Being an Eagle Scout matters, no kidding. Senator Jeff Sessions has been nominated for Attorney General, and ExxonMobil Chief Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Both are men of high accomplishment, Sessions a federal prosecutor, United States Senator, friend to colleagues of all persuasions, Tillerson head of the world’s third largest company, and America’s largest energy producer. Like Sessions, Tillerson is trusted around the globe. Their rudder? Both are Eagle Scouts, in fact Distinguished Eagle Scouts. Tillerson led the Boy Scouts of America.
“Surely, you jest,” comes the cynical quip. No, I do not. Sometimes the most important aspect of someone’s life, an event that defines them, representing the rudder for everything else, is right there – in front of you – and missed. That happens a lot in Washington. People are sure they know what is important – or worse, know they do not know, but attest to surety. This is human, of course. But people focus on wrong things, instead of what defines the person.
These two men – Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson – are defined by character, shaped by their earliest life experiences, and achievement of Eagle rank. You think I am putting you on, or have lost all perspective. Quite the reverse. Their personal and professional lives – how they conduct themselves with others – have, do, and will – is actually defined by the Scout Law. What is that Law? What is this thing that guides Scouts and defines Eagles? Not a bad guide, actually. “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Just that, and these men subscribe to that credo.
As confirmation hearings loom, and partisans sharpen blades for what promises to be an uncharacteristically and unfairly partisan event, the lifetime commitment of these two nominees to that Scout Law – and fidelity to their Eagle rank – should not be dismissed, missed, disparaged or forgotten. It really matters. It is their hallmark, their assay, the sign of who they really are. It will be their rudder, for the benefit of all Americans, if confirmed.
Eagle is no small indicator of leadership. Who else was an Eagle? President Gerald Ford, who asked the rank be listed among his three top life achievements, together with President and House Minority Leader. He was President for three years, Minority Leader for nine, Eagle all his life. Neal Armstrong, test pilot, naval aviator, and first man on the moon. Charlie Duke, Apollo 16, moonwalker. Jim Lovell, steady, trusted, nimble Apollo 13 Commander.
Other Eagles? James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary, wounded in an assassination attempt, lifetime civic leader. Stephen Breyer, sitting Supreme Court Justice. Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Robert Gates, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former US Senator Bill Bradley, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, former US Coast Guard Commandant Jim Loy. The list goes on, leaders of character, nine Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, 40 astronauts, and yes – these two distinguished nominees.
Of course, there are no guarantees. Even Eagles can make mistakes. But the larger point is this: These two nominees define themselves by the Scout Law. Before being nominated, Rex Tillerson told Eagle’s Call: “I talk a lot to business groups, and I tell them if you need a template for a business conduct policy, start with the Scout Law … If you’ve got a business model where everybody does that, you’re not going to fail. If you get people to buy into that business model, you’ve got a winner.” In these two nominees – America has winners.
These two men’s lives are defined by service. The best thing that the US Senate can do is put aside partisanship, and confirm them to their posts. Confirmed and ensconced, they will then serve all Americans. Being an Eagle matters, no kidding. The Standard is high. “Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” We are fortunate to have such nominees. If the Eagle Scout topic seems esoteric, keep watching – leadership stands out, always has.