Editor’s note: With the Girls Scouts’ centennial anniversary this week, we asked Layne Diehl to share her thoughts on the organization that began with 18 girls in Georgia on March 12, 1912, and today has more than 3.2 million members worldwide. Diehl, a former Scout, is a leader with the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital, a body that includes troops in the Panhandle. She also is a lawyer and consultant based in Martinsburg.
One year for our wedding anniversary my husband gave me a beautiful string of pearls. That delicate choker with a gold bead separating each white miniature globe is such a treasure to me and will make for a beautiful keepsake to pass down in due time to the women and girls in my family. Due to their sentimental value alone, I couldn’t imagine parting with my pearls lightly.
But, just for the sake of argument, what if my giving up my pearls could make a difference in some way? For just what cause would I be willing to sell my pearls?
It would have to be something spectacular, that’s for sure.
One hundred years ago, Juliette Gordon Low made such a sacrifice – selling her pearls in 1912 for the purpose of starting a movement. That movement we recognize today as the Girl Scouts, and as girls around the world celebrate the 100th year of Girl Scouting, the thought of that first sacrifice by its founder often becomes the topic of conversation.
I wonder what Low was parting with when she sold those pearls of hers. Could she sense that her vision would be one to change the world for girls and women of various means and cultures throughout the coming century? Was her act one of selflessness or one of casting off stereotypes as she traded her pearls for some rope, a few pocket knives, compasses, bandanas and a canteen or two?
In an age where women’s issues are taking the forefront of the political stage, when women in countries around the globe are struggling to attain such very basic human rights as dignity and freedom of expression, the Girl Scouts continues to be an organization that is leading the way for social change – casting aside stereotypes, embracing differences and throwing open the doors to welcome diverse cultures, opinions and interests.
It is the Girl Scouts that celebrate Thinking Day every year in February, when girls and women in troops all over the world commit to exploring other cultures and educating each other on the things they have learned about Girl Scouts in other parts of the world who eat different kinds of food, practice other religions and celebrate different traditions.
The ranks of Girl Scouts is both prestigious and diverse, as well, including movers and shakers in fields of science, technology, politics, justice, aerospace, sports, entertainment and news. Barbara Walters, Sandra Day O’Connor, Peggy Fleming, Venus Williams, Hillary Clinton and Dionne Warwick, to name a few, all claim roots in Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts creates a common bond. Many times have I learned of a new acquaintance’s affiliation to the Girl Scout experience, and it is often these women who make up my closest and dearest friends.
Being a Girl Scout builds courage, as girls are given opportunities to branch out into areas of interest they may never have explored on their own. Hiking, camping, horseback riding, dancing, drama, music, science, engineering, math and technology are all subjects that girls can explore, for which they can earn badges, and during which they can develop new skills for their career-building toolbox.
Many a Girl Scout will tell you that her first sales experience came during Girl Scout cookie season, when troops set their sales goals to earn money for troop activities and service projects. Accounting and management skills are also adapted, as the girls themselves are tasked to keep track of the money their troops earn and budget for what they need to accomplish their goals.
Girl Scouts gives you the confidence to explore. As I keep up with my friends that I made in Girl Scouts as a military brat in Ft. Worth, Texas, I have friends who have scattered far and wide, from New York City to Boynton Beach, Fla. Many remain in the United States, others have ventured to other countries like Germany and France, but all have stayed connected through the common bond we experienced as girls camping under a tent, cooking over a campfire and exploring all kinds of interests in science, math, and yes, I’ll admit, baking, too.
Last but certainly not least, the Girl Scout program is designed to instill character. Girls begin their meetings with the Girl Scout promise, committing to honor God and country. They learn the importance of the Girl Scout motto, to “be prepared,” and they are taught to leave every place they visit better than the way they found it.
These values are instilled in fun and meaningful activities, and become a way of living and experiencing the world. If girls continue the program through high school, they are given opportunities to complete community service projects in attaining the bronze, silver, and gold awards. Girls who earn the all too impressive Gold Award have generally committed to dozens of hours in community service and have access to scholarships in many of the nation’s most prestigious institutions. They participate in congressional aid programs, environmental awareness programs, social justice programs and educational programs, among others.
So that’s that. Girl Scouts make the world a better place. Who could have ever thought that an act as simple as selling a few pearls could have such a far-reaching impact?
I think Low knew.