Climbing the Mountain

Eagle Court of Honor
Troop 81, London, England
June 9, 2003

Afar in the dry southwestern country of America is an Indian village, and in the offing is a high mountain, towering up out of the desert.  It is considered a great feat to climb this mountain, so that all the young men of the village were eager to attempt it.

One day the wise old Chief said, "Now young men you may all go today and try to climb the mountain.  Start right after breakfast, and go each of you as far as you can.  Then when you are tired, come back; but let each one bring me a twig from the place where he turned."  Away they went full of hope, each feeling that he surely could reach the top.

But soon a small boy came slowly back, and in his hand he held out to the Chief a leaf of cactus.  The Chief smiled and said, "My boy, you did not reach the foot of the mountain, you did not even get across the desert."

Later, a second boy returned.  He carried a twig of sagebrush.  "Good," said the Chief.  "You reached the mountain's foot, but you did not climb upward."

The next had a cottonwood sprig.  "Well done," said the Chief.  "You got up as far as the springs."

Another came later with some buckthorn.  The Chief smiled when he saw it and spoke thus: "You were climbing.  You were up to the first slide rock."

Late in the afternoon, one arrived with a cedar sprig, and the old man said, "Excellent.  You went half way up."

An hour afterward, one came with a switch of pine.  To him the Chief said, "Wonderful!  You went to the third belt.  You made it three quarters of the climb."

The sun was low when the last returned.  He was a tall, splendid boy of noble character.  His hand was empty as he approached the Chief, but his countenance was radiant, and he said, "My father, there were no trees where I got to; there were no twigs, but I saw the shining sea."  Now the old man's face glowed, too, as he said aloud, almost singing, "I knew it.  When I looked on your face, I knew it.  You have been to the top.  You need no twigs or token for it is written in your eyes, and rings in your voice.  My boy, you have felt the uplift, you have seen the glory of the mountain."

You have climbed the mountain and tonight you are awarded a symbol of that achievement.  Like the young Indians in the story, you carry the Eagle Badge as a symbol of where you have been.  But also, like the young Indian who reached the summit, don't let it be the rank on your shirt that tells others where you have been.  My charge to you tonight, is let it be written in your eyes, your words, and your deeds.  Live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily life so that others may judge you by the man you are, and not the rank on your shirt.

Good night, gentlemen.