The Scout motto – Be Prepared – has been with us since the beginning, when Baden-Powell encouraged his young charges to be ready for whatever life might throw their way. It came from his days as a military leader, training his soldiers to be ready both in battle and in peacetime. When asked the meaning of be prepared was, he explained
…a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.
B-P said a Scout should be prepared for any old thing. The Scout handbook expands on this:
The training you receive in your troop will help you live up to the Scout motto. When someone has an accident, you are prepared because of your first aid instruction. Because of lifesaving practice, you might be able to save a nonswimmer who has fallen into deep water.
But Baden-Powell wasn’t thinking just of being ready for emergencies. His idea was that all Scouts should prepare themselves to become productive citizens and to give happiness to other people. He wanted each Scout to be ready in mind and body for any struggles, and to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges might lie ahead.
Be prepared for life – to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. That’s what the Scout motto means.
In 2011, as part of the centennial celebration, the Boy Scouts of America adopted the unique selling proposition of a five-year messaging campaign that Scouts are Prepared. For Life.® It encompasses the strategy that young people are prepared for the future through their involvement in Scouting.
It’s not just a motto, a slogan or a marketing phrase. It really works.
I was reminded of this the other day when my older son, now a third-year medical student, texted me to say that one of the residents in the hospital where he is doing his clinical rounds taught him the “Scrubs Knot” for tying the waist cord of his pants. He described it as “two twists and then a loop, and it gets tighter when you pull on it, but doesn’t get looser… sound familiar?” We both recognized it as a basic camping knot, the taut-line hitch, and he said “Yep! Same knot we tie tent stakes with.”
He uses his Scout skills all the time, both in his medical studies and elsewhere in life. The leadership skills he acquired from National Youth Leadership Training helped him not only in the troop but as an undergraduate, where he led others in study groups, research projects and student organizations. He acquired a love of camping and uses his outdoor skills to enjoy nature’s beauty and to preserve it. And my younger son, a future environmental scientist, applies the principles of Leave No Trace and doing a good turn for others almost daily in his summer internship at a community farm. He’ll apply his leadership skills this year as the president of the student environmental club on campus.
So next time you think that Be Prepared is just a concept, a phrase to be memorized, realize that it’s what we are all about. We are preparing our young people for the future. We are instilling the values of Scouting and getting them ready to make good ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes. And a good measure of getting ahead in school, college and life.
Image: TM Boy Scouts of America.