They earned Eagle but still haven’t scheduled their court of honor

eaglepatchIt’s kind of like finishing a marathon but heading straight for your car instead of stopping to pick up your medal.

A Scouter from the St. Louis area — I’ll call him “Tim” — emailed me last week with a problem: Three Scouts in Tim’s troop finished all the requirements for the Eagle Scout award, but when Tim called the boys to help them plan an Eagle Scout court of honor, none seemed interested in even having a ceremony.

Here’s Tim’s full email explaining this sticky situation: 

I am the assistant Scoutmaster and advancement chairman for my Scout troop. I have worked with lots of boys in my troop and am proud of the fact that we have more than the national average of boys who made it to Eagle.

So many times, I have sat in the waiting room during a boy’s Eagle board of review, most times celebrating with the boy and his parents that he passed the board of review.

Several years ago, three boys who were very close to their 18th birthday successfully passed their Eagle Scout board of review. Our troop sent their application and records off to the local council and then to National. Shortly thereafter, the approved applications arrived along with the Eagle badge, certificate, and patch.

After receiving the packet from National, I immediately contacted the boys and encouraged them to arrange and coordinate their own Eagle ceremony. I printed off pages from the Internet about ceremonies and offered to help review their work.

Not one of these boys carried through with their ceremony. Although I have kept in contact with them, they do not seem to be interested in planning a ceremony. I even suggested that we could have a short ceremony during a Cub Scouts Blue and Gold banquet. No interest.

I still have these boys’ Eagle packets at home. The badge, patch, and certificate rightfully belong to the boy. Should I bundle them up and mail them to the boy or parents? What should I do?

My initial reaction is bewilderment. It shocks me to see a boy work so hard to earn Eagle and then not share that special achievement with the friends and family who helped get him there. And I’m equally shocked that teenagers would pass up the chance to eat cookies and cake.

In reality, an Eagle Scout court of honor celebrates more than just the Scout’s hard work. It’s a chance to recognize the supporting cast along the way, without whom the Scout wouldn’t have made it to the finish line. I’m talking about Scoutmasters and fellow Scouts, of course, but also the boy’s parents, grandparents, and siblings.

But just as you can’t force a boy to finish his work toward earning the Eagle Scout award, you can’t force him to have a ceremony after he earns it.

As sad as it makes me to say this, it appears Tim’s only option is to mail the Eagle materials to the boys’ parents, perhaps including with it a congratulatory, hand-written letter that challenges the Scout to take what he learned on the Eagle trail and apply it to the next chapters of life.

But that’s just my opinion. What advice would you give to Tim? Leave a thought below, and I’ll make sure Tim sees it. 

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127 thoughts on “They earned Eagle but still haven’t scheduled their court of honor

  1. I wonder if they have another reason for not accepting them. Are they gay, maybe? If they have come out since earning their Eagle Scout, they might not want the attention they would get at a Court of Honor, or they might not treasure the acomplishment as much.

  2. I’d be curious as to why they don’t want an ECOH. This is a celebration of them.

    I would also still try to get them some congratulatory letters from officials, just have them sent directly to the Scouts.

  3. Maybe they are happy with the accomplishments, and dont want the ceremony,should be their choice, or could be a money issue within the families.

  4. I think it comes from not wanting to be the center of attention. I wanted my Wood Badge beads mailed to me but that wasn’t allowed. I would encourage him to mail them to the Scout and consider it finished. If Mom and Dad wanted a ceremony, the boys would have probably un-rightly had them already due to parents. If the boy doesn’t want a ceremony, that is fine with me. Eagle Ceremony is mostly for Mom and Dad anyway. As for the previous post of them being gay, lets move on already. Good grief.

  5. I have been Scouting since my son started as a Tiger, so I seen the good, bad & ugly that comes with just about any process. Since my joining the Troop leadership team, which has been a fantastic experience thus far I have heard way too many young men make the accomplishment of making Eagle more a “to-do check-box” to check off rather than what it was originally intended. I know these young men are a minority, but I fear they are a growing one. Boys who see the Eagle Scout Rank merely as a line item to put on their college &/or job applications. As much as it pains me to see it, I think Bryan nails it by just sending the credentials to the parents with encouraging words, because that fact of the matter is that it is for sure the boy won’t care, especially if the family is of the same mind such that they won’t see to the ceremony either.

  6. We have had this happen before in my troop. Every time it was the scouts who completed their board of reviews just before their 18th birthday (always in the spring) and at that point they were just busy wth prepping for college the following fall.
    All of them eventually during a college break did have a public ceremony but it was usually a mom who pushed for it (sad to say). We once even had 3 at once.
    I would have to say that these scouts probably feel more pride in the accomplishment than worrying about a public ceremony. They may have just moved on with their life.
    But before just mailing the awards, contact the parents, see if they can give a little push. After all, the ceremony, like a wedding & graduations, is just as much for the proud parents as the scout.
    Ted Wicks, ASM T30 Billerica, MA & Unit Commisioner
    proud father of 2 Eagle Scouts & a member of the NE-201 Wood Badge Eagle patrol

  7. From one Eagle Scout to another:

    The purpose of a Court of Honor is threefold – First is to honor the new Eagle Scout for his achievment, Second is to recognize the contributions of the many others to who enabled that Scout to succeed, and third is to inspire others to set their sights on the same achievment. If you’re not interested in the first one, that’s your prerogative, but the other two are not. You owe a debt to those who devoted countless hours to help you. For those who might follow you, you should make a commitment now to give back to Scouting, more than Scouting has given to you — and this is how you start.

    You have the opportunity to write your own court of honor script — write it how you want, to focus on the things you want to focus on. You are an Eagle Scout. To forgo a Court of Honor is to make this occasion all about you, and to forget all others who came before you, all who supported you, and all those who might look to you as an example they might follow. You are an Eagle Scout, and right now is the time to start living that commitment.

    • John, How do we know that this was REALLY THEIR committment. I’ve seen many where their parents were the driving force with the same attitude as many parents have regarding scholarships and college prestige. It’s nuts what some parents will do regarding school, grades and so forth. I think that some maybe too focused on the endgame and not on the journey. The journey is important, too.

      • Bill,
        indeed the journey is important. From the information provided, of course we can’t know everything about what the journey to get -to- Eagle included in the way of commitment by the new Eagle Scout, or by the parents. The much longer journey after becoming an Eagle is more important still. If the trail by which boys reach Eagle needs repairs, then who better than the new Eagle Scout to call that out, and start fixing the problem. Who among us wouldn’t stand with such a young man to make sure his voice was heard?

  8. Some kids just don’t want the attention. My son has never wanted attention thrown his way. He doesn’t like birthday parties but instead invites one friend to hang out with him that day, he didn’t want rank advancement publicity, crossover ceremony – just give him his rank badges and move on. Maybe they went out for a dinner after their BOR and celebrated among family.

    Send them their rank and paperwork and maybe a card signed by the boys in the troop.

  9. I wonder how old the Scouts are. If they are in the middle of their teenage years, this might be their way of stating their feelings. We’ve had a couple of Scouts go through our troop who earned their Eagle, well, their parents earned their Eagle. Their participation in the troop was at their parents’ insistence, and the Scouts were pretty open and resentful about it. Maybe this is their only way of expressing that the effort was not their choice. This “arrangement” is not always something we know about, as adult leaders. The achievement of Eagle has now become partnered with college scholarships and better jobs. When we have visiting parents and Scouts, many times we’re not asked anything about how the troop runs, what we do, who our leaders are. All the parents want to know is how long does it take for a boy to earn his Eagle. When we tell them that this is totally up to the boy, they seem a little annoyed. I get the impression that they feel it’s our only “job” as adult leaders to get a Scout to Eagle. I’ve got to say, if Scouting was shoved down my throat under threats of being deprived of other things that I enjoyed doing, I would have nothing to do with celebrating it. My folks can pick up “their” badge from the office.

  10. Lots of boys don’t desire the public recognition. Others don’t want to plan their ceremony or can’t afford the reception that often times follows. Has Tim communicated with the parents? Perhaps they could provide some insight.
    I agree with you that Tim should mail the Eagle packets out. I would include the Eagle Challenge.
    ASM, Frazer PA

  11. We recently had a similar situation in our Troop. The Scout was uninterested in a COH, and his parents supported his decision, even after we made the same arguments that you make in the article… thanking supporting cast, being a role model for younger scouts, etc… nothing clicked. IMHO, the parents need to be on board with a COH in order for it to happen, much like Scout advancement. A Scout without strong parental support frequently fails to advance. We finally arranged for the Scout to pick up his packet at the Scoutmaster’s home. To me it is sad when someone’s achievement goes unheralded. I also consider it a lack of respect for the Troop, its leaders, and the community as a whole. One of the things we are supposed to be instilling in our youth is that Scouting is about teamwork, not individual effort. I’m sure that Eagle Scout designation will be prominently entered on college and job applications in the future for him, without the ‘asterisk’ saying that he really didn’t understand the whole picture of earning and receiving it.
    Being a troop with a lot of Eagles, I get that seeing 4 COHs a year could make it seem routine, but it simply is not, and needs to be celebrated in some way that respects the Scout’s and his family’s preferences, yet shoes the respect that Scouting and the Troop deserve as well.

  12. The boys are rightfully Eagle Scouts and should have their packets. I would recommend immediately sending them to the boys. They have stated that they do not want a ceremony, that is the end of the discussion. Yes it is no fun, but that is the way they want it, it is their choice.

  13. I have had the same experience a few times in our Troop,particularly when the Scout is at or beyond his 18th birthday. The Scout is an Eagle as of his BOR date and the badge, medal, certificate belong to him – you ought not be holding on to them. There is no requirement that a C of H be held. we all like to celebrate our Eagles, but it sounds as like the time for that has long passed.

  14. My troop had a recent Eagle decline a CoH because “he didn’t want all the pomp and circumstance”. Fine, if you don’t want to be the center of attention. But this attitude fails to think of the other boys in the troop, those that came before him and those that will come after. An Eagle CoH is only superficially about the Eagle Scout, and infinitely more about what Eagle *means*. This young man was a great scout, but I really wonder now if he *gets* it.

    • I didn’t go to my college graduation. I started working a few weeks after I got my degree. I totally understand an Eagle declining a CoH. If it has been a few years (!) I don’t think the boys really care if the get the award or not.

  15. My first question would be when was the last time your Troop held an Eagle Court of Honor? If the Scouts haven’t seen one in a long time, they may feel so what. The other idea would be to have the Troop organize a COH. Just tell the Scouts and their families when it would be. Then just do it. All else fails just mail them their award material.

  16. I do think the expense might be some of the issue in some families these days. That or the stress. I know my son was stressed out when I was planning his because of how stressed out I was that the day would go perfectly. It didn’t. No day ever does… weddings, baptisms, whatever! I don’t think that their certificate and rank patch and medal should be held hostage until the parents hold a CoH. Maybe find out if they’d like to receive them at the troop’s next CoH? I do know that after it was over, my son was thrilled that he did have a CoH. And the other boys had a great time honoring him on that day and the reception afterward was filled with laughter and lots of joking about my son’s journey through Scouts.

  17. I have to wonder why these scouts don’t want to be recognized, but I also have to respect their wishes. It’s unfortunate because there are so many others who help a scout earn this distinction and the ceremony gives all these folks the opportunity to have their moment too. To put in the time and effort to earn the Eagle Scout award and not enjoy the ceremony is a strange reaction, one that I think they will probably regret in the future. As an Eagle Scout I remember my ceremony with great fondness. It was a moment that I and a lot of others worked very hard for.

  18. Boy-led program or not, this is one where you involve the parents. A boy may not want to get up and be the center of attention for his own sake, but he’ll do it for Mom (or Dad or Grandma, etc.). Also he needs to be told that he needs to have a Court of Honor for the sake of his troop and the younger scouts. The younger scouts need to see the finish line so they know they can reach it themselves. The day after my son’s Eagle CoH, a Life scout in our troop turned in 3 of the 4 merit badge applications that are the only thing he has left to do. A week later another Life Scout met with the Eagle advisor to lay out his project and a third set the date for his project workday. A boy may be embarassed to show his pride in his accomplishments, but he has an obligation to share those accomplishments with his family, friends and troop.

  19. The Scout earned the award. It is the Scout’s decision, NO ONE ELSE’S, whether or not there is a COH. Yes I’ve read the positions already given above and yes it would be nice to have the ceremony. However, there is no requirement for a COH, and to hold back the award form a Scout who has earned it is not right.

  20. I’ll join the others who recommend sending the Eagle materials you are holding to the Scouts or their families.
    I haven’t kept count but at this point I have had somewhere between 75-100 Scouts reach Eagle since I have been a Scoutmaster. I’d say about 30-40% of them would have been happy to forgo a court of honor. It’s their choice, it’s not required of them in any way. I’d also note that we make the Eagle presentation a part of our regular troop courts of honor, they aren’t separate events.
    Should a Scout tell me they’d rather not go through all the hoopla I’d be happy to shake his hand and present the achievement at a troop meeting.
    We’d hope a Scout who reaches Eagle understands that his court of honor isn’t just about him, but can have broader implications – but I can understand if they’d just rather not be in the spotlight.

  21. I’ve had it happen several times. Typically the Scout involved is right at 18, and did the sprint to Eagle in the last 6 months before he turned 18. Now they are off to college and don’t have time or the inclination to have another ceremony.

    They met all of the requirements from Life to Eagle several years ago (6 months active, troop leadership position) but had to finish Personal Management, Family Life and Personal Fitness along with getting their Eagle project done. But, with HS they haven’t been on many outings with the younger boys, they don’t know the younger scouts and the younger scouts don’t know them either.

    The older version of the guide to advancement had a very loose idea of what it meant to be an active scout. It was possible for a Scout to remain “active” by those rules and not go camping for several years.

    Regardless, the presentation kit belongs to the Scout and should be delivered to him post haste. I would give them an opportunity to have it presented at a regular CoH if they’re willing but if they’re not willing send it off.

  22. Just my opinion, but I’ve seen troops (and parents and boys) that are missing the “big picture”. To them the requirements have become just stepping stones to get to a certain “end point.” Parents and leaders are pushing boys to do just what is required for the next rank. Boys stop going camping when that MB is earned. The only MB’s earned are the ones required for set ranks, up to & including Eagle. Boys, parents, and leaders are forgetting that each rank only represents the amount of knowledge, leadership, and maturity a boy has achieved. There’s nothing wrong with using goals for activities; i.e. “we’re going on this hike because of this requirement…” etc. but Scouts should be hiking and camping and doing community service to learn planning, organization, and growing. Merit Badges used to be called “career. hobby. & interest badges” (or something very similar) because they were designed to give Scouts a reason to step outside of their comfort zone and learn new things that could possibly lead to a new interest or career.
    I have even seen parents comment on community service events, “Well if it doesn’t count toward their next rank yet, then why are we doing it?”…. Big Picture lost!
    Maybe that’s the case with these three Eagles. Maybe they were taken up a set of stairs, being led step-by-step, got to the top (not thinking of troop junior leadership positions, Palms, or even Venturing) as they have seen it and, like soon many of today’s youth, said, “OK. Got it. What’s next?”
    But that’s just my opinion

  23. “Tim” said that his Scouts earned their Eagles several years ago. The reality, in my opinion and experience, is that they’ve moved on. If the COH doesn’t happen within a very few months of the Board of Review, the Scouts aren’t going to be interested in the ceremony. They’re “over it.” In Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, immediate recognition is important for everyone – not just the Scouts, but the parents, leaders and the support team. Mail the packets and be done with it.

  24. What to do? maybe the first question is…. why are you making boys, who worked hard to get there, then also have to plan and execute their own court of honor?
    Shouldn’t the TROOP be the ones doing this?
    Here’s our solution: Eagle Courts of Honor are held as a part of the quarterly Troop Court of Honor. This insures its timely, frequent, and allows a troop to celebrate the scout and with him.
    It also means it doesn’t get out of hand with a family trying to one up the previous one and spending gobs of money on receptions.
    And….it means a hardworking scout (right?)who’s also tired after going through the wringer of documenting his palnning and project doesn’t have to then plan ANOTHER scout event.

  25. A face-to-face contact should’ve occurred with the boys and their parents “several years ago”, with whatever rationale they provided, properly documented, and entered in their advancement files. (Unless I’m mistaken) the boys and their families determine if and when the COH occurs. Timing, family events, costs, burn-out; life DOES get in the way, sometimes. I think John’s^ rationale should’ve been shared with the family during the face-to-face. However, putting relative judgement and guilt aside, the boys earned the award and it needs to be given to them.

  26. Bryan!!!

    We just had a side-branch discussion about this on LinkenIn not even a few months back!

    You wrote in part:

    “My initial reaction is bewilderment. It shocks me to see a boy work so hard to earn Eagle and then not share that special achievement with the friends and family who helped get him there. And I’m equally shocked that teenagers would pass up the chance to eat cookies and cake.”

    I’m not surprised. I’ve fielded a LOT of these kinds of questions (26 actually, since 2001) and here’s my conclusions;

    - the earlier ones came about after the attacks on our nation. People were not in a “happy mood” during that time, and that funk continued until around the start of the ground war in Iraq in 2003.

    - Scouts don’t attend other Scouts’ Eagle Courts of Honor like we did when we were growing up; and those Scouts who DO attend other Eagle Courts of Honor are overwhelmed at the amount of “trappings” which goes on.

    - Parents gets too involved in a Scout’s event. They want to liken it to a “coming out party” for a girl or some sort of pre-high school graduation event, wanting to bring “any and all elements of Scouting” into the event so that it would be memorable (and recordable!) to the parents as much as the Scout. The Scout really, honestly wants to “get it all over with” and move on to the next thing.

    - Scoutmasters don’t know how to say “no”, Byran, to the “massive outpourings of stuff” that typically encompasses the Eagle Court of Honor.

    - and yes, the BSA DOES have a hand in this, mainly through promotions that “every Scout needs to become an Eagle Scout” and “here’s what you get when you do become an Eagle Scout…” (our Scout Stuff(tm) catalog has pages and pages of “Eagle Scout speciality stuff”, just waiting to be sold to those parents I diagrammed above).

    As a result, we have LOTS of Scouts who don’t want to “go through the Eagle Court of Honor…”

    But just as you can’t force a boy to finish his work toward earning the Eagle Scout award, you can’t force him to have a ceremony after he earns it.

    “As sad as it makes me to say this, it appears Tim’s only option is to mail the Eagle materials to the boys’ parents, perhaps including with it a congratulatory, hand-written letter that challenges the Scout to take what he learned on the Eagle trail and apply it to the next chapters of life.”

    NO!!!!!!!! I get lots of letters from adults, Bryan, who want to have a local Council or a unit to award his Eagle to him because that was how HE got notified he became an Eagle Scout — a package in the mail, addressed to his parents, with the two Eagle certificates, the letter from the Chief Scout Executive, and the presentation kit. One man broke down and started crying over the phone when I arranged for him to have his Eagle presented to him by the Troop in his town. I couldn’t attend because of the weather, but the photos proved out — and I am dead sure that some WEBELOS Cub Scout or young Boy Scout will remember that evening for a good long time — and will spur him toward Eagle.

    Here’s what I wrote as a solution to a similiar question posted over on LinkedIn:

    “Are all the new Eagles expected to have a ceremony?”

    Yes, it’s how the Eagle Scout Award is awarded by action of the National Council, Boy Scouts of America. The TYPE of ceremony or how “big or little” it is is completely up to the Eagle Scout, his family and the unit in which he belongs within.

    “In your experience with scouting, are the Eagle Scout candidates in your troop permitted to pick the Eagle ceremony ritual or is it a traditional ceremony handed down as part of troop tradition?”

    All of the “ceremony rituals” have common items within which conform with what the BSA expects the Eagle Scout Court of Honor to include. Those elements are:

    - opening and closing of the National Court of Honor on behalf of the National Council, BSA
    - the reading of the letter from the Chief Scout Executive and National President announcing the award and congraduating the new Eagle Scout
    - the presentation of the medal to the parents of the Eagle Scout and the parents (or others, not the Scoutmaster) pinning the medal to the uniform of the new Eagle Scout.

    Everything else between the opening and closing is completely up to the new Eagle, his parents, and the unit in which he belongs to (or has chosen to have the Court of Honor performed within).

    – the three required elements of the Eagle Scout Award ceremony are the three elements used since the first Eagle was awarded in 1912. The letter from the Chief Scout Executive and National President should ALWAYS be read, as you are holding the Eagle Court of Honor on their behalf and on the behalf of the National Council, Boy Scouts of America. The presentation of the medal set to the parents who pins the medal onto the uniform; and the reading of the words announcing the formality of the event should also be done as the award is being made on the National Council basis.

    Everything else is “suit to personal taste” and desire.”

    I have presented Eagle Awards in the living rooms of Eagle Scout homes. In a closed-in dining area at local resturants; “Praise and Worship” stages in churches;
    Commanding General or Officer’s board rooms or offices on military bases large and small; in a meeting room on the campus of a regional university; and believe it or not, in the lobby area of a rest stop along an Interstate highway. There is absolutely NO RULE which states that the Eagle Award MUST be presented in front of Scouts and Scouters from your Troop or Team, or in a truly public place.

    Some Scouts would much rather the intimacy of their family’s great room than the grandness of the Troop meeting place or some other public place.

    Some Scouts also have problems with all of the “oaths”, “promises” and “things I have to memorize…” which have little bearing on the Eagle “Award” itself. As I mentioned earlier — they want to be awarded the medal, sure; but they want it “over with” as soon as possible.

    So to ME, Bryan, the “operative solutions” are as follows:

    - Tim, please sit down with each family. Explain to them what I’ve written to you — that the actual awarding is something the BSA expects because it’s a national award and because the local ceremony is on behalf of the entire national organization. Also explain that the actual ceremony (and I can send you a script I use — it’s all of one page!) can take as little as ten minutes or as long as 30 minutes depending on WHAT THE SCOUT WANTS; and then LISTEN to what their objections and concerns are.

    - offer to “reduce the overhead” associated with the ceremony. Instead of someone reading the congraduatory letters from everyone you’ve sent notices to, place them in a bound book or within page-protected sleeves and present the whole shebang to the Scout. Instead of having enless “Eagle Promises” and “Poems to the new Eagle”, how about instead playing the Scout’s favorite song? He’s a new Eagle Scout, not entering the law or medicine fields!! Instead of candles and repeating the Scout Oath and Law, instead a video or set of photos displaying showing his progress from WEBELOS Cub Scout coming into the Troop to the day before his Eagle Board of Review.

    OR NONE of that stuff…and concentrate on the three important elements: opening and closing the Eagle Court of Honor on behalf of the BSA and the local Council; the reading of the letter from our national leaders announcing that the Scout has been awarded Eagle; and the actual awarding of the Eagle medal by his parents to the Scout.

    I strongly disagree with the fact that the Eagle Court of Honor is for everyone else associated with that Scout — the Eagle Scout Court of Honor is formal recognition that the BSA found that person worthy of the title “Eagle Scout” and with it, the awarding of the certificate, medal and card. Everyone else who have helped the young man gets to witness this — IF the Scout wants this. Otherwise, they will I’m sure get the young man’s thanks in other methods.

    Hope all of this helps out…and if you DO need that script, let me know. I’ll make it available as a link from my blog site, where I’ll repost this question and response.

  27. To me it has all the signs of boys who probably never should have got their Eagle as this is now Eagle behavior. I would quit wasting my time putting more energy into it than they r

  28. I would suggest contacting the parents. Without asking the reason as it might be too personal. Let them know that you would like to help them celebrate this accomplishment. Maybe, since there are three of them, they can have a joint ceremony whereas eliminating that feeling of being on display or the center of attention. That’s all you can do really. If they still are not interested I would mail their badge etc. If you have a troop Court of Honor coming up maybe you can ask that they join you so that they can be awarded at the regular COH. Again, this might be more comfortable for those scouts who might feel nervous about being the center of attention.

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