I want to begin by once again congratulating all the award winners here tonight. Your hard work and dedication are invaluable to our lodge and The Order.

In 2017, Wipala Wiki had the third lowest Journey to Excellence score in the entire nation, and we were one of 19 lodges nationally that failed to receive JTE recognition of any kind, and 2018, I am embarrassed to admit to you, won’t look much better. Wipala Wiki is a good lodge, but we can do so much better, and we need to do so much better. Wipala Wiki is the largest lodge in Area 6, with nationally-recognized ceremonies teams, an incredible patch program, and a stand out summer camp program. So, how is it, that our Wipala Wiki falls so far below the national standard?

I don’t want to point fingers, but our problems stem from one fundamental cause: there has been a loss of leadership ability. By this I don’t mean poor leadership; our lodge can withstand a poor leader or two. But I mean that Wipala Wiki’s leaders have lost the ability to lead it. Who are our leaders? The youth, and the youth have been barred from performing their duties. We’ve been harassed at our LEC meetings. We’ve been kept away from serious debates through adult-only meetings. We’ve been denied positions meant to be filled by youth, and positions meant to be appointed by The Chief have been chosen by adults. And when the youth leaders attempted to stand up, we were shut down in a manner unbefitting of members of Scouting. I believe this is why Wipala Wiki does not have a higher rank nationally.

In 2018, I may not have been able to improve our growth, or out JTE as I had hoped, but I believe that myself and my officers have worked to do something far more important. We have begun, with the help of the Chief before me, the process of change – the long and arduous process of seeing the responsibilities rightfully belonging to our youth leaders restored. This year, we passed the first budget seen by youth in almost a decade. We saw more committees headed by youth than ever before. And we were able to create and pass new lodge leadership rules, which will give the youth greater ability to carry out their roles as leaders in Wipala Wiki Lodge.

This was a long and challenging year for me and my officers, and I wish we could have accomplished so much more, but we have gotten the ball rolling and I am supremely confident that our new Lodge Chief will not allow our pace to lag, or our momentum to fade.

For the youth chapter and lodge officers and committee chairs of 2018, I want to thank all of you for your support and perseverance. I especially want to thank Aaron G. for his leadership as Vice Chief of Camp Geronimo, Kyle W.’s for his leadership at Camp Raymond and for setting up this banquet, Riely Bradley for unspeakably great and wide-reaching leadership contributions to the lodge. And on a personal note, I would like to thank Vince D. and Derek S. for all the long nights they spent awake with me, helping me weather the storm.

For the youth leadership of 2019 – that means every youth in this room, because all of you as Arrowmen are leaders – I remind you that this is your lodge, and I charge you to never give up in pursuit of your goals, and I challenge you to achieve your vision, whatever it may be. Do this, and Wipala Wiki Lodge will be great again.

For the adult advisers of 2018, I want to thank everyone, but especially Cookie Smith and Randy Driscoll for treating me like an adult even when I wasn’t quite ready for it; Bill Popescue, Bob Hetrick, and Kevin Catalfo for providing positive criticism, and helping me to understand where the problems were, not just that there were problems; and Cathy Catalfo for helping prepare the 2018 budget; and most importantly of all, Ken Adams, my Lodge Adviser.

Everyone who knows Ken knows that he is a thoughtful and kind person. This year, he gave me unyielding support through some of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, and he always stood by me, even when we disagreed. I hope people take note of Ken, for helping and supporting myself and the other youth leaders this year. But more than that, I hope people take note of Ken for something he didn’t do very often, something in fact that he often tried not to do: lead. Ken understands the mission of The Order of The Arrow better than almost anyone I have ever met. The mission of the Order of the Arrow, for those who don’t know, is: “to fulfil its purpose as an integral part of The Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected and capable adults”. At first this statement feels a little obvious, perhaps meaningless, but Ken has shown me its true meaning through his actions or lack thereof. Every decision, every move, every choice that came before me and the lodge – he allowed me to make it. He never hesitated to share his thoughts with me, but the choice was always mine and my officers’. And even when we disagreed, Ken allowed me to do things my way and learn from my choices, good and bad alike. For the adults in 2019, I can ask no more of you than to follow Ken’s example.

As we move forward into 2019, the future of Wipala Wiki Lodge is bright. We are headed in the right direction, and there is no one better to pilot our craft than Riely B., who will be our 2019 Lodge Chief. Riely, I wish you luck, and I hope you remember that improvement takes change, change that can sometimes be scary. And I ask you Riely, that when people remind you of our traditions, that you remember traditions are important, but that none are more important than Wimachtendienk Wingolauchsik Witahemui.

Thank you.

“I believe Wipala Wiki has no bad adults, just well meaning adults who make mistakes.”, Robert adds.