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There’s No Upside...

Michael Leavitt shares his innermost thoughts as they relate to his personal and family life. He can be heard to say often to his kids... “There’s no upside!”

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The Silver Beaver Escapes - Humbling Experience

The Silver Beaver Escapes - Humbling Experience

ML2014It was a great experience walking into the historic Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork, Utah yesterday afternoon and see about two thousand people there to commemorate 92 recipients of the 2015 Silver Beaver Award. The event was hosted by the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The UNPC is the largest of the 273 councils in the BSA and therefore they award the most Silver Beaver awards annually and put on one of the largest reception events.

Looking down the list of recipients I was humbled as I knew a great deal of them and had worked with many of them in teaching, training, and other outdoor events in the past 29 years of my Scouting service. The 60 page booklet issued to all attendees was impressive. I was sitting there with my lovely wife Shelly, my proud Mother, and my eldest son Adam. This was a proud moment, and a memory to cherish. My oldest daughter Jessica was thrilled with the announcement but was not able to be there since she now lives in Palo Alto, California with her husband Dave and our four grandkids as Dave finishes his schooling. Our daughter Haily was busy working at and our son Aaron traveled to Irvine, California running in a high school cross country invitational. All were so proud of their Son, Husband, Dad, and Grandpa who they have always known to be a Boy Scouter.

SILVER BEAVER PROGRAM - I was scrolling through the booklet and enjoying reading the biographies and coming to better appreciate the other recipients involvements in Scouting. Turning the pages I was excited to finally get to the L's so that I could see mine. Whiteness overcame my face when I turned the page and saw Michael O. Leavitt's picture and biography. Yep, the former Governor of Utah, who does not live in out Council, was this year's Michael Leavitt receiving the Silver Beaver award and not Michael D. Leavitt from Orem, Utah. Never have you seen a beaming 6'6" man in a Boy Scout uniform shrink to just 2" tall so quickly.

The line between humbled and humiliated is actually a huge crevasse. I now know the difference. I walked into the Alpine Tabernacle humbled and I now was sitting there feeling totally humiliated. Suddenly I went from an honoree to an attendee.... Wow! How could I break the news to those so close to me? How did this mix-up occur? Who was to blame? How was I going to live through this shame? Are you kidding me? I must just be dreaming.

I HAD A DREAM - Interestingly, a few weeks ago I kidded with Adam and Haily that they probably got it wrong and that it was the ex-governor being honored and not me. Yes, we had a good laugh then and they re-affirmed all of the good I had done in my 29 years of Scouting and I was feeling really honored just reflecting back on my life in knowing that I chose long ago to spend my life with a focus on service to others. Since joking with the kids I actually had dreamed that I was in the Tabernacle in error, yet our family went forth planning September 19th to enjoy the Silver Beaver celebration.

Now fast forward to September 19th and there I was feeling like every eye in the place was upon me while they laughed at the sight of the individual who had the audacity to think he would be one of the Silver Beaver honorees. As the reality settled in I found myself shriveling ever smaller into the 101 year old Alpine Tabernacle bench, center section, about half way back.  Of course they weren't, but at that moment it sure felt like it. Yes I was trying to smile and give the aura that all was well, but I was devastated inside as I realized the realities of the situation...

IT'S NOT ME - I looked over to Adam, seated to my right and whispered, "It's not me, I am not the Michael Leavitt getting the award." I then showed Adam the booklet and he immediately knew there was a mix-up and I felt his deep love for me as he leaned over and said, "Dad, I am so sorry!" and he gave me a sincere hug. I whispered to Shelly, "Hey, it is not me receiving the award, it is the ex-governor", and I showed her the page. My 85 year old Mother feared the worst as she had arrived at the tabernacle prior to us and saved prime seats. Mom had already looked through the booklet and couldn't find me anywhere. She didn't know what to do, as she thought of texting me, but opted to say nothing in case her old eyes were just not seeing correctly. She lovingly commented later, "Son, you are going to get the award someday and they just wanted to give me a chance to attend while I am still here with you."

I pondered and thought... Wait a minute, how was I notified of this event? I was notified the very same way I was notified when I received the Boy Scout District Award of Merit. Then it was my LDS Church Bishop, Mark Marshall, who notified me 5 years ago. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' hierarchy the local Ward's Bishop is the highest member of the Scout Committee that charters the Boy Scout Troop. Naturally the Bishop would first be notified by the Boy Scout District or Council about the award. This time around my current LDS Bishop, Michael Jones, sent me an email with the announcement and the simple, "Congratulations!" He was acting on an email from the Utah National Parks Council that shared....

Date: Mon, Aug 3, 2015, 5:05 PM
Subject: INVITATION: September 19th Silver Beaver Awards Ceremony

Dear Stake Presidents, Bishops, and Chartered Organization Representatives,

The Utah National Parks Council is fortunate to have many devoted volunteers who make a difference in the lives of our youth.  Each year we are able to recognize some of these great individuals with the highest honor a council can bestow upon them, the Silver Beaver Recognition Award.  Some may be from your stake or ward (recipients listed below).  Please join us in honoring these recipients on Saturday, September 19th, at 2:00 PM at the Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork.

And with that, Bishop Jones knew my Scouting tenure and naturally assumed that I was the Michael Leavitt listed. Honest mistake, but it currently was feeling really lousy being on the wrong end of a misunderstanding. After all, doesn't the ex-Governor have a long running job in Washington DC? He is listed as being from Salt lake City, and they have their own Council.... What in the world is he doing crashing in on our BSA Council's party?

It was really weird sitting in the large congregation now knowing that I would not be a Silver Beaver Award recipient. In my mind I had already received it when the announcement initially came my way. I had never sought out the honor, yet now it felt like it was being taken away and I did not like the feelings at all.

MY MIND WAS RACING - The award program continued and we listened to the long address by Tom Harrington, the key note speaker, but I can't really tell you too much about what was said. My mind was racing in a thousand different directions. Here were some of my thoughts...

  1. When have I ever been this embarrassed before in my life?
  2. Who else can relate with what I am feeling?
  3. What other situations in life could be this odd?
  4. Was Bishop Michael Jones also in attendance waiting to congratulate me?
  5. Does Bishop Jones know of the mix-up?
  6. Why am I feeling so embarrassed?
  7. The lack of receiving this award doesn't diminish any of my successes and failures in Scouting.
  8. It's okay that I am not being acknowledged today.
  9. But how am I ever going to share this mix-up with those I have already shared the good news?
  10. Should I just never mention this to anybody and never announce that it happened?
  11. Should I just let everybody go ahead and think I got the Silver Beaver award by not telling them otherwise?
  12. Nope, that wouldn't be right. But how do I tell others without sounding chapped?
  13. How do I share without sounding entitled?... It is just a sucky situation!!!
  14. How do I share it and still allow others to know how deeply it hurts?
  15. How do I effectively grieve yet act gracefully as the sun comes up tomorrow, and the next day, and the next?

ARE YOU A SILVER BEAVER? - I know that I am supposed to be tough skinned and not out for the accolades of men, but I had already felt consumed in the good feelings that somebody, unbeknownst to me, had taken notice and anonymously submitted my name as one worthy of receiving the award. It felt good to know that I was noticed. I remember a few months ago when somebody stopped me, looked at my other award knots on my uniform and asked if I had been awarded the Silver Beaver. I thought this was an off request request, but something I had never previously given much thought. Life would have been just fine if Bishop Jones had never sent me the congratulatory email. Since then it never dawned on me that I had not received any other notices from the Council about the award ceremony, but who was I to question? All I knew is that I was reserving the date on my calendar and would show up for the event and enjoy the experience...

And now I was faced with the feelings of shame and embarrassment. My wife, kids, and mother had no idea how I was going to deal with this. I was already suffering from a major migraine yesterday and just walking into the tabernacle with a semi smile on my face was a major accomplishment. The only solution for this was to head to Texas Roadhouse, order a steak and ribs, and then deal with the feelings of shock with those I loved. They didn't know if we should talk about it or if they needed to walk on egg shells. We laughed and joked and I did my best to put them at ease. And all I could really say was, "Seriously, it is what it is!" There is nothing that can be done. It was both awkward and embarrassing, yet not my time. And yes, what a let down...

Meanwhile, the sun did come up this morning and it is yet another great day of life!

Make it a great day!Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah


NOTE: This blog entry was strategically written knowing that most readers never made it to the sad part of the entry, and that is okay. If you made it this far, then I wish to thank you for your love and friendship. You have gained a glimpse into my sould and I know that you know me well enough to appreciate how I am feeling and I just want to thank you for being there and understanding my feelings.

Adam & I Get To Sing At The LDS Conference - Watch...
BSA Silver Beaver Nominee - How Cool Is That?

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