Scouting is alive and well in Tennessee, with tens of thousands of young people exploring the natural world, learning to become leaders and developing skills they’ll use throughout life.
But if you’re reading this, you probably already knew all that. That makes it essential to spread that message beyond our community and into the places where important decisions get made.
That was the plan earlier this month when a group of Scouts, Venturers, Sea Scouts and Explorers from across Tennessee gathered for Report to the State, an annual presentation to elected and appointed officials at the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
Report to the Nation — the BSA’s congressionally mandated recap of the previous Scouting year — gets the bulk of the coverage here on Bryan on Scouting. And deservedly so: Once per year, a group of outstanding Scouts from across the country are chosen to deliver the Report to the Nation to the president, senators, representatives, cabinet members and other power players in Washington. (Revisit past Report to the Nation coverage here.)
But there’s another kind of report happening in statehouses across the country, and it’s just as important. Report to the State is a chance to multiply the positive Scouting message by 50. And for the Scouts and Venturers selected to represent their state, it’s an opportunity they’ll never forget.
“Being selected as one of the representatives was a wonderful honor,” says Eagle Scout Jacob Armistead, who was chosen as a delegate in part because he saved lives during a flood. “Being asked to be a part of the delegation was a great experience. The tours of the Country Music Hall of Fame and of the Capitol, along with having the opportunity to meet with our state legislators, made for a fun day.”
Tennessee’s Report to the State
The Middle Tennessee Council organizes the Report to the State but ensures that all councils across Tennessee are represented. Six BSA councils are either entirely or partially located in Tennessee. From west to east, they are:
- Chickasaw Council (based in Memphis)
- West Tennessee Area Council (based in Jackson)
- Middle Tennessee Council (based in Nashville)
- Cherokee Area Council (based in Chattanooga)
- Great Smoky Mountain Council (based in Knoxville)
- Sequoyah Council (based in Johnson City)
While the delivery of the report is the event’s stated purpose, organizer Vance Lackey of the Middle Tennessee Council also built in time for the delegates to visit museums and historic sites. That made the occasion an educational experience both for the elected officials who received the report and for the Scouts themselves.
“I learned how they make laws and a whole bunch of Tennessee history — all of that,” says Cub Scout Max McCarty. “I got to meet a lot of the people we wanted to see. I thought that was really cool.”
We wanted to know what Tennessee Scout leaders have learned about planning a successful Report to the State event. So we asked. And as you’d expect from the Volunteer State, these professionals were more than happy to volunteer their top tips.
Eight tips for a successful Report to the State
1. Find a great chairperson.
Make sure the effort is led by a volunteer who is passionate, organized and has the political connections you’ll need. For Tennessee, that’s Roland Myers, an Eagle Scout, board member and lobbyist who helps ensure the event runs smoothly.
2. Start (very) early.
Begin communicating with elected officials at least six months before you’re hoping to present the actual report. Confirm appointments and make sure the Report to the State is placed on the day’s legislative agenda.
3. Secure an Eagle Scout host.
Determine which members of your state’s legislature are Eagle Scouts, and ask one of them to host the delegation for the day. If you have multiple Eagle Scouts in your legislature, you could choose co-hosts or rotate through them each year.
This year’s host was state Sen. Jeff Yarbro. Past hosts have included state Rep. Brandon Ogles and state Sen. Ed Jackson.
These three Eagle Scouts represent both major political parties, which is a nice reminder that Scouting crosses political divides.
4. Find quality delegates.
If your state includes multiple BSA councils (as most do), ensure that each council provides at least one delegate. You’ll also want to think about diversity in terms of gender, race and BSA program.
The earlier you can line these young people up the better, because legislators from each council will want to meet with them and take pictures.
This type of personalization — allowing each Scout to meet their area’s elected officials — enhances the delegate experience and engages the legislators in what Scouting is doing within their state and congressional area.
5. Provide an opportunity for delegates to meet with the host.
Ensure plenty of “face time” between the host (the elected official, preferably an Eagle Scout) and the youth delegates. Tennessee holds a luncheon at the Middle Tennessee Council office. After the lunch, delegates practice their Report to the State presentation for the host, who can offer feedback and support.
This luncheon is also an opportunity to give delegates an important memento: a commemorative framed poster showing council shoulder patches from all six participating councils.
6. Schedule tours of local attractions.
One benefit of state capitals is that they typically have plenty of interesting attractions in the area. Use that to your advantage when planning a Report to the State event.
In the case of Nashville, organizers knew it wasn’t just the capital of Tennessee but also the capital of country music.
“So we felt it was appropriate for the delegation to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Lackey says.
7. Leave time for a capitol tour.
Arrange for a guided tour of the capitol building during your Report to the State festivities. This will help give Scouts a sense of the importance of what they’re there to do.
8. Make the presentation in person if you can.
While the pandemic has made this difficult the past two years, it’s much more impactful if your Report to the State can be delivered in person.
Presenting the report through a videoconferencing service — or even having someone else read the report on the statehouse floor — isn’t as powerful as Scouts in uniform showing up in person.
Remember that these elected officials hear speech after speech from experts, lobbyists, constituents and one another. Seeing a group of Scouts will be a refreshing change — and one that will make them pay attention.
“This allows the legislators to put a face with Scouting,” Lackey says.
Other Report to the State resources
The BSA has compiled a toolkit here containing a wealth of resources for volunteers and professionals planning Report to the State visits in their area.
Look there before you plan your next event.