In recent days I had the great honor and pleasure of delivering the keynote address to my nephew Daniel on the occasion of his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. Those familiar with the Boy Scouts of America and with Scouting around the world understand that earning the highest rank in that organization is no small accomplishment. In pursuing this goal to the end, Daniel, like his older brother Austin and his father, proved at an early age that he is worthy of honor and of great responsibility. That is a large part of the message I gave to Daniel and to those gathered for the occasion. I publish it here in hope that this message may be an encouragement and exhortation to others.
For Daniel Victor McCarn at His Eagle Court of Honor
February 27, 2015
Daniel, this day of recognition has been long in coming. All of us rejoice with you that it has come at last. We recognize you for your considerable accomplishments in attaining the rank of Eagle. Those accomplishments are worthy of celebration and remembrance, but I will let others speak of them. What I want to address with you is something greater than what you do. I would like to consider who you are.
By way of introducing this subject I invite you to consider three men who have become legendary in the annals of Texas history. Today the names of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barrett Travis exist in a space far removed from the reality these men occupied in their lifetimes. We know them as the great heroes of the Alamo, men who stood bravely against overwhelming odds in the noble cause of freedom. It is fitting to remember them at this time, the anniversary of the Siege of the Alamo which began on February 23, 1836, and ended thirteen days later on March 6 in the great battle that claimed the lives of these heroes.
Like barnacles on a ship, legends have encrusted the names of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis. After 179 years it is hard to distinguish myth from truth. Those who remember them at all remember them either as heroes or as villains, depending on the point of view. There is enough of both in each man to justify each perception. But who were they in reality? When we strip away the layers of time and legend, what do we find? We find flawed men like all of us whose ordinary lives played out in the crucible of extraordinary times.
Two people who make my job at the Alamo more challenging are John Wayne and Walt Disney. Their popular movie versions of the battle of the Alamo have influenced three generations, but they are full of myth, legend, and factual error. That is why Alamo visitors are often disappointed to learn that what they had believed as truth is not truth at all.
This is especially the case concerning that famous Tennessee frontiersman, hunter, and politician, David Crockett. During his life he made great effort to lift himself above his humble beginnings as a poor backwoods man and break into cultured society. That is why he preferred to call himself David. Yet he never could get away from the stereotype of “Davy Crockett” the great hunter. Today people remember the frontier character who died at the Alamo, not the Congressman from Tennessee who was a champion of the poor. This was illustrated by a conversation I had recently with a visitor at the Alamo. After seeing our Crockett exhibits on display, she asked me, “Why do you call him David Crockett?” I answered, “Because that’s what he called himself.” Then she asked, “Why do we call him ‘Davy Crockett’?” I answered, “Because Walt Disney told us to.” Please click here to continue reading