I received an urgent request this past week, to teach Photography Merit Badge at the Boy Scout's Merit Badge College being held at Roane State Community College. It was a challenge to do so, as I had already made a promise to take photographs at a JV basketball tournament that Saturday. The Scouts had two other photographers previously committed as instructors, but their schedules changed and wouldn't allow them to make it, so I was asked mid-week.
Everything worked out and I'm glad it did. It was my first time to teach Photography Merit Badge and it was fun. In my opening comments, I shared some of my unique perspectives with the boys.
Having been a Professional Scouter for 35 years in my first career helped because I understood the need to not let those 16 Scouts down who had signed up for the badge. Just because someone else couldn't make it was no reason to not deliver the program. They needed an instructor and I was happy to have been asked. I was also glad I could rearrange my schedule to be there.
Second, since I had started my photography business after retiring from the Boy Scouts in 2007, I have learned a few things about photography that I was able and willing to share.
Third, having visited the 1989 National Scout Jamboree, I wanted to share a first hand account of something I really felt the boys needed to know, since they were pursuing Photography Merit Badge.
While at the Jamboree arena show, I witnessed an address by Eagle Scout and Oscar winning film director Steven Spielberg to the Scouts and guests in attendance. He told of making his very first motion picture while earning Photography Merit Badge. Then, like today, the requirements state that a Scout should assemble a group of photographs in a manner that they tell a story, and the Scout should create a presentation of the images to share with others. Spielberg asked his Scoutmaster if a movie, rather than still images, would be acceptable to meet the requirement. The rest, as they say "is history".
I also shared a retelling of the same story, by Spielberg's good friend and Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks.
In December 2006, Spielberg was one of the honorees along with Zubin Mehta, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, and Andrew Lloyd Webber in the Kennedy Center Honors program that aired on CBS television. (View photos of Spielberg and other Kennedy Center honorees) Hanks, in his introduction of the honoree, shared the story of the making of Spielberg's first film and the fact that his mother, other friends and relatives were used as actors in the film. A clip from the movie was shared and Hanks closed his introduction of the acclaimed film director by thanking him for "using real actors in his movies since then."
It was a poignant moment that reaffirmed the power of the Boy Scouts' merit badge program in introducing young men to potential future careers. The fact that it was shared in that setting and in front of a national television audience was profound. Saturday, I wanted those 16 Boy Scouts to know that story too.
Of the 16 candidates for the merit badge, 14 completed their requirements and went home with signed documents to present to their Scoutmasters. I went home with the date for the 2013 Merit Badge College in my planner and a commitment to return as the Photography Merit Badge instructor next year. It was fun!