Austen Speare – “Mika” (2015)

And now for our final naming, I’d like Austen Speare to come up front.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe Austen is at this point now.  It seemed like yesterday he joined the crew.  He’s grown up so fast.

Austen came to us in 2011 and I’ve watched him grow up in the shadow of his older brother, Aaron.

Along the way, Austen has served as treasurer, vice president and two terms as president, in addition to crew guide.

He’s backpacked twice on the Appalachian Trail, led our last trip to Sea Base and has been one of our most active crew members over an incredible Venturing career.

But his gifts are not confined to Venturing.

He also has served as an officer in the AROTC unit at Dutch Fork, graduating at the rank of Lt. Colonel, second in command of the program.

And he remains the most gifted musician we have ever seen in the crew.  His talent with the violin has brought him to multiple orchestras in the state and All-State honors.

In fact, he’s played in the All-State orchestra six years straight.  He’s also played in the SC Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, the USC Campus Orchestra, and placed fourth in the Parker String Quartet Competition.  He also played in the Dutch Fork HS Master Class orchestra and served as Concert Master in their final performance of the year.

He’s been inducted in the National Honor Society and been accepted at USC, where he will major in violin performance.

He’s also been recognized in this crew with honors, including Officer of the Year in 2012 and 2014, as well as Outstanding Crew Member in 2013.  He’s been inducted in the Corps of Discovery and became a permanent member.

And along the way, he’s done pretty much everything you can do in Venturing and done it well.  From rock climbing, where he puts on a clinic every time he is belayed, to backpacking, where he has managed to stay alive on the AT despite Julian’s attempts to slow him down with things he snuck in his backpack.

Austen has always been up for an adventure.  His personality is almost always sunny, even though, as Erin knows, the job of a president is not always fun.

But what sets him apart has been his willingness to serve others.  I’m not talking about community service, though he has done an extraordinary amount of that.  I’m talking about helping others in the crew.

You see Austen gets its.  He understands that the most important part of being a leader is serving those you lead.  That means helping someone pack up their tent without being asked.  That means getting to know the newest member of the crew.  That means being the first to volunteer for someone else’s service project.  Or volunteering not just to take Kodiak but to come back the next summer and teach it.

Austen’s heart, his willingness to serve others before himself, is what we celebrate tonight and it is a legacy that all who follow him should heed.

When it came time to name him, there were lots of choices.  Indians did not have violins or orchestras and we’ve given out the names related to making noise.

I would have been tempted had Native Americans had a name for bottomless stomach.  Austen’s appetite is famous in the crew.  Or expert game player.  Anyone who has observed Austen play a game of President or some other card game knows how competitive he is.  Just ask Anna.

Had Native Americans had a name for salesman I would have looked at that.  Austen could sell ice to Eskimos, as anyone who has witnessed him selling Camp Cards could attest.

Sometimes we look at animal names that fit.  And one animal in particular seemed appropriate.  I thought of this recently when Austen, who doesn’t think much of sun screen, returned from an outing with red bands around his eyes.

One of the things about Austen that those of us who know and love him have observed is that while Austen is a great young man, he has a mischievous side.  Maybe it’s all those years hanging out with Julian.  Maybe it’s having so many siblings.  But he can be crafty, especially when it comes to food.  If there is food anywhere in the campsite, a car or a building, he will find it.  Mr. Harrison told me some time ago about an event at which he gave Austen some cookies to stash in the building where we meet.  Not sure where that hiding place is but no other human, I am quite sure could ever find it.

So it is my honor tonight, Austen, to name you after an animal that is super smart, super curious and super fun.  I hereby award you the Sioux name, Mika, which means, intelligent raccoon.






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