eagle has demonstrated something more.

    And while he did complete the requirements and earn the rank, he will never truly be done with it. The Eagle will influence his actions and decisions for the rest of his life. He may well look back and see where he could have done more or better. That very act will cause him to do so in the future. He is done, but never done.

  23. I hate to be the wet blanket here, but why do we value the contributions of an Eagle Scout over a Venturing Silver award winner? Or a Sea Scouting Quartermaster Award? I am proud to be an Eagle Scout, but lets be honest, these other awards are time times more rare, and about three times more difficult. Take a look at your local district (or council). How many Eagle scouts do you know? I bet that you can list 10 or 20 Eagle scouts without too much difficulty. Now how many Silver award winners do you know? Maybe you can come up with ten names if you are pretty heavily invested in your Council Venturing Program. Now count the number of Quartermasters. Can you name five?
    The requirements for the Silver are WAY tougher than the Eagle. The first requirement for the Bronze Religious award is to complete the teen level Religious awards. That is just the first requirement! Most of the Ranger areas have at least one requirement that takes three months to complete- then we require the youth to go out and USE that knowledge and then to pass it along. Likewise, a Quatermaster award takes at least three years of work on a regular basis to complete.

    I am proud to be an Eagle scout (class of 1987), But the thing that I regret most form my scouting career was not getting to complete my Explorer GOLD award (the highest Exploring award at the time- before the Venturing program). We don’t treat the Arrow of light as an end of journey award- it is just the highest step before we move into something bigger. Likewise, it is time to look at the Eagle scout award in the same manner. If Eagle is as high as you are looking, then you aren’t looking high enough.

  24. After 30 years of being an Eagle, more than Scout Law and Oath. It is loyalty, committment, discipline, ethics, respect and a brotherhood,

  25. There are many ways to think about this but one I have is “God First, Neighbors Second, Scout Third” Always putting things in this order is a great way in life, I think Eagle Scouts think this way…

  26. Another beauty of being an Eagle is that it is a two way street. Next year will be 50 years since I received my Eagle and I love it when people say something along the lines of “Wow, you’re an Eagle Scout!” It always reminds me that while it is an honor, I need to make sure that I don’t forget that I am one of the images that people see. I would never want my image to be less than the average of other Eagles (and in their words, “Wow, that is a great group of people!”). Thanks guys for what you have done, what you are currently doing, and what you will do in the future!

  27. What is an Eagle Scout? He is all of the above! What does it mean to be an Eagle Scout? It obviously is an honor but it also is an obligation that has been taken on by the scout. The bar has been set at a lofty height and now, the Eagle Scout will be held to that standard. The good news is that he has shown that he is prepared to meet these new challeges of life! His obligation is to live up to the standards set by being an Eagle Scout. It’s not always easy but, then, the best things never are!

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