The Scout Left Hand Handshake
Our Scout salute and handshake are ancient signs of bravery and respect. During ancient times, men carried weapons for protection. Sometimes when they met one another, there was an uneasy moment as each man watched the other man’s right hand.
If it went to his sword or his dagger, there might be a fight– but if it went to touch his hat, it was a salute of friendship and respect.
The left handshake comes to us from the Ashanti warriors whom Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, knew almost 100 years ago in West Africa. He saluted them with his right hand, but the Ashanti chiefs offered their left hands and said, “In our land only the bravest of the brave shake hands with the left hand, because we carry our shields in our left hands. To shake left hands we must drop our shields and our protection.”
The Ashantis knew of Baden-Powell’s bravery because they had fought against him and with him, and they were proud to offer the left hand of bravery. When you use the Scout salute and handshake, remember that they are signs of respect and courage. The left hand is also closer to the heart.
One Hundred Scouts
Of any one hundred boys who become Scouts, thirty will drop out in their first year- but seventy will remain. Perhaps this may be regarded as a failure, but in later life all of these one hundred boys will remember that they had been Scouts and will speak well of the program.
Of the one hundred, only rarely will one ever appear before a juvenile court judge. Twelve of the one hundred will be from families that belong to no church. Through Scouting, these twelve and many of their families will be brought into contact with a church and will continue to be active all their lives. Six of the one hundred will become ministers.
Each of the one hundred will learn something from Scouting that they will take with them the rest of their lives. Almost all will develop good hobbies they enjoy. At least one of the one hundred will use their Scout training to save another person’s life and many will credit it with saving their own life.
Four of the one hundred will reach Eagle rank, and at least one will later say that he valued his Eagle award above his college degree. Many will find their future vocation through merit badge work and Scouting contacts. Seventeen of the one hundred boys will later become Scout leaders and will give leadership to thousands of additional boys.
Only one in four boys in America will become a Scout, but it is interesting to know that of the leaders in this nation in business, religion and politics, three out of four were Scouts.
This story will never end. Like the “Golden Pebble” of service dropped into the human sea it will continue to radiate in ever-widening circles, influencing the characters of men down through unending time.
More Scout Statistics from a recent High School & College Poll:
Origin of the World Scouting Symbol, the “Fleur-de-Lis”
In Scouting’s early years, critics accused Baden-Powell of trying to turn boys into soldiers, holding up as evidence the Scout symbol, which they called “a spear-head, the emblem of battle and bloodshed”. The Founder quickly replied, The crest is the “Fleur-de-Lis”, a lily, the emblem of peace and purity. In truth, he had chosen as Scouting’s emblem the sign for the North Point, universally shown on maps, charts and compass cards, because “it points in the right direction (and upwards), turning neither to the right nor left, since these lead backward again…” Lady Baden-Powell added later, “It shows the true way to go.”
Baden-Powell explained the origins of this sign. In the Middle Ages, mariner Flavio Gioja designed it to make the seaman’s compass more reliable. In Italian, North was “Tramontana”. Gioja used a capital “T” to mark it, and in deference to King Charles of Naples, whose crest was the Fleur-de-Lis, combined the letter with that emblem. To explain the meaning of the Scout emblem, Baden-Powell said, “The two stars on the two side arms stand for the two eyes of the Wolf Cub having been opened before he became a Scout… The three points of the Fleur-de-Lis remind the Scout of the three points of the Scout’s Promise.”
In the World Scout emblem, the Fleur-de-Lis is surrounded by a circle of rope tied with a reef knot to symbolize the strength and unity of the world brotherhood of Scouting: “Even as one cannot undo a reef knot, no matter how hard one pulls on it, so as it expands, the movement remains united.”
The three tips of the Fleur-de-Lis represent the three main parts of the Scout promise: duty to God, obedience to the Scout Law, and service to others. The two five-point stars stand for truth and knowledge, and the 10 points on the stars remind us of the 10 points of the Scout law. The ring holding the emblem together represents the bond of brotherhood. The symbol is white on a royal purple background, colors Baden-Powell chose because, in heraldry, white stands for purity and purple for leadership and helping others.
Since Scouting began, over 200 million Scouts have worn the Scout symbol, making it one of the more highly recognized emblems in the world. Today, over 150 World Scouting countries and territories, more than 16 million members continue to wear it with pride.