The Number One Fear

Recently on the ScouterStan YouTube channel, a scout (arrowmen) expressed a concern about public speaking. His concerns were warranted because of the unknown nature of the Brotherhood training in the Order of the Arrow. Memorization of speeches, pledges, oaths, or in this case obligations, can be intimidating.

I responded to him with this message. “The obligation that we learn in the Order of the Arrow is lengthy and written by many committees over many years. This makes it awkward, clunky, and difficult to remember. Everyone knows that the obligation is better spoken in a group because not everyone can have it committed to memory. In my opinion, it’s more important to know what it means than to have it memorized. I’m sure that if you talked with some of the counselors about your apprehension to public speaking, they can make sure that you can fulfill the requirement without embarrassment or being singled out in any way. Everything in Scouting is a safe place. This creates an environment where scouts can flourish to their highest potential…” There have been many people who have an apprehension about public speaking. It’s the number one fear of most people.

I know from personal experience that avoidance of this potential situation is not a good way to handle it. My second job was as a seasonal theater usher at an amusement park. As a teenager, I naturally felt quite awkward in front of crowds. I didn’t know it at the time but we all took turns doing the announcements at the beginning of the show. Alone on stage with the spotlight in front of an audience of 1000+, a memorized speech of 131 words was given. I came very close to quitting the job, right there and then. But two pieces of advice really helped. First off, the memorized script is only known to those who present it. The audience doesn’t know the words in the speech. As long as you do most of it and do your best you will be successful. The second one is that when you are alone on stage, the room goes dark and you’re in the spotlight, you can’t actually see the audience. So get used to giving the speech alone and just repeat it. I’m so glad that I didn’t quit and run away because of my fear of public speaking. The following year I met the love of my life and we’ve been happily married for over 40 years.