Letter to an Eagle Scout

© Brian O'Leary, Ph.D., July 2008, www.brianoleary.com

The Boy Scouts of America have often asked me to write letters of commendation to newly-awarded Eagle Scouts. I have done so with a measure of pride in how my own scouting experience of almost sixty years ago has helped enrich my own life and the spirit of service. Yet there is also a gnawing uncertainty of what kind of future these kids face, what kinds of choices they will need to take in whether they pursue careers blindly obedient to authority or whether they can stand up to the tyranny which besets us all. The challenge I offer to these young achievers is for them to courageously move into the solutions we so urgently need to act upon.

Below is my letter to one recent Eagle Scout recipient:

Dear Jeff,

I am proud of your achievements as an Eagle Scout. May these be the first of many.

Our nation and all of humanity have many challenges to overcome with the kind of spirit and energy you embody in your good works. May they continue throughout your life, and may your life be abundant and in service with compassion for all humanity and nature.

When I was your age, I had a burning desire to go to the Moon and explore the planets. Even though my elders thought I was too unrealistic and too futuristic, in fact I later was appointed as a NASA astronaut and as a university scientist helping to unlock the mysteries of the Moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury. History can move quickly at times and we all need to "Be Prepared" for the next big tasks before us.

Now, 55 years after my own Eagle Scout award, our foremost societal task has shifted to saving our precious planet from human neglect, whether it be overwhelming pollution, overpopulation, deforestation, global climate change or fighting unnecessary wars. Our future needs bold thinking, bold action, to overcome these obstacles. The world you inherit requires you to go outside the box of conventional thinking, for example to embrace clean energy and water technologies that are not now commonly understood or desired by current powers.

This will require a new kind of courage and open yet discriminating mind to question existing authority when necessary. It will require the kind of energy and personal moral fiber you have already demonstrated in your achievements.

Congratulations and warmest regards for a brilliant future in service to the Earth,

Brian O'Leary, Ph.D.
Eagle Scout, former astronaut


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