Last night I sat proudly in the audience as my sister Micheline Maynard received the distinguished alumni award from our alma mater, Michigan State University. Sharing the stage with her were others who have done outstanding work in their professions, in their young careers, in philanthropy and in service to their communities.
One of the honorees, a business owner, was instrumental in redeveloping the YMCA in his city into a vibrant organization with branch campuses, each integrated in and involved with its local community. In his remarks, Jim Williams referred to the aims that inspired his work with the YMCA: Healthy living, building character and developing leaders.
Scouting has very similar aims: Character development, citizenship training, and mental and physical fitness.
We sometimes feel as if we have a lock on these values, but there are many organizations that parallel our mission. It’s up to us to recognize this co-existence and work in conjunction with them to reinforce the values in our members.
A young person who belongs to our organization will benefit by learning skills and values that are easily transferable elsewhere.
Postscript: I had a chance to talk with Jim and his wife Sue at a reception a couple days after the gala, and mentioned the similarities between the values of the YMCA and of Scouting. Unbeknownst to me at the time (though certainly not surprising), it turns out that Jim has a deep history of involvement in Scouting himself. He was a Boy Scout as a youth, a volunteer as an adult with three now-adult children, all of whom are Eagle Scouts, and served as the president of the Gerald R. Ford Council in Grand Rapids in 2000. The Williamses were honored with their council’s Distinguished Citizen award last year. In our chat, Jim acknowledged the parallel aims and values of Scouting and the YMCA and suggested closer cooperation between the two organizations. It was truly enjoyable meeting Jim and Sue and talking about our common background in Scouting, which could have gone on all night had we not had other plans. Congratulations again, Jim!