Author touts  Boy Scouts at local fundraiser

Posted: January 25, 2013

The Winchester Star

Author and Eagle Scout Alvin Townley speaks at the Friends of Scouting Dinner held Thursday night at the George Washington Hotel. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Alvin Townley has seen scouting from the inside and through the eyes of others, and he’s convinced that its products will help solve America’s problems.

“There is not a more important program for young people than scouting,” Townley told a group of about 130 people Thursday night at the 2013 Friends of Scouting Dinner. “...I think in America right now, the country needs people desperately who are going to make things happen.

“In a sense you are scouting’s future, and in that way you are America’s future.”

The 37-year-old Eagle Scout was the guest speaker at the banquet, which benefited the Boy Scouts of America’s Shenandoah Area Council. It was held at the George Washington Hotel.

Townley grew up and now lives in Atlanta, and his first two books focused on Eagle Scouts.

In “Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America’s Eagle Scouts,” published in 2007, Townley traveled around America to interview former scouts. His subjects included Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former astronaut Capt. Jim Lovell and Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates.

His “Spirit of Adventure: Eagle Scouts and the Making of America’s Future” featured Eagle Scouts in their 20s telling how scouting taught them to live out their passions.

Townley told the crowd that when he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout just before his 18th birthday, he thought he was done with scouting.

After graduating from Washington & Lee University, he worked on Capitol Hill, joined the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, then returned to Lexington for a job at Washington & Lee.

Eventually, he said, he started thinking about scouting and wondering how it shapes people’s lives. In 2005, he quit his job, sold his house and set off to research and write “Legacy of Honor,” despite not having a publisher or any similar writing experience.

“I met people who had achieved great things for a number of reasons,” he said, “but one of those reasons consistently is because they were an Eagle Scout.”

He told the story of a young child of poor Russian immigrants who was the only Jewish scout in an all-Baptist troop. The troop offered a scholarship to summer camp to the person who won a fundraising contest.

So by selling the most Christmas trees of anyone in the troop, a young Michael Bloomberg — the business magnate and mayor of New York City — earned his way to summer camp every year.

Townley also told the story of Scott Strauss of Mineola, N.Y. On Sept. 11, 2001, the New York police officer and volunteer firefighter had just returned home from a 24-hour shift when he heard that two planes had struck the World Trade Center towers.

Strauss returned to the city and spent the day trying to rescue survivors. He told Townley that he helped remove two trapped police officers from burning rubble even though he thought he likely would die in the attempt.

“He told me,” Townley said, “‘In scouting, I learned to do my best to help people at all times. To me, it meant to help those people at that time even if it was going to cost me my life.’”

Townley also is the author of “Fly Navy: Discovering the Enduring Spirit and Extraordinary People of Naval Aviation,” and “The Alcatraz Gang” will be released in 2014 by St. Martin’s Press.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com