How to honor Baden-Powell on Founder’s Day (Feb. 22)

Chief Scout of the World: There’s no cooler title around.

That’s what they called Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scout Movement and therefore one of the masterminds behind the Boy Scouts of America.

B-P was also the first recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award in 1926, the highest award the BSA gives adults.

Baden-Powell was born Feb. 22, 1857, which is more than 150 years ago. Scouts worldwide — roughly 30 million in 161 countries — celebrate his birthday each year as Founder’s Day.

You can join the celebration in a number of ways. Here are seven ideas:

baden-powell-illustration1. Learn a little about Baden-Powell

Just who was Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell? Read and find out:

baden-powell-22. Read his words of wisdom

Three of my favorite quotes from the Scouting legend speak for themselves:

  • “It is risky to order a boy not to do something; it immediately opens to him the adventure of doing it.”
  • “The open-air is the real objective of Scouting and the key to its success.”
  • “There’s nothing like ‘Being Prepared,’ is there? For what might seem possible, even if it may not seem probable.”

Be inspired by reading some classic Baden-Powell quotes. Click here for a few hand-picked favorites.

baden-powell-grave3. See his final message to Scouts

Baden-Powell prepared a farewell message to Scouts that was meant to be shared after his death. He died at age 83 in 1941.

This is my favorite line:

But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. “Be Prepared” in this way, to live happy and to die happy- stick to your Scout Promise always when you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.

Read the complete letter here.

messengers-of-peace-logo4. Become a Messenger of Peace

In the October 1932 issue of Jamboree, Baden-Powell wrote: “Our aim is to bring up the next generation as useful citizens with a wider outlook than before and thereby to develop goodwill and peace in the world through comradeship and co-operation.”

In fact, as this UNESCO report indicates, peace and World Scouting have been close allies since the beginning.

You can join this effort by becoming a Messenger of Peace and being a powerful force for good. Get details on this BSA and World Scouting program here.

scouting-heritage5. Teach the Scouting Heritage merit badge

Scouting Heritage merit badge, released in 2010, satisfies the desire by Scouts and Scouters to learn more about Scouting’s history.

And it’s no surprise that Requirement 1 of Scouting Heritage MB reads:

Discuss with your counselor the life and times of Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. Explain why he felt a program like Scouting would be good for the young men of his day. Include in your discussion how Scouting was introduced in the United States, and the origins of Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting under Baden-Powell.

baden-powell-pronunciation6. Consider how you pronounce B-P’s name

This one comes with a little controversy. I’ve heard Baden-Powell’s name pronounced two ways — the Powell part, at least.

Some say it like “POW-ull,” while others pronounce it more like “pole.”

B-P himself once address the pronunciation in a short poem:

Man, Nation, Maiden
Please call it Baden.
Further, for Powell
Rhyme it with Noel

Remember that B-P was British, so “noel” is pronounced like this. In other words, I’ve been pronouncing it wrong pretty much all my life, and it is more like “pole.”

7. Watch this video about B-P

8. Your idea?

How will you celebrate? Perhaps with a B-P-themed Scoutmaster’s Minute or a campfire story? Share your ideas below.

BSA file photo above shows Baden-Powell (right) with William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt


  1. I’ll be re-reading parts of Bill Hillcourt’s biography of B-P, “Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero” available at your Scout Shop!

  2. Read the free book, “The Scout Law in Practice”. Available as free pdf file in google books. Also, that the “Unknown Scout”. Without him, BSA may never have existed.

  3. Thanks for your clarification on how to pronounce B-P’s name. I have been trying to teach this since I started doing re-enactments of B-P for Wood Badge and other events 12 years ago, but no one had ever heard it pronounced that way. I do believe that Lady B-P did pronounce it like Pole when I met her 47 years ago. I asked a British friend how he would pronounce B-P and he told me “British Petroleum”. So much for original research.

    • When I was fortunate enough to chat with her for some 15 minutes about 40 years ago, I asked about pronuciation. She replied, “Well, you Yanks say ‘Bay-den Pow-el’, and we Brits say ‘Bah-den Pole’, but my husband suggested saying ‘B-P’ because you cannot mispronounce that.”

  4. Ill be spending BPs birthday at the first staff meeting for this falls Wood Badge course. We’ll be sure to include him in our thoughts for the day.

  5. Today I have a graphic on our website home page with B-P’s picture, the British Scouting emblem and the wording, “Founder’s Day / Celebrating the life of Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell / February 22, 1857 – January 8, 1941.”
    I hope this doesn’t violate our Secretary’s definition of “clutter” on the website.

    I am also MBC for the Scouting Heritage merit badge. I also appreciate the pronounciation clarification on the gentleman’s name; I am among the guilty of mis-pronouncing it all these years…

  6. BSA continues to push BP as the founder of BSA. But Baden was just using materials taken from Ernest Seton and Daniel Beard (Americans) who had their movements going decades before his. That Boyce visited London and saw it called Boy Scouts and came home and convinced these guys to nationalize their movements into a single one… not sure BP deserves any credit for that at all, really.

    If BSA does consider him the father of scouting… why not use the BP oath and law instead of the BSA oath and law?

    • I guess you have never read “scouting for boys”. It’s true that BP took some ideas from Seton (I really don’t think the same about Beard) but if you read their books you will notice that BP scheme was much more complete and well thought. The patrol system, the merit badges, the law and some games were probably taken from Seton’s ideas. BP itself said that both of them were the true fathers of scouting and he was only an uncle, but without his fame and his hard work scouting never had been successful and the Birch Bark Roll Indians and the Boy pionneers never had achieved this goal.

      • I think it would be fair to say that the organization and structure of BSA scouting was derived from BP, However the program was almost totally Seton. Probably 80% of the first BSA handbook was directly from Seton’s previous writings. The bedrock principles that we ( BSA ) still follow today are from from Seton’s “Principles of Woodcraft” BP was known to have Seton’s books and based much of Scouting For Boys on Seton’s work. BP was a general and used to organizing people. BP may well be the “founder “of Scouting. Seton was a naturalist and author- used to developing ideas and communicating them, Seton was no doubt the “architect” of the BSA program.

  7. I celebrated Founder’s Day by taking my sons (now Boy Scouts) to visit the Cub Scouts and leaders of our old Pack, who were winter camping at our council’s Boy Scout camp. I was cajoled into relating the story of Lord Baden-Powell. I also retold the local legend of the “man with the bloody hook” for those who wished to hear a scary story. This was my favorite Founder’s Day ever.

  8. On February 22nd each year around here, we follow the British and USAF military tradition of holding a Wood Badge “Dining In” formal dinner to recognize the unit’s traditions and founding.

    In our case, this is where all Wood Badge holders get together and have a great time celebrating Scouting. The event also raises funds via patch auctions and other fun things for “Wood Badge Scholarships” to help train the next generation of leaders in Baden-Powel’s movement.

  9. It was about this time last year that I was in my first weekend at Wood Badge. There was a BP reenactor that came and spoke to us at our campfire. I will never forget that experience. Even the sound of the Kutto horn in the darkness behind us just before he asked to come down and join us. He spoke with us about the history of scouting and how he came up with the idea. I wish all scouts could experience that at some time.

  10. Do you think that Lord Baden-Powell would be proud of an organization that is working so hard to exclude young men and women? With all due respect, I hope not. Additionally, the method in which an 18 year old can now be excluded from an organization that he was a member in good standing the day before that birthday is against all fairness that I believe our leader would feel kindly toward.

  11. As a Brit who was in a Pack + Troop founded by BP himself in the country where he is buried, I can confirm his name was always pronounced Baden to rhyme with Paid-in and Powell to rhyme with towel (hence the nickname bathing towel) by my leaders, teachers and my parents.

    • I am rather relieved to hear the “testimonial comments” made by Edward Hawkins regarding the pronunciation of BP’s name, which he recalls from his childhood experiences (through “leaders, teachers and [his] parents.”) “Baden to rhyme with Paid-in and Powell to rhyme with towel.” Those are the “accepted” (at least in America) pronunciations which I clearly recall having been taught as a 9 year old Cub Scout (in 1943) and all the way through Scouting years until today at age 83. Still a Scout [Scouter] and proud of it. Still meeting with old timers at Ten Mile River Scout Camp (near the Monticello Race Track, about 2 hours North of Manhattan, New York) once a year the weekend past Labor Day. We’re all Order of the Arrow members from Brooklyn and the other four Boroughs of the City of New York, visiting our Old Camps, The Indian Cliffs, Nick Dale’s, Narrowsberg, NY, The Hawk’s Nest, etc. Singing the songs we sang in our youth. Taking an hour or so to paddle a canoe. Walking the trails. Visiting Rock Lake. Taking us back 50, 60 or 70 years, for a weekend with Scouting friends. “And when Camping days are through, we’ll be coming back to you, for Camp Brooklyn is the only place for us. Rah, Boom, Easy Huh?” We welcome other O/A members. We’re called “TMR ARROWHEAD” and can be reached through the Camping Committee at the New York City offices of the Greater New York Council BSA, or contact me over the internet: and I’ll happily provide you with further details of our “Band of Brothers.” In Wimachtendienk, Phil Greenwald in Encino, CA

  12. I cannot think of a better testimony to this great inspiring man than participating in a Eagle Scout board of review. And tonight, it will be my honor to do just that!

  13. I’ve been portraying B-P for a number of years( 5 Nat. Jamboree’s at the Brownsea Island exhibit) and in one of recordings he pronounced his name Baden like in the town Baden-Baden and Powell like in Noel. The first Silver Buffalo went to the unknown Scout, who helped W.D. Boyce that foggy night in London and introduced Boyce to B-P.

    • No, the first Silver Buffalo went to Baden-Powell, The award was created in honor of the Unknown Scout and that’s why the buffalo statue was presented to Gilwell Park by US Scouting managers.

  14. The verse by B-P above regarding the pronunciation of his last name is misquoted. Bill Hillcourt’s biography of B-P, Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero (p. 423, note 1) has it as:

    Man, matron, maiden,
    Please call it Baden.
    Further for Powell,
    Rhyme it with Noel.

  15. Page 318 of his biography referenced above, Two Lives of a Hero, recounts a dream BP had in late1911, wherein he went to the gate of heaven and met St. Peter, who asked him, “How did you like Japan?” BP replied, “Japan, I’ve never been to Japan.” To which Peter replied, “Go forth and spread the message of Scouting.” BP awoke and recorded the dream in his journal and booked passage on a steamer across the Atlantic, and on that steamer he spied the young Olave Soames, 32 years his junior, also with the same birthday! Their firstborn son they named Peter. I love telling that story to young scouts, plugged into technology, at Eagle COH’s to remind them to look within and pay attention to their dreams, their nightly connection to the Divine, and the part we all play in Scouts in the Divine plan.

  16. How about to celebrate B-P’s birthday I produce a major Hollywood-style movie about his life, inspired by the one Cecil B. DeMille was working on when he died in 1959. I have access to the DeMille archives on the project, an Academy Award-winning producer to work with me, and the support of Michael Baden-Powell, B-P’s grandson. All I need is an introduction to some investors who want to honor our Founder and make a boatload of money in the process with a blockbuster film that has a built-in audience around the world 600 million-plus. Anybody wanna help? Check out these links, then contact me.

    “On My Honour” – video teaser


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