Hundreds gathered for the Thomas S. Monson Leadership Excellence Complex groundbreaking ceremonies at the Summit Bechtel Reserve during a succession of events June 14 -15, 2016. Following is a series of photos, quotes, and information about the historical happenings.
Tuesday, June 14
Visitors arrived from around the country in Beckley, West Virginia. While the Summit Bechtel Reserve (SBR) has been in operation since 2013, improvements continue to be made on the spectacular BSA property. Home to all future national jamborees, as well as the upcoming 2019 World Scout Jamboree, SBR includes over 14,000 acres of adventure for youth. Campsites, high adventure activity areas, a huge amphitheater, lakes, and breathtaking views are all part of the new monumental Scout experience center.
The Thomas S. Monson Leadership Excellence Complex – a key element of continuing developments at SBR – was publicly announced in October 2013 during the “A Century of Honor” production at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah
“President Monson is an example of exactly what you want leadership to be in young men,” remarked Elder Jeffrey R. Holland during an interview. “It is a perfect choice for the naming of the complex, and we’re thrilled to be involved.”
The complex will be built on a ridge overlooking the Summit Center and will include four areas named after four founding donors: J. W. Marriott Jr. – Executive Chairman & Chairman of the Board, Marriott International, Inc.; Rex D. Tillerson – Chariman & CEO, ExxonMobil Corporation; John Tickle – Chairman, Strongwell Corporation; and Phil Condit – Retired Chairman & CEO, Boeing.
Four key Church leaders attended the events with their spouses: Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president; and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president.
“It means a great deal to have President Monson’s name on the excellence center,” said Elder Christofferson upon arriving in West Virginia. “He is the perfect example of what we’re trying to foster along with the BSA in young men—service and character with leadership.”
“President Monson is a mentor to the youth in so many ways today,” added Sister Jones. “His example as a leader-servant teaches young people to look past themselves and live in gratitude.”
“President Monson is one of the greatest Scouters of all time. I can’t think of a better man to have his name on the leadership center,” remarked Brother Owen.
Ceremonies started Tuesday evening with a reception at the Glade Springs Resort near SBR. Prominent state and community figures from West Virginia were in attendance as well as BSA friends and personnel.
“There is magic in these hills,” said Jack Furst, project manager, in reference to the Scout property.
At a dinner following the reception, remarks were made by Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobile and a former BSA national president.
“Youth have a choice to define themselves or be defined by others,” he said. “We want them to be principle-based servant leaders.” He then went on to explain true leadership as having three fundamental elements: duty to God, duty to country, and duty to others including a physical and moral duty to oneself.
“The greatest gift we can give our country is hundreds of thousands of servant-leaders,” he added. “In doing that, we will have in some small measure honored and paid the debt to those who have gone before and sacrificed for us. The Boy Scouts of America is the only organization that can accomplish this.”
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15
Wednesday morning dawned clear at SBR. Visitors were shuttled up to Leadership Ridge and had the chance to experience the views, look at models of future structures, and enjoy music and booths from local artisans.
A press conference was held before the ceremonies.
Elder Holland and Elder Christofferson took ample time to greet guests, meet Scouts, and pose for photos.
Wayne Perry, former BSA national president, conducted the formal groundbreaking ceremony. “The Thomas S. Monson Leadership Excellence Complex will be the world’s leading facility to teach youth ethics, leadership and character,” he said. “We can’t think of a better place to accomplish that than in this setting.”
Four flags were raised by Boy Scouts: the American flag, the West Virginia flag, the Summit flag, and a new flag in honor of the leadership complex. Scouts gave Elder Holland a special boxed leadership complex flag to present later to President Monson.
Crawford Freeman, Scout from the Oakton Virginia Stake sang, “On My Honor,” and invited the audience to join him on the second verse.
The keynote address was then given by Elder Holland.
“We’re ‘taking the ridge’ for a new generation of young men,” he said, referencing the western shows he watched as a boy where heroes fought for and gained ground on ridges in the wild. “I believe Thomas S. Monson is the ideal name to place on and to match the vision of this complex. He has lived each day of his life in true harmony with the ideals of Scouting.”
Elder Holland recounted that President Monson has served since 1969 as a member of the BSA National Executive Board and continues today as an honorary member.
“This new facility will shine in the center of West Virginia as a beacon, sharing a light our world dearly needs right now,” he declared. “The title of ‘Boy Scout’ will continue to mean clean living.”
Following Elder Holland’s remarks, a pre-recorded video greeting from President Monson was played. “The need for leadership is critical today,” he said and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have served for so long as a member of the BSA National Executive Board. President Monson concluded with his blessing on the project and the people there.
“I was so delighted to see President Monson on that video screen,” remarked Rex Tillerson afterwards. “He is a real treasure to this country.”
Reverend Chip Turner, a Baptist minister and former chairman of the BSA Religious Relationships Committee, offered a benediction.
Then, honorees were invited to the front to “break ground.” Golden shovels were prepared with a special inscription. Elders Holland and Christofferson, Brother Owen, and Sister Jones all participated in the groundbreaking.
Following the ceremony, the group of approximately 500 gathered in a large tent for lunch after which Elder Christofferson gave a stirring address on religious freedom.
“We can’t fully imagine how many boys owe their lives to Scouting,” he remarked. “America is a stronger and better country because of those individuals, and that includes all of you,” he said in reference to the many dedicated Scouters in attendance.
Elder Christofferson went on to discuss a ‘forgotten freedom’: the right to join together, form voluntary organizations, and act together on common ideals.
“This right of association is the quintessential American right,” he taught. “Voluntary association empowers ordinary individuals and produces an endless array of opportunities.” He explained that such non-profit groups “amplify free speech into concrete realities,” and provide balancing and checking between private life and public institutions and businesses.
Elder Christofferson expressed concern about the pressure on the BSA to abandon its mission and too little support and appreciation for the role the BSA plays in society.
“Doing our duty to God includes standing in defense of our freedoms,” he explained. He then concluded, “I remain optimistic that Scouting will not only endure, it will thrive and will continue to build character.”
-Contributed by Nettie H. Francis