The Meaning of the Boy Scout Oath
Excerpted from page 45-46, Boy Scout Handbook, 11th ed,
(#33105), copyright 1998 by BSA, ISBN 0-8395-3105-2
and from page 420-421, Webelos Scout Book, 1998 edition,
(#33108), copyright 1998 by BSA, ISBN 0-8395-3108-7
Before you pledge yourself to any oath or promise, you must know what it means. The paragraphs that follow will help you understand the meaning of the Scout Oath.
On my honor . . .
By giving your word, you are promising to be guided by the ideals of the Scout Oath.
. . . I will do my best . . .
Try hard to live up to the points of the Scout Oath. Measure your achievements against your own high standards and don't be influenced by peer pressure or what other people do.
. . . To do my duty to God . . .
Your family and religious leaders teach you about God and the ways you can serve. You do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.
. . . and my country . . .
Help keep the United States a strong and fair nation by learning about our system of government and your responsibilities as a citizen and future voter.
America is made up of countless families and communities. When you work to improve your community and your home, you are serving your country. Natural resources are another important part of America's heritage worthy of your efforts to understand, protect, and use wisely. What you do can make a real difference.
. . . and to obey the Scout Law; . . .
The twelve points of the Scout Law are guidelines that can lead you toward wise choices. When you obey the Scout Law, other people will respect you for the way you live, and you will respect yourself.
. . . To help other people at all times; . . .
There are many people who need you. Your cheerful smile and helping hand will ease the burden of many who need assistance. By helping out whenever possible, you are doing your part to make this a better world.
. . . To keep myself physically strong, . . .
Take care of your body so that it will serve you well for an entire lifetime. That means eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly to build strength and endurance. it also means avoiding harmful drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and anything else that can harm your health.
. . . mentally awake, . . .
Develop your mind both in the classroom and outside of school. Be curious about everything around you, and work hard to make the most of your abilities. With an inquiring attitude and the willingness to ask questions, you can learn much about the exciting world around you and your role in it.
. . . and morally straight.
To be a person of strong character, your relationships with others should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions, and remain faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.
Note that the Boy Scout Oath has traditionally been considered to have three promises. Those three promises are delineated by the semicolons in the Oath, which divide it into three clauses. The three promises of the Scout Oath are, therefore:
- Duty to God and country,
- Duty to other people, and
- Duty to self
DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY: Your FAMILY and religious leaders teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.
Men and women of the past worked to make America great, and many gave their lives for their country. By being a good family member and a good citizen, by working for your country's good and obeying its laws, you do your duty to your country. Obeying the Scout Law means living by its 12 points.
DUTY TO OTHER PEOPLE: Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.
DUTY TO SELF: Keeping yourself physically strong means taking care of your body. Eat the right foods and build your strength. Staying mentally awake means learn all you can, be curious, and ask questions. Being morally straight means to live your life with honesty, to be clean in your speech and actions, and to be a person of strong character.