Baden-Powell’s Last Message to Scouts

Most people that know me are aware that I owe much of my foundation and success in life to a very positive experience in the Boy Scouts of America.  There were many lame troops and leaders not worth their salt but I, and several of my closest friends, were fortunate in finding ourselves thrown together as a cohort in an excellent troop that spent much of it’s time camping, hiking, and generally messing about in outdoors; we were unknowingly living the roots of Scouting and loving it every day.

scoutscamping

Scouts camping; early 20th century America.  I think that is a 42 star flag? Interesting.

I recently came across a copy of what is known as Baden-Powell’s (founder of the Boy Scouts) last message to Scouts.  I even kept a framed copy of this hanging on my wall for many years.  While working at camp, we often read this short piece out loud at closing campfires as a fine message and an excellent way to bring an end to an exciting week of learning and adventure.

I think he does well to distill his core values in a few simple lines.

“Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.”

B-P knew both great hardship and prosperity during his life and understood that most youth to whom he was speaking had very little themselves.  Real happiness come from within.

“Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.”

A core value in Scouting has always been to give cheerfully to others and in that way find satisfaction and meaning in one’s own life.

“the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.”

As he ends his letter, he segues from childhood to transition the message into one of lifelong relevance.

“‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy – stick to your Scout promise always – even after you have ceased to be a boy.”

Rules of Conduct – From the Pen of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson wrote reams of good advice, important political philosophy, the Declaration of Independence, and many other things (which is why we know so much about him).  To some of his younger relations he sent his favorite “Rules of Conduct” to help the people he cared for better and more insightful humans.  These thoughts evolved over time so versions vary slightly depending upon the source.  Here is a facsimile of the ten point “rules” with a slightly different version spelled out below.

Thomas Jefferson's Advice.

Thomas Jefferson’s Advice.

  1. Never put off to tomorrow what you can do to-day.
  2. Never trouble another with what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you.
  5. Take care of your cents: Dollars will take care of themselves.
  6. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  7. We never repent of having eat too little.
  8. Nothing is troublesome that one does willingly.
  9. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
  10. Take things always by their smooth handle.
  11. Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.
  12. When angry, count 10 before you speak; if very angry, 100.
T_Jefferson_by_Charles_Willson_Peale_1791_2

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Charles Peale, 1791.

Despite some obvious flaws that glare in the light historic hindsight, Jefferson was steeped in classical philosophy and was a great thinker in his own right.  If we all could live by these rules the world would be a better place.

And finally, while providing an outline for his daughters’ education he suggested while he was away on business:

“With respect to the distribution of your time, the following is what I should approve:

From 8. to 10. o’clock practise music.
From 10. to 1. dance one day and draw another.
From 1. to 2. draw on the day you dance, and write a letter next day.
From 3. to 4. read French.
From 4. to 5. exercise yourself in music.
From 5. till bedtime, read English, write, &c.

..I expect you will write me by every post. Inform me what books you read, what tunes you learn, and inclose me your best copy of every lesson in drawing. Write also one letter a week either to your Aunt Eppes, your Aunt Skipworth, your Aunt Carr, or the little lady from whom I now enclose a letter. . . . Take care that you never spell a word wrong.  Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelt, and, if you do not remember it, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well…

If you love me, then strive to be good under every situation and to all living creatures, and to acquire those accomplishments which I have put in your power, and which will go far towards ensuring you the warmest love of your affectionate father,

Th. Jefferson”


He was known, like most of us, as a far-from-perfect father but his advice was sound.  Three hours of music per day, be good to all living creatures, draw, dance, and read. Obviously, this advice applies to the wealthy and elite who do not toil all day but even in the modern world there are worse ways to spend an idle day.

It sounds like a wise path.