We lost a fifty-year scout leader this month. Clarence Mullis influenced many youth in the Ferdinand Indiana area to be leaders, and will truly be missed. At many Eagle Ceremonies over the past two decades he would give this talk on “The Spirit of the Eagle Scout”. That may not sound like much, but he wrote this, recited it from memory, and gave it from his heart. We were always amazed when Clarence did this without looking down at his notes. Please enjoy reading what we have enjoyed hearing for so many years! (Clarence’s name was inserted for the name of the Eagle Scout)
THE SPIRIT OF THE EAGLE SCOUT
By Clarence Mullis (1934 – 2020)
An eagle dives from the sky. He levels off and glides just above the surface of the water of a big lake. Suddenly, with perfect timing and precision, he reaches his claws into the water and pulls out a big fish. I mean a big fish. In human terms, we would call it a trophy catch. A catch that a fisherman would take to a taxidermist and have it mounted on a plaque. Then he would take it home and hang it on a wall in plain view for all to see. And, of course that gives him bragging rights when company comes.
But then catching his fish was the easy part. Now the eagle must use his strength to hold onto his big fish, because it’s wiggling and squirming and straining to get loose. Because he is so close to the water, he can’t make full strokes with his wings. He has to make short powerful strokes. He must spread his wings so that every square inch of every wing feather pushes air. His wings must not only lift and carry him, but now the added weight of his big fish. And with each short powerful stroke he rises until he is free of the water. It becomes easier now. Now he can make full strokes with his wings. And he seems to beat his wings with excitement. He is excited and he’s happy, because his is hungry and he has got his meal. He is happy because he caught his big fish and doesn’t have to tell the sad story of the big one that got away. When he reaches a certain height, he screams his eagle call. As if he wants to tell everyone who can see and hear him, “Hey, look what I got”.
One wing dips and he banks for shore. When he lands, he stands on top of his big fish. He hovers over it and spreads his wings around it to protect it, in case there would be a critter in the area that would try to take it from him. After a while, his wings fold back, but his head comes up. He stretches his neck and he looks around, just to make sure. And when he is satisfied that all is well, he bows his head and he eats his big fish. And to him it tastes good. He eats his trophy catch and it becomes part of him. When he is finished, he flies off to his nest where he shares his trophy catch with others and it also becomes part of them.
Clarence, you have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. It is a trophy catch. It is something big and important in your lives. It is a goal you set for yourselves. Because of the requirements, it took a few years to reach that goal. But you met the challenges and overcame the obstacles. You had a lot of fun. You persevered and stayed with it, because, in your minds and in your heart, you were hungry for it. Now you have it. And in your minds and hearts, it tastes good. It is good. It represents all that is good within you. And, of course, all that is good and neat about you is that spirit called your honor.
Your honor is a big part of you. It has grown with you each time since the first time you raised your right hand with the scout sign and made your scout promise - “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty” and so on. It has grown stronger in you each time you kept your promise.
Having passed your Eagle Scout Board of Review, you became an Eagle Scouts. But there is something missing. And that is why we are here today. What we do today is like putting icing and decorations on your cake, to put on the finishing touch. When all is said and done today, you will be wearing the Badge of the Eagle Scout. Right now, your badges are over there on the table and they are waiting for you. Although they are beautiful pieces of stamped metal and colored clothe, all by themselves on the table, that’s all they are. Just badges. But then they will be pinned over the left pocket of your scout uniform shirts. Then your badge will get its meaning, its value and its dignity from you the person who wears it and your heart that beats beneath it. So wear your badge with honor. Wear it with humble pride. Do nothing to your honor that would tarnish or soil your badge and all that it stands for, because your badge stands for you.
You will also receive a certificate. In indelible ink, it can never be erased, it states that you are an Eagle Scout and you will always be an Eagle Scout. So, Clarence, exercise your bragging rights. Put your certificate in a frame and hang it on a wall so that you can tell everyone who comes to your house, “Hey, look what I got.” Just in case they hadn’t noticed and, well, you just want to make sure. And if it would happen that someone would come to your house and you can’t remember if you have already told them, it’s perfectly okay if you happen to tell them the second time. Just to make sure.
Your honor is a big part of you. But it can be lost. Guard it so that no one would dare to take it from you or cause you to lose it. As the eagle, stick the talons of your determination into it and hold on tightly so that you never lose it through your own fault.
And then share it. In a few moments you will again stand with your right hand raised in the scout sign and make another promise. This time it will be the promise of the Eagle Scout. If you do your best to keep that promise, if you do your best to continue to make that promise and the Scout Law and Motto and Slogan a part of your life, then, by your word and example, you will share your spirit with others. Because, if you continue to make those things part of your lives, then your lives will soar like the eagle, bold and brave and free. Boldly with the confidence you have in yourself and bravely and freely to do what you know is the right thing to do. And that will make you happy with yourself. And others, even those who are not involved with scouting, will look and see you. Perhaps a few will look and see, then bow their heads and say, “I wish.”
But many others will look and see. They will stand firmly and say, “I will. I will be like that too.” Then their lives will begin to soar like the eagle, bold and brave and free and happy with themselves. And this will happen, Clarence, because you were there.
Your honor is a big part of you, so share it and guard it, make it grow stronger every day because it is that spirit together with the grace of God that will give you the strength and courage you will need to continue to do your best to do what you know is best for God, for your country, for other people and yourselves no matter how difficult it might seem and no matter what anyone else may say to the contrary.
That spirit, will give light and direction to your lives. It will help you to respect yourselves, because it will enable you, at the end of each day of your life, to say that you became a better person that day and the world became a better place because you were there.
That spirit will make you happy with yourself. It will enable you to look into any mirror, look at that fellow looking back at you and say, “I’m glad that I know you.”
And that spirit, your honor, will cause God, all the good and decent people you have ever met or ever will meet to say, “Clarence, we are pleased to have met you, and we are glad that we know you.”
And that, all of that, is truly the honor, the spirit of every Eagle Scout. Clarence, you have made this a good day for yourselves and for all of us who share it with you. It is good to be here.
Now you have a trophy catch and the honor, the spirit that go with it.
And so, on behalf of all of us here, we thank you for becoming Eagle Scouts. We congratulate you. And our wish is that you make many more trophy catches in your life.
And, this will happen if just as before, do your best to keep your promise, do your best to keep your honor bright. Yes, Clarence, and all the Eagle Scouts who are here today. Your honor is a big part of you.
It is yours and yours alone. It is who and what you are. So, don’t hide it. No, let your honor shine for all to see. Keep it safe and share it, cherish it and be proud of it, treat it kindly and let it grow. And never forget that you are an Eagle Scout. Then, like the eagle, you will not have to tell the sad story of your trophy catch, your big one that got away.