At largest-ever gathering of Eagle Scouts, Exxon Mobil CEO Tillerson issues a challenge

Gathering-of-EaglesRex Tillerson always keeps the Main Thing the Main Thing.

And the Main Thing, to him, is growing the Boy Scouts of America and serving more youth. So tonight at the National Order of the Arrow Conference’s Gathering of Eagles, he issued a challenge to every Eagle Scout that was firmly rooted in his time-tested message.

In all the times I’ve been lucky enough to hear the Exxon Mobil CEO and Distinguished Eagle Scout address a group of Scouts and Scouters, he’s stuck to this message. It’s powerful every time. As much as we talk about how life-changing Scouting is, the message is worthless if we don’t continue to find new Scouting families to join us on this adventure.

Tillerson used his theme while addressing what’s been billed as the largest-ever gathering of Eagle Scouts.

Inside the cold, dark Munn Ice Arena at Michigan State, this Gathering of Eagles warmed things up quite a bit. And it’s hard to argue with National Eagle Scout Association President Glenn Adams, who told the crowd that more than 4,000 Eagle Scouts had assembled there.

Munn Arena holds 6,470 people, and it was easily more than three-fourths full. That would mean there were about 4,850 Eagle Scouts there, but I’ll wait to see if we get an official count.

Whatever the exact total, this was a special night.

Personal integrity

Tillerson, the keynote speaker, called the crowd “the largest group of Eagle Scouts that I’ve ever had the privilege to stand before.”

But he acknowledged that these Eagle Scouts didn’t get there alone. He gave credit to the countless Scoutmasters, assistant Scoutmasters, committee members, Cubmasters, den leaders, volunteers and parents who paved the way for these Eagle Scouts.

On a night to celebrate Eagles, it was a nice reminder that others are worth celebrating, too.

But Tillerson didn’t want to just stand there and revel in the past.

He said that Eagle Scouts are expected to continue to act with personal integrity. To illustrate this point, he talked about structural integrity, a key part of his job. He gestured to the 40-year-old building everyone was sitting in. You trust in the structural integrity of this building, he said, and that it won’t fall down on everyone. You don’t even think about it.

Personal integrity, he said, works the same way.

“People trust you. They count on you,” he said. “Your personal integrity, once established and earned, people don’t have to think about it. They know. They know you. They know you’ll do the right thing every time.”

The Main Thing

Tillerson ended his speech the way he often does: with the Main Thing. He wants to grow the number of Scouts in our program, so he issued a challenge to everyone there. He asked them to bring two non-Scouting friends to their next unit meeting.

“See if they’re interested in joining this adventure that you and I enjoy so much,” he said.

He said he agreed with the Will Rogers quote that “The only problem with Boy Scouts is, there aren’t enough of them.”

“The country so desperately needs you,” Tillerson said. “You matter. We just need to multiply that further, and the only way to do that is to get more of us.”

Mike-Fossum-at-NOAC-2015

A space man

Tillerson was preceded by a fellow Distinguished Eagle Scout, astronaut Mike Fossum.

He wore a blue flight suit, for which he had a different name.

“You guys are all in your Class A uniforms, and I’m up here in my blue jammies,” he said.

“But don’t worry,” he said, opening up his shirt to reveal a tan field uniform. “I’m in my uniform, too.”

This got a huge roar from the crowd.

He recounted his time in space and talked about how Scouting and the Order of the Arrow helped him get there. He added that the tradition of Eagle Scouts going into space hasn’t ceased. In fact, a poster listing Eagle Scouts who have been to space is already outdated, he said.

It lacks Kjell Lindgren, an Eagle Scout who launched to the International Space Station on July 22.

More NOAC coverage

See my other NOAC 2015 stories here.