01 of 06
Planning an Eagle Court
If you have a prospective Eagle Scout in your life, you'll have an Eagle Court of Honor ceremony coming up too. There are many ways to design an Eagle Court ceremony - and as long as you remember to confer the actual honor on the boys and give a nod to tradition and historical context, there is no wrong way to do it. But there are several steps that will make it easier, and having a script for the ceremony itself is invaluable. So, here's the lowdown on the Eagle Court, including a... sample Eagle Court script from a Northern California troop, whose traditions include a bagpiper, involvement by younger scouts and Eagle escorts.
Planning: Some troops designate an Eagle committee, parent volunteers whose jobs, year in and year out, include planning the ceremony and all its many accouterments. The rest of us, however, have to reinvent the wheel every time. If you're not among the lucky few with seasoned, near-professional Eagle Court planners, you'll want to start four to six months ahead of time, by gathering up your committee - the parents of all the boys who will receive their Eagle awards at the same Court of Honor. Ideally, this will be four to eight families. (Fewer Eagles mean more work per family - and more means your Court of Honor ceremony will be a 4-hour affair if you're not careful.)
Now it's time to divide the tasks...Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Dividing the Tasks for an Eagle Court Ceremony
On the surface, an Eagle Court may seem like just another scout ceremony. But when you're up to your eyeballs in the planning, it begins to feel suspiciously more like a wedding-sized task. So call a meeting of your Eagle families several months ahead of time, have everyone bring their calendars and start divvying up the nine main tasks, from venue reservations to recognition letters and reception planning.
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- Venue: Have one family reserve the venue for the ceremony and reception - and a... rehearsal the night before. This family will also arrange for any special speakers, including someone to do the invocation, if desired, and representatives from the council as well as the troop. They'll coordinate with the senior patrol leader and scoutmaster to make sure the dates work with the troop calendar.
- Treasurer: It's easiest if one person coordinates the finances for the Eagle court. Families submit their expense receipts - for program printing, for example, shadowboxes, bagpiper fees or reception supplies - to the treasurer. The treasurer tracks it all, and at the end, divides the costs equitably, sending bills to those who owe, and dispersing funds to those who are owed.
- Photographs and invitations: If you will be using photographs for the invitations, newspaper announcements or simply to display at the ceremony or reception, arrange for a photo shoot and a photographer. You can purchase unfolded Eagle invitations at the scout store and run them through your own printer, or have them professionally done. Affixing a group portrait of the new Eagles to the inside of the invitation is a nice touch. Tip: Print the invitations, then give them and the envelopes to the individual families to address and mail.
- Programs: If you're doing programs, assign one family to print and assemble them, including, for example, the court of honor program; biographies of each boy, including Eagle project details; an image of the group and individual images of each boy; the history of the troop; and a roster of the troop's Eagles. The program producer should also recruit younger scouts to serve as ushers, and hand out programs. Tip: If you will be submitting an announcement to your local newspaper, you can use edited-down versions of the boys' bios for the press release.
- Ceremony coordinator: This individual scripts the ceremony, and arranges for any entertainment, including the troop bugler for taps, or a bagpiper for the ceremony. He or she makes sure everyone who needs to be at the rehearsal is there, then runs the rehearsal, much as a wedding planner would run the ceremony run-through, ensuring that everyone knows where to stand and what to do and when. He or she also does the last minute checks before the ceremony and cues the start.
03 of 06
Planning a Memorable Eagle Court: The Reception, Shadowbox & Letters
OK, you've booked the venue, sent out the invitations and planned the programs. Here are the other things that make an Eagle Court memorable. When you're divvying up tasks, you'll want to assign these four jobs too:
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- Reception: Most troops throw a party or reception after the ceremony - punch and cookies or a sheet cake, or a full-fledged luncheon. Whichever route you take, you'll still need someone to coordinate tables, centerpieces, paper goods, decor and food. Tip: Ask the... parents of the Life Scouts to help with set up, serving and/or cleanup. It's a big help for you, of course, but it also ensures that these future-Eagle parents attend the court of honor and see what lies ahead. They may grouse about it now, but they'll be glad later! And tip #2: The scout store has Eagle logo balloons and paper goods, but they're very pricey. Get a few, then mix them with plain blue or red items from your local party store.
- Letters and recognitions: One of the most memorable ways to commemorate this achievement is with letters of recognition and congratulations from regional, state and national leaders. U.S. senators, for example, are not only willing to write a letter of congratulations, they will also fly a flag over the U.S. Capitol in your son's honor and then send the flag to him. Appoint one parent to contact the appropriate dignitaries several months before the ceremony, submit the requests and collect the letters. Tip: Tuck the letters into the boys' Eagle binders, and tie with red and blue ribbons, so they can be presented during the ceremony. Give the Scoutmaster a complete list of letter writers, and an inspirational excerpt from one of the letters to read during the ceremony.
- Shadowboxes: Many families commemorate their son's achievement by creating a shadowbox that displays merit badges, advancement insignia and memorabilia from High Adventure treks. If you are doing this, it's easiest to have one family go get the frames - the Boy Scout store has small ones with a backdrop similar to Boy Scout uniform fabric, but any frame shop or big box store will have larger sizes. Stretch dark green felt or khaki twill to form a backdrop. It's also easier if the shadowbox family picks up all the duplicate merit badges, so you don't have half a dozen families all going on the same errand. But the bulk of the expense for this project, which can run $50-$80 per scout, are those badges. Make sure everyone - especially the shadowbox family - understands that beforehand! Tip: Make the shadowbox assembly a group project. Gather all the parents at one house, and break out the hot glue guns, wine and cheese.
- Multimedia slide shows: Having a multimedia slide show or video of the boys' progress from tiny Tiger Cubs to Eagles can be a really lovely touch at the Eagle Court or during the reception. Assign one family to assemble the slide show, and arrange for the screen, projector, and any other equipment.
04 of 06
Eagle Court: Letters of Recognition
One of the most memorable and inspirational things a troop can do for its new Eagle scouts is solicit letters of recognition and congratulations from dignitaries and world leaders. Virtually every public figure, from town mayors to national and international leaders, is delighted to draft and send such a letter. Many small town mayors will actually issue a proclamation making the day of your Eagle Court, for example, Eagle Scout Day and give your son a copy of the official document. And U.S.... Senators will not only send a letter, they'll also present a flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol in your son's honor, for a small fee for the flag. (I suspect some poor Capitol intern's sole job is standing out by the flapole hoisting Old Glories up and down.) It's a lovely commemoration and one your boy will be reminded of every Fourth of July and Flag Day for years to come. So, here's how to make it happen:
First, compile a list of possible dignitaries, adding people who may have special significance to your troop, someone from your town who became an astronaut, for example, or an Olympic athlete. Thing big. Think awe-inspiring. Here are some possibilities who have written Eagle letters in the past:
- The President of the United States
- Former presidents
- The current and former vice presidents
- Your U.S. senator and U.S. congressman 403
- Members of the federal cabinet, such as the Secretary of Education or Defense
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military leaders
- Senate Majority and Minority Leaders
- Your state's governor
- Your state senator and assemblyman
- Your town's mayor
- Your county supervisor
- Astronauts, members of the Navy Blue Angels, etc.
- Olympic athletes, particularly those who are Eagles
- Spiritual leaders, including the Pope
Once upon a time, finding appropriate contact information might have been difficult. Now, Google makes it easy. The links above will take out to many of the correct sites, and the US Scouts web site also has compiled many helpful addresses.
Send a request with all the pertinent information - the full first and last names of the boys, the troop, the date of the Eagle Court and/or the date the boys made Eagle (which is the date of their council board of review) and the address to which you need everything sent.
Gather all the letters and proclamations. Make a list of the senders for your Scoutmaster to announce during the ceremony, and find an inspirational excerpt he can read. Ready the letters and proclamations for presentation, by inserting them into each boy's binder, for example, and tying them with red and blue ribbon. Bring them to the ceremony.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
A Sample Eagle Court Script
This Eagle ceremony by a Northern California troop included a bagpiper to lead the procession, escorts for each Eagle (an older brother who is an Eagle, for example), and younger scouts' participation.
SENIOR PATROL LEADER: On behalf of Troop xxx, I would like to welcome you to this Eagle Court of Honor. Please rise. Color guard, present the colors.
Pledge of Allegiance, Scout Oath, Scout Law
SCOUTMASTER: I’d like to welcome you to this National Eagle Court of Honor. Today we honor x members of... our troop by recognizing their attainment of Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout. Nationally, only about 4 out of every 100 scouts achieve the rank of Eagle. To do so requires dedication, hard work and leadership.
Invocation, if desired, followed by the official opening of the court by a council representative. Then, the SPL and younger scout speakers assemble on stage with plaques representing advancement levels.
SPL: On the path to Eagle, these scouts have learned wilderness and other practical skills, performed community service, and demonstrated leadership. This has been their path.
TENDERFOOT SCOUT: I am a Tenderfoot. To earn the rank of Tenderfoot, I must be active in the troop, learn the Scout Oath and law, and practice these ideals in my everyday life. On my badge are two stars representing truth and knowledge, a shield, which is the emblem of a nation molded together in justice, and an eagle to guard the freedom of my land.
SECOND CLASS: I am a Second Class Scout. I learned First Aid, camping and hiking skills. On my badge is our motto “Be Prepared” and a tied knot to remind me to do a good turn daily.
FIRST CLASS: I am a First Class Scout. I learned camping, cooking, nature and additional first aid skills. My badge reflects my duty to be prepared and the stars of truth and knowledge.
STAR SCOUT: I am a Star Scout. I earned at least five merit badges, three from the Eagle list, performed service projects and served for at least four months in troop leadership positions. The star on my badge represents my role as a leader, providing a guiding light in the darkness.
LIFE SCOUT: I am a Life Scout. I earned five more merit badges, three from the required list for Eagle. My badge is a pure red heart on a golden field to show the world the path I have chosen.
SCOUTMASTER: This Court of Honor has been convened to recognize the achievements of the scouts who have successfully met the requirements for the highest rank in Scouting. Our Eagles were active in the troop for at least six months as Life Scouts, showing scout spirit and leadership; earned 10 more merit badges for a total of at least 21; planned, developed and led a service project; passed a troop and district board of review, was approved by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Eagle badge is a symbol of what each boy has accomplished, but more importantly, it serves as a symbol of the high goals each will set for himself in the future.
Continued...Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
A Sample Eagle Court Script, Part II
EAGLE CHALLENGE: As an Eagle Scout, you are a guide to other scouts and an example in your community. I challenge you to enter this Eagle brotherhood, holding ever before you the ideals of honor and service. May the white on your badge remind you to live with honor – the foundation of all character. May the blue remind you of loyalty – devotion to your community, country, God, and your own ideals. May the red symbolize your courage – face each day unafraid and willing to have the courage to... stand up for what you believe is right. Your final obligation is service. The Eagle protects and defends the weak and helpless. He aids and comforts the oppressed and the unfortunate. Will all the Eagle Scouts in the audience please stand? (List new Eagles), repeat this promise before your fellow members, family, and friends, sealing your eternal loyalty to the Code of the Eagle Scout: "I reaffirm my allegiance to the three promises of the Scout Oath. I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself the obligations and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout. On my honor, I will do my best to make my training an example. My rank and my influence count strongly for better scouting and for better citizenship in my troop and in my community, and in my contact with other people. To this, I pledge my sacred honor." Wear your award with humility, ever mindful that the Eagle Scout is looked up to as an example. May the Scout oath and the Scout law be your guide for tomorrow and onward. Eagles, please join us at the podium.
Each escort introduces his Eagle, who makes a brief speech, ending with the words "I accept your challenge."
SCOUTMASTER: We are proud to present letters and certificates of commendation for our new Eagle scouts from many of our nation and world leaders, including (list them). On behalf of our new Eagle Scouts, we would like to acknowledge the families who made their journey possible. Could the families please rise? We’d also like to acknowledge the scores of adult leaders, merit badge counselors, the parents who went to Boy Scout Camp, trekked Philmont and snorkeled at Sea Base, and all the scouts who accompanied them on this journey. Please rise.
Council rep closes the Eagle court. SPL calls for color guard to retire the colors.