Howdy readers! If any of you are in or around New York City this weekend, I’m giving a free talk/Q&A on Saturday. Voila:

PLACE: Old First Reformed Church, 729 Carroll Street in Park Slope. Directions here.

TIME: Noon – 2.


COOKIES: A distinct possibility!

TV: My reality show is going to be filming it.

ME: Hoping to meet you! Say hi! Ask questions! Eat free cookies, if they materialize! And, of course, take the subway!

RSVP (not required, but what the hey):

And if you can, please spread the word. Thanks!– L.



NEEDED: Tales of Your Youthful Fails! (Or Your Kids’!)

Hi Readers! I’m preparing a new speech — as opposed to my beloved tried and true one — which I’ll be giving it from noon to 2 on Saturday, June 4, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’ll also be filmed for my show. (Address: The Old First Reform Church, 778 Carroll St. Directions here. If you want to, feel free to RSVP to, but it’s not required.) Anyway, what I realized I could use are some stories of great childhood failures.

By that I mean, stories from your youth when you goofed something up — and ended up being  glad of that in the long run. I’m also interested in stories like that from your kids’ lives.

These days we are so focused on preventing our children from feeling disappointed, sad, or defeated that we sometimes forget that one way for them to grow that protective coat of self-confidence is BY letting them fail.  It’s the old “fall off the bike and get back on” thing: If you never fall, you never learn that  you can get yourself back on again. In fact, falling — failing — starts to loom larger than ever.

So think back and tell us some tails of your fails. And as failing is looming large to me at the moment (Gotta give a NEW speech! AND it’s being filmed! Gulp!) , thank you very much for your help. — Lenore

Needed: Your Camp Stories!

Hi Readers! I’m going to be giving a speech next week at the Tri-State Camp Conference — country’s biggest convention for camp owners — and I’d love to include some stories about how camp helps kids come into their own. I didn’t go to overnight camp but my husband did and he said it was THERE that he got to become a “grown up.” (Well, if by “grown up” we mean young man who could admit he was interested in girls.) It took him about three years to catch up with his summer persona in the real world.

Spending a chunk of time away from one’s parents, however loving, does seem to present a great opportunity to become independent (and not just learn how to short sheet a bunk bed). Also, the summer is the time to get in touch with nature, and learn some new skills. So if you have any stories (that you can share) about camp and growing up, do tell!

Thanks and I will now let Red Rover come over. — Lenore

Let's hear it for kids, bunks, free time & summer.

Why Scouting?

Hi Readers! At the conference on the importance of play that I went to last week, I met Cindy Wilson, the communications director at Playworks. Playworks helps ensure kids get the chance to play at school every day. Yay! Their “recess coaches” taught some unbelievably fun games at the conference that had me — who literally got a “D” in gym  — running around and laughing and not feeling like the girl who could never touch her toes. (Which I am. But still. Here’s where you can find how to play a lot of their games.)

Anyhow,  Cindy’s husband is a scoutmaster in Oakland, Cal., and here’s the speech he delivered last night at his troop’s “Court of Honor,” where scouts advance to the next level. I loved it, and not just because my boys are Scouts:

Court of Honor Scoutmaster Moment, by Rick Prime

Tonight I thought I would reflect on how Boy Scouts is relevant today, especially in the modern world.  To a certain extent, I am talking to our older scouts tonight. We have five juniors in our troop who are contemplating the challenge of making Eagle rank. I want to address some of the social pressures they will encounter and why staying with the scouts is the right thing to do.

There were three things that made me think of this topic. The first was the story of Steven Fong, a recent Eagle from this troop, on the way to Philmont (which is considered a Mecca of sorts to Boy Scouts).  The second is from a book, Boys Adrift, which I read recently about the wrong way boys are being raised.  And the third is my own personal experience in high school.

I learned the Steven Fong story at our last Eagle court of honor, in January 2009.   We were honoring four Eagles, Steven Fong, Robert Amy, Mark Bennett, and Derrick Breska. Mr. Kelley, who is here tonight, gave a speech about Steven Fong which summarized his accomplishments and touched on his personality. Part of it was a funny story about traveling in uniform to Philmont. We travel in uniform, particularly high adventure, because it is the BSA policy and as such we are covered under their liability insurance. The boys were at the airport on their way to Santa Fe, on their way to high adventure at the Philmont Scout Reservation. Steven kept ducking into the bathroom and Mr. Kelley was wondering if he had an acute case of diarrhea because he kept running into the bathroom. Turned out he was embarrassed to seen by some girl from his high school in his Boy Scout uniform. I am sure Mr. Kelley gave him a speech about being comfortable in his own skin and I am sure Steven is today.

Steven Fong, and any Boy Scout, is in incredible demand in today’s world because people with character are a scarce resource.

To a certain extent, our world needs more leaders. Yet I feel the bar has been lowered as far as the job our society is doing in raising them.

I recently read a book, Boys Adrift, recommended by one of our scout moms, Diane Jacobson. The thesis of the book is that we have the wrong formula for raising boys. This is due to starting school before they may be ready, tending to over prescribe them to ADD drugs, and letting them spend too many hours on video games instead of reality.  The thesis about school is that everything has moved up. Kindergarten is now what first grade used to be like. If a boy acts, well, like a boy, teachers begin to have awkward conversations with parents about medicating them. The book describes how being overly politically correct, we may be stifling creativity in boys. If a boy writes a story that would be akin to a chapter out of a Earnest Hemingway book, he is expelled for writing about guns or violence.

The symptom of these problems with education and using video games as an inexpensive baby sitter is the trend of less boys going to college. 40 years ago, the majority of college graduates were men. Now, it has been reported, 60 percent of college graduates are women. For the first time in our history, we have as many women PhDs as men.  Because our culture has glorified escapism and the slacker anti-hero, we are raising a nation of slackers. I feel even worse about the women. The challenge for women who graduate from college is to date a man that is not still living at home with his parents at age 25.

The boys in this room are fighting this trend.  I know it because I have met some of the scouts that graduated from our troop. Dennis Fong, Steven Fong’s dad, would have an annual Christmas Party that I was fortunate to attend. Some of you may know Mr. Fong because he was one of the adult leaders who gave back to the troop tirelessly. In Mr. Fong’s case, he was our recruiting coordinator.

In any case, Steven and his cohorts, who were other Boy Scouts from our troop that had gone to college, were at the party during their winter break.

I was struck by the quality of the girlfriends they brought with them. But I guess I shouldn’t be. What women wouldn’t want a guy sent to college who already knows how to cook and clean? What can be worse during a romantic moment in front of a fireplace than a man that doesn’t know how to start a fire? I don’t have to worry about it in this room.  In all seriousness, our boys are successful because they understand leadership, have character and they know critical life skills.

My own personal story validates this in an indirect way. Unfortunately, I dropped out of scouts early because I didn’t know anyone in the troop my parents put me in. However, my best friend in high school in Wisconsin was a Boy Scout. I remember in my senior year biology class when the class was planning a field trip to go rafting all day on the wolf river, in northern Wisconsin. It is six hours of class 3 and 4 rapids. We were to split into groups of two to a raft. To my astonishment, the two most attractive and popular girls in the class came up to me and my scout friend and asked if they could pair up with us. In my adolescent mind, I thought that god was wiping the slate clean in one magnanimous act for all the perceived injustices I had endured as a middle school and high school boy.

So we got up a 6 am and took yellow school buses 3 hours north on that cool fall day to the Wolf River outside of Green Bay. It was a drizzling rainy grey morning as we rafted in pairs pass Birch trees with fall leaves everywhere. It was fun but we got soaking wet and capsized on many of the rapids.  One of the girls started to get mild hypothermia.  My scout friend knew what to do. We went into the woods and he put together a roaring fire. I was standing there watching these appreciative girls warm up and it finally struck me what was going on.  My experience wasn’t divine intervention. This girls knew the best one to be with was my Boy Scout friend and me by association.

In closing, I believe in our program of developing leadership, character and life skills because it is more relevant than ever. I suppose there are some things I would change, like make the BSA image more inclusive or outsource the design of the uniforms to REI or Nike.

However, I also see is that the desire for quality men is the same today as it was 35 years ago. What has changed is it is harder to develop good men because there are so many distractions in our world that did not exist like the Internet, electronic devices, and 24 hour media. The world is more complicated because we live more complicated lives. And yet, the demand for leaders is greater because of the challenges we have in the modern world.

It is the same earth, but we have grown in this short time from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people.  The outdoor code, to be conservation minded is no longer quaint — it is part of the solution. To do your best, To be prepared, To have character and leadership… This is what we need.  And this is what I expect. Thank you. — R.P.

Yikes! A Speech!!

Next Tuesday is Pres. Obama’s speech to children, urging them to stay in school and read books and, for all I know, brush their teeth. It’s about that controversial…or so you’d think.

But of course, nothing is uncontroversial in these hyper-umbrage-taking days, so we’re hearing from some parents and school administrators and concerned citizens that this is wasting “valuable” school time and amounts to “brainwashing.” They’re treating the speech like it’s a heroin demo for first time users.

Can we please calm down? This is our President, the guy we elected to lead and inspire our nation, and here is his stated agenda for the speech (outlined on the U.S. Dept. of Education website): He hopes to encourage students to “work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” The only thing kids are really in danger of is hitting their heads on the desks when they fall asleep.

One radio talk show host (the avatar of all things rational, of course) was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t let my next-door neighbor talk to my kid alone; I’m sure as hell not letting Barack Obama talk to him alone.”

Uh, sir? Obama is talking to kids in their classrooms, not in a bathroom stall at Great Adventure. And if we stop talking to our neighbors AND listening to our President, this is just one weird, sad, crazy country that needs to be less totally paranoid about everything and everyone.

 But I guess we sort of knew that. — Lenore