Sheldon L. Holtz (shel@WELL.SF.CA.US)
Mon, 6 Sep 1993 20:09:57 -0700
I ve had good intentions; nevertheless, I haven t been able to read or
post here for a while. After about three weeks of severe, debilitating
pain, my wife underwent surgery last week on her lower back. I ve been
logging on every day, saving the daily SCOUTS-L archive, downloading it,
then copying it to the end of the last one on my word processor. Every
night, I swore I d read what I d collected the next day. I d find myself
calling it a day, though, with only enough time and/or energy to do the
Well, Michele s feeling a lot better today, and I had the time to sit
and read through (ready for this?) 165 pages of 10 pt. Courier, single-
spaced! Wow! Talk about a lot of discussion, information, and
I have a few comments after reading through it all:
1. Thanks to Jim Sleezer for responding to my query about summer camps
in Alaska. Our scoutmaster tells me he got some literature; I ll have to
find out if it s from the Midnight Sun Council. I ll pass your post on
to him, and we ll check out Denali National Park. At Merriwether (in
Oregon) this year, our scouts loved the camp because of the quality of
the program and the staff. I suspect this will lead our scoutmaster to
seek another camp with a high-quality program and staff. Some of us
might be inclined to come up with our own program, but those who will
attend the camp tend to rely on the established activities/advancement
the camp has developed.
2. A comment to Mike Walton. In your thoughtful and detailed reply to
Yale (you *see* how long it s been since I ve read these posts?), you
indicated that national s PR has suffered dramatically at the hands of a
professional Dallas-based public relations agency, suggesting that the
effort was better when the effort was internal. I know your comments
were not meant to disparage public relations practitioners, but as one
of them, I thought I ought to say something. As in any other profession,
public relations is populated by professionals who practice the heights
excellence and ethics, losers who bring shame to the profession, and a
lot of competent, hard-working people in between. The fact that the
Dallas-based PR agency that won the BSA account has allegedly done a
rotten job does not mean that external agency representation is a bad
thing. In general, in fact, it s a good idea to have *both* internal and
external communications capabilities. The internal department can
interpret management s messages, establish the agenda, set the
objectives, and determine how the effectiveness of the effort can be
measured. However, it s not efficient for every organization to maintain
its own media distribution capabilities, its own staff of writers,
designers, artists, etc. Outside agencies tend to have a lot of
experience getting the right publicity at the right time in the right
media. They know how to respond to various external pressures. When I
was director of Corporate Communications at Allergan, I worked closely
with Thomas Wilke Associates, Business Wire, and several other groups
that assisted me in my effort to portray Allergan honestly and
positively. (That was until budget problems forced the company -- which
never really recognized the bottom-line value of effective
communications -- led to eliminating first my budget for external
resources, then my own position!) The marketing department worked with
several PR agencies with experience in launching various types of
products, promoting certain types of issues, etc. Even the Government
Affairs department employed PR agencies with expertise in communicating
key messages to government representatives!
3. I have to agree with Olan Watkins on the issue of the Life scout who
wanted to become Eagle, even though his involvement level had dropped.
Someone earlier had commented that making Eagle inherently means a
lifetime commitment to Scouting. I made Eagle in 1969; I remained active
until 1973 (the last of four years I worked on the staff of Camp
Whitsett in the southern Sierras). I don t believe I violated the spirit
of my Eagle rank when I stopped being involved. I believe I have lived
the ideals of Scouting in my "secular" life, and that attaining the rank
of Eagle helped reinforce the values that helped me along the way. Now
that my son is of Scouting age, I *am* involved again. I was pack
committee chairman for three years, Cubmaster for two years, and now I m
assistant scoutmaster for his troop (549 in Granada Hills, California).
Would I have encouraged my son to join Scouting if not for my own
experience attaining Eagle? Hard to say, but I d be reluctant to deny
the rank to someone who may, years later, begin contributing to the
movement all over again.
Now, on to recent local events. First, I m interested in feedback on the
following incident. Our troop is sponsored by St. Euphrasia Catholic
Church. I have no problem with religious institutions sponsoring
scouting units; the pack I helped start was chartered by Temple Ahavat
Shalom! In my five years with the pack, though, we took pains to make
certain the pack and all its activities were non-denominational. At a
recent Eagle Court of Honor, the priest delivering the invocation ended
his prayer with, "In Jesus Christ s name we pray..."
We have several Jewish boys in the pack, including my own son. I
remember being disturbed by these denominational prayers when *I* was a
scout. At a parent s meeting, some of us brought the issue up. The
scoutmaster flatly said, "I m not going to tell Father how he can pray
in his own church." He also suggested that "A scout is reverent"
justifies such prayers, and that he would welcome Jewish, Baptist and
other prayers at scout meetings in order to expose the boys in the troop
to other religions.
I have always been of the opinion that scouting promotes the values of
religion but -- as far as units go -- should be non-denominational. Is
this policy, as well? Any suggestions on how to handle it?
Finally, just as a point of interest, I thought I d bring you up to date
on the goings-on in the Western Los Angeles County Council. The bottom
line is, the council is broke! I don t know all the details, but
financial mismanagement has resulted in the loss of the council office
building (originally obtained, as I understand it, as an investment).
Several execs had to work out of their homes; the office staff was
dramatically reduced, the council had to move to shabby offices in an
industrial park (and the Scout Shop had to follow). It s a pretty sad
state of affairs, particularly since the people at the top don t seem to
have learned much from it. As big a disaster as the Popcorn Sale was
last year (many units lost money because they were required to pre-order
and pre-pay for their stock of popcorn), popcorn will be the ONLY
Council-wide fundraiser this year -- they won t even be selling living
Christmas Trees (which the units loved and which raised a lot of
Ahh, well. As many of you have noted, councils are bureaucratic
organizations, and where there is bureaucracy, there is politics.
Fortunately, there are also dedicated, hard-working people whose first,
foremost concern is the quality of scouting for the boys.
Happy Labor Day!
Shel Holtz firstname.lastname@example.org
Assistant Scoutmaster At least I m enjoying the ride!
Troop 549, Granada Hills, California
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City