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The Tree Legacy

Autumn always highlights the majesty of trees in our lives as the falling leaves and brilliant colors bring attention to each and every one in our neighborhoods and dotting our drive to work. The good news we know as we see the fall ritual of leaf loss is spring and new growth is just around the corner. Historically, trees have been spotlighted from time to time as part of American history, iconic growth such as the Liberty Tree, a mighty oak gracing the Connecticut US Quarter, for example. Visiting President James Monroe’s house in Virginia recently, I was struck how his famous home is overshadowed by another mighty oak, 300 years old that was 100 years old even before James Monroe laid the cornerstone for his house! Tangentially, being from the West, I have traveled across open prairie land many times in my life. As I have crisscrossed Colorado and other Western states in a car, my mind often wanders as I try to find some distant radio station to listen to on the open highways of our noble nation. I would always see isolated patches of trees that seemingly spring up out of an oasis but then there be nothing else for miles around. On occasion, there may a deserted and rustic farmhouse with the trees as a backdrop.

These trees are termed settler trees for they sprouted up as settlers and pioneers established homesteads in the Wild Wild West and digging wells provided a water source that then led to the growth of trees, wanted for their precious shade on hot summer days.  Today, they are just quiet remnants of yesteryear, but to me, they represent so much more.  They remain the visible legacy of those initial settlers living on 100 years after their presence on the prairie.  It got me thinking what my settler tree was going to be—what would I leave this Council?  Would it be optimism in the movement, sustained membership growth or would I even leave a legacy? Settler trees are important far beyond remembering the past.  They still provide shade and an oasis to other plants and wildlife that sit quietly within the tree’s quiet stately countenance.  They live and in doing so, others thrive as well. 

I have grown very fond of the Girl Scout movement in getting to know so many Girls and the volunteers who have uplift us daily.  Prior to my joining the movement, I only knew of Thin Mints, but now I know of five other cookie flavors and a plethora of other Girl Scout horizons like journeys and badges and bridgings.  As we go into 2020, a year I proclaim the Year of the Girl, I challenge all the volunteers and my staff to reflect on what settler tree you want to leave for the movement.  How will you dig a well that brings new life to your surroundings and last for years to come?

Certainly, the best legacy our movement leaves is our alumni, 50 million Girls strong after 107 years of climbing for others. I think of, for example, Girl Scout Ambassador Mikayla Butler, Post Falls, who has been our top entrepreneur for the past several years selling an incredible 7,000 cookies plus, a year. That is an amazing achievement that will be hard to beat nationally and certainly in our small population Council.  Even as Mikayla moves on to college next year, her risk taking, her vision and gumption will grow on as a legendary tale. Her excellence, like Gold Girl Scout Miranda Reed before her and cookie champion Nicole Amundson will not be forgotten. Her settler tree of being an outstanding leader will grow and grow for several years giving inspiration to others and certainly providing shade to younger Girls still trying to find their stride.  They will hear Mikayla’s wise counsel: “If I can do it, so can you!”  And so her legacy and example of courage confidence and character lives on.  Our Council is populated with thousands and thousands of beautiful trees, mostly pines, so much so I chose a lodgepole pine to be on my gold coin emblematic of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.  That is only half the story.  The other half is 3,500 Girls who we as leaders are helping grow.  We are a Council where Girls grow strong and our settler trees will be a dynamic force for good for decades to come.  That is our tree legacy!


--Brian Newberry, GSEWNI CEO