One Person Can Make A Difference

Eagle Court of Honor
Troop 81, London, England
June 3, 2003

As the story goes, one day in 1909 in London, England, An American Visitor, millionaire Chicago publisher William Dickson Boyce, lost his way in a dense fog.  He stopped under a street lamp and tried to figure out where he was.  A boy approached him and asked if he could be of help.

"You certainly can," said Boyce.  He told the boy that he wanted to find a certain business office in the center of the city.  "I'll take you there," said the boy.

When they got to the destination, Mr. Boyce reached into his pocket for a tip.  But, the boy stopped him.  "No thank you, sir.  I am a Scout.  I won't take anything for helping."

"A Scout?  And what might that be?"  asked Boyce.  The boy told the American about himself and about his brother scouts.  Boyce became very interested.

After finishing his errand, he had the boy take him to the British Scouting office.  At the office, Boyce met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the famous British general who had founded the Scouting movement in Great Britain.  Boyce was so impressed with what he learned that he decided to bring Scouting home with him.

On February 8, 1910, Boyce filed incorporation papers for the Boy Scouts of America in the District of Columbia.  The purpose, he said, "Shall be to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods which are in common use by Boy Scouts."  From that day forth, Scouts have celebrated February 8 as the birthday of Scouting in the United States.

What happened to the boy who helped Mr. Boyce find his way in the fog?  No one knows.  He had neither asked for money nor given his name,  but he will never be forgotten.  His Good Turn helped bring the scouting movement to our country.  A movement through which some twenty-five million young men (and women) have passed.  One Good Turn to one man became a Good Turn to millions of American Boys (and women).  Such is the power of a Good Turn and proof positive that one person can make a difference!

Doubtless, there have been individuals who have made a difference in your life; a teacher,  a fellow Scout, a Scout leader, or loving parent.  Each in his or her own way made a remarkable difference in your life and helped bring you here to this point.  My challenge to you now is to return the same; do a good turn daily, and where you can, make a difference in the life of someone else.

Good night, gentlemen.

Note: This comes to us from site in the United Kingdom:

The story of the Unknown Scout has been described as true, at least in essence.  Some details, however, have been added to the known facts.  According to Edward Rowan, Boyce stopped in London en route to a safari in British East Africa.  While an unknown Scout helped him and refused a tip, this Scout only helped him cross a street to a hotel, did not take him to the Scout headquarters, and Boyce did not meet Baden-Powell that day.  Upon Boyce's request, the Scout did give him the address of the Scout headquarters where Boyce later went on his own and picked up information about the group.

Boyce returned to London after his safari and visited the Scout headquarters again and gained the use of Scouting For Boys in the development of an American Scouting program.  While Boyce's original account does not mention there being fog that fateful day, in a 1928 account he did say it was present.  Climatologists, however, report no fog on that day in London.

James E. West, the first professional Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, had to contend with competing factions among the founders of the BSA, most notably Daniel Carter Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton, who pushed their pioneer heritage and American Indian themes respectively and personally ran the organisation, as they despised bureaucracy.  West, for his part, opted for slightly modified version of the British program that he adapted to America.  He is credited most with pushing the story of Boyce and the unknown Scout.

The origin of the fog in the legend appears to have been firmly established by 1923, apparently because in 1911 a man from Providence, Rhode Island, was lost in a fog and aided by a Scout who refused a tip.  This man was so impressed that he remembered Scouting in his will.  West probably recognised the value of fog as adding drama to the telling of the legend and so perpetuated the story.

In the British Scout Training Center at Gilwell Park, England, Scouts from the United States erected a statue of an American Buffalo in honor of this unknown scout.