Eagle Scout says rank ‘more of a launchpad than a final destination’

Ever heard of a Scout “Eagling out”? That’s the unofficial term for a young man earning Boy Scouting’s highest rank and leaving the program shortly after.

Well, that idea’s lost on newly minted Eagle Scout Andrew Arnold from Monterey, Calif. Not only is he planning to stay involved in Scouting after his Eagle Scout Court of Honor last month, he also sees the Eagle journey as a process that will “flow on indefinitely past Eagle and even past the age of 18.”

Andrew, a member of Troop 43 in Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, shared his view of the journey to the Scouting’s summit — and beyond — in a speech at his Eagle Scout Court of Honor in August. Based on this speech, you’ll see Andrew has wisdom beyond his years and has a bright future in writing, public speaking, law, politics or pretty much anywhere he wants to go.

A Scouter in his troop, Mike Djubasak, said I could share Andrew’s speech with you. Take a look:

Despite what the presence of ranks may lead one to believe, the Boy Scout’s career is certainly not a stratified process that is undertaken in large blocks: it is a gradual, sloping one that never really plateaus. Ranks may represent static, concrete tiers of growth, but they are simply markers, data points that attempt to illustrate the curve of maturation that the Scout undergoes.

So why does it all end with Eagle?

It doesn’t. Well, the ranks do, though palms offer further quarry for the ambitious and prolific Scout, but the process doesn’t. That slow, gradual process continues to flow on indefinitely past Eagle and even past the age of 18, without nominal ranks to mark the progress.

Eagle Rank simply represents the point by which the Scout has proven that he is not only a leader, but that he has particular ambitions and goals that he is willing to pursue, with the leadership he has developed proving to be a vital asset towards these ends. What separates the Eagle Rank from those of Star and Life, besides the more rigorous Board of Review, is that Eagle requires that the Scout must complete a service project that he decides upon and fleshes out in complete detail, necessitating resourcefulness, foresight, and creativity.

This requirement is unique in its asking for the Scout to elect a cause that he deems important and in the level of problem-solving that it demands. Just as achieving First Class reveals that the Scout has acquired a sufficient repertoire of Scouting basics, and just as the preceding ranks of Star and Life mark the growth of the Scout as a leader who has seen both failure and success, improving from each, Eagle Scout Rank shows that the Scout has become an individual who not only leads others, but one who can lead himself towards a goal that he has selected while leading others.

This is true leadership: autonomous and passionate. If the Scout’s goal is noble, then others will follow his leadership, for he has the knowledge, skill, and vision to achieve success.

Ranks are important in their ability to roughly show what talents and abilities the Scout has honed up to that point. Yet, there is vast knowledge beyond what is required to achieve First Class, and perfect leadership and foresight, being naturally impossible to acquire, will always remain beckoning goals on the horizon.

The ranks reveal clearly what may be expected of the Scout, but they certainly aren’t endpoints: a true Scout will exceed the expectations of the rank, even those of Eagle, and continue to grow and learn indefinitely. In this way, Eagle is more of a launchpad than a final destination: with the skills that the Scout has proven, the true destination could reside anywhere he chooses.

Um, yeah. What he said. Well done, Andrew!


  1. I am proud to say that I have a son whom like Andrew, has continued to press forward beyond his Eagle Rank, which he earned last Nov 1st. In that time, he has earned 2 palms and has a SM conference coming up for his 3rd! He hopes to get a 4th palm before he ages out in January! My son has ambitions to continue to participate in scouting beyond 18 by attending SM training and hopefully becoming an Asst SM or moving on to a Venture Crew..
    On the other hand, I have seen many boys take the other road and back off on their Scouting involvement once they attain Eagle, or barely make the rank of Eagle by their 18th birthday and then just fall off of the face of Scouting.

  2. A job well done, Mike, Another Eagle from Troop 43, I love his speech and will use it to inspire my Troop as well.

  3. Heidi,
    Congrats to your son on earning several Eagle Palms. My own son earned one before giving it up. If he had chosen to finish a couple of the old partials he had he could have gotten the second palm. But he had other things to do and earning a second palm wasn’t that important to him. I am an Eagle, got it several months before my 18th birthday, I drifted away from Scouts for over 25 years not returning until my son joined Boy Scouts. Neither my son, nor I did Cub Scouts. When I came back I gave back to the program as a COR and a SM and once again as a COR. We can only hope that the boys that complete their Eagle come back at some point, maybe before they are parents, maybe not until they’re own sons are in the program. Some guys will come back as Life for life Scouts. I’ve run into many in my years as an adult leader.

    As your son moves on to college have him come back and talk with the younger boys about what Scouting and being an Eagle means to him. It is one thing for a 50 year old father/SM/Eagle to tell it but it will mean a lot more coming from someone who is just 7 or 8 years older than the Scouts themselves.

  4. Kudos to Andrew Arnold for his speech. I look forward to seeing him live it out.

    My son, an Eagle Scout, claimed that the best age to earn Eagle was 16 to early 17. He felt that those that reached Eagle earlier than that were often pushed by their parents, and burned out, never to be seen in the troop again. Those that reached Eagle just as they turned 18 never got the chance to BE an Eagle as a Scout. But the 16-year-old Eagle Scout could go on to enjoy all of the other advantages of being a Scout – summer camp staff, OA, high adventure – without the pressure of advancement.

    Of course, my son also lived it, going to Philmont and the National Jamboree in 2005, sandwiched around his Eagle Board of Review. He continued as an ASM after turning 18, and continued to work at the council summer camp until this summer, when he started working at a full-time job. He’s graduated from college now, and is still a (fully-trained) ASM with our troop, an Associate Advisor of the related Venturing Crew, and this spring, he and his sister were awarded their Wood Badge beads.

    • While I agree that most boys below the age of 16 are pushed by their parents to attain Eagle Scout, my son is 13 years old (14 in November) and has pushed himself to attain Eagle. He has completed his project and has his Board of Review to do. He is involved in OA, attended Great Expectations and Great Medicine, achieved 40 badges thus far (his goal is all of them),attended National Jamboree 2013, and continues to live by the Scout Oath and Law daily. I’m super proud of his visions, his ability to develop and follow a timeline for his goals, his ability to achieve each level even in the face of obstacles and/or challenges. I firmly believe in the Scouting experience and believe every boy takes away some form of positiveness no matter how long they are involved. We are moving out of state in 10 months and my son plans on being involved with Scouting until the day he dies because he LOVES and LIVES every aspect of Scouting 🙂

    • My oldest didn’t earn his Eagle until shortly before his 18th birthday but is now trying to be in Venturing. I say trying because he is now in college/ROTC/National Guard and is planning a career in the military. Part of this is because of things he learned in Scouting. His Eagle gave him a head start in college and ROTC. His joke is that basic training was summer camp on steroids.

      My youngest is now Life with his Eagle project in the works. Scouting has also done so much for him and becoming an ASPL and SPL has had him mature tremendously right before my eyes. He has a different career path than his brother and of course the way he leads is different but they both have learned things that we could never have taught them. He is anxious to get his Eagle and plans on getting palms (he’s 16) he wants to show us and himself, what he can do.

  5. Why don’t they make the Eagle award metal part white or black and then change it according to palms (bronze, gold, silver) and use a number pin for total palms? Then let’s say once they have given back and accumulated 25 years as a registered member they are presented with a “Legacy” or lifetime achievement award which is now sterling silver! Encouragement and recognition. I do see a radical difference between those who Eagle out and those who stay active. I have seen parents who push this so thier son can get scholarships and preference into particular schools. A lot of people consider Eagles and Black belts important because it shows that the lid set a goal ,stuck with it and succeeded! And both of these take a minimum of 2 years. Those of us who know this program andartial arts know that earning these ranks is where the true journey begins. I really feel that with everything that goes on in this busy world, that “True” quality leadership is learned through Scouting, the martial arts and certain groups (JROTC, CAP, Naval Sea Cadets and possibly some church/school groups)

  6. I earned my Eagle award in 1973 and when I was given my Eagle charge it was pointed out that many people had helped me on that path. That night I made a pledge to myself to pay back that support. My estimate was it would take 50 years of adult Scouting to pay back what others had given to me. As of this month I have finished 40 years of service to Scouting, 10 more to go. After 50 years I will decide if I still owe more!

  7. My son, who earned Eagle in August – I love being able to say that after a 10 month eagle project- plans on staying in until he ages out. He is currently 16 and has plans to continue challenging himself with everything scouting has to offer. For him, Eagle was never the goal of scouting. It was challenging himself to do things he never thought possible, things people told him he couldn’t do and to see where the journey would take him. Immediately upon hearing that he ‘passed’ his EBOR, my son turned to his scoutmaster and said, “Let’s set new goals.”

  8. Check out the website www merit badge knot com to learn about over two hundred scouts who certainly saw that Eagle was just a step along the road and that there are plenty more adventures they can engage in. And this doesn’t even include Venturing or other awards such as the Hornaday.

  9. Check out merit badge knot com to read stories of over two hundred scouts who believed the same way Andrew does in that the Eagle rank is simply a step along the road of scouting adventures. And this doesn’t even include mention of Venturing or other high-level awards such as the Hornaday.

  10. Andrew nailed it. Eagle is the beginning. Many more skills can be learned if the Scout stays with the program. Patrol Leader training is on going. What a great way to help your SM, and bring the troop up to speed.

  11. Well said, young Mr. Arnold! (clearly he learned a lot from his Communication MB : ). As Edson Setzer knows first hand, clearly another opportunity exists in continuing to serve Scouts as a Scouter — the first-hand experience offers an unparalleled ability to relate to the challenges and triumphs of scouting at all ranks and ages!

  12. Venturing is the real next step. When a boy get the Eagle Scout Award, he has done a lot already in his troop. Time to add more challenge…more adventure. Let him take the next step in leadership training and personal growth through Scouting via Venturing. He can still be a member of the troop and function as a great resource while still pushing himself to even great fun and goals in the development of skills for life. Remember, he can continue to earn more merit badges to earn Eagle Palms.

  13. I have not seen Troop 182 Jax Eagle Scouts fading out after earning the rank because they commit to do something specific for the troop after their board of review. They normally stay as Instructors or JASM until 18 or young ASM after 18 if they attend a local college or university. Even old Eagle Scouts in college come back to meetings during summer to share stories. Once an Eagle they should start demonstrating the value of the rank and the example they should give to others. If we see an Eagle Scout out of track we should encourage him to remember his commitment to the next generation of scouts (@ScoutmasterJose)

    • This brings up another thought. If you want your Eagle Scouts to rise up to higher heights and for that to inspire younger scouts. Why then are they suppose to take the Eagle badge off their uniform and replace it with a knot. Very few people in scouting know what that knot stands for if they have been around for a while. Almost no younger scouts know. We Eagle Scouts should wear that badge for life and inspire the youth we work with.

  14. I’m with Mr Frye. Scouting is preparation for a life of service, and high moral character. Hopefully, Eagles will support the Scouting program as adults, especially if/when they have boys of their own. But, the boy who earns Eagle hasn’t reached a launching pad as much as a loading dock. Yes, an Eagle looks good on your resume. But, when they put that rank on you (or your son) you become the Scouting program because your life and your achievements are forever associated with it. What you do from that time on will, in part, define what scouting is for future generations of young men.

  15. There is a Baden Powell quote that basically says that a scout is not really a scout until he has reached first class. In BP’s day First Class was the equivalent of the rank of Eagle. I have tried to set my son’s mindset from the time he was a Bear Cub that the rank of Eagle was merely a stepping stone to all scouting had to offer. I generally don’t by the burn out issues because if a scout is participating in good program and having fun doing it there will be no burn out. That’s why I have spent hours trying to find the best instructors, classes and programs all over Louisiana, Texas, Ark, Tenn, Alabama and Florida for my son to participate in.

    He just earned his 16th Palm and finished his 126th Merit Badge. Assuming continued leadership and participation he should reach 22 or 23 palms before his 18th birthday. He just finished his Venturing Silver Award, a two year journey, and received the Venturing Leadership Award from our council. He is a Jr. Asst. Scoutmaster in our troop and participates in his venture crew a WW2 reenactment group. He is working on the Winchester/NRA marksmanship top award for rimfire that he started at Boy Scout Camp this summer. He also went to Sea Base with his mom this summer with a crew from Detroit.

    What really matters is the finished product at 18 or 21 not when a scout gets his Eagle. My son has lots of goals and finished all the MB’s is one of them. He has 8 partials and five new badges left. Those include Snow Sports and Watersports so a lot more fun to come. Rayado and NRA Adventure camp loom in 2015!!!

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