The Boy Scouts of America oath is straightforward: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Citizen Potawatomi Nation District 12 Legislator Paul Schmidlkofer lives life by those beliefs. He volunteers with the Canadian Valley District — a local chapter of the BSA that serves Pottawatomie, Seminole, Hughes and Lincoln counties in Oklahoma.
In February, the organization honored him during its annual banquet at Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee. He is the eighth Archie Miller Excellence in Scouting award recipient.
Canadian Valley Eagle Board Chairman Gary Way is a local awards committee member. He said the choice came easily.
“I’ve watched (Schmidlkofer) work with the kids; work with his own kids, and then work with the other kids. He treated all of them the same. They were all important,” Way said. “That’s part of the consideration. The district gives awards like Archie Miller for people who have served the district at large.”
At 60 years old, “it was a bit of a surprise,” Schmidlkofer said. “I really don’t expect anything like that at this point in my scouting career. I’m just out there helping all those guys that I can.”
The organization attracts members with hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. It also teaches young people leadership skills and about the integrity needed to excel in life.
“I like the core values of it. There’s nothing there that is contrary to any of my other values, and I think there are a lot of people that are not getting introduced to those values,” he said. “I think it’s good for society. I enjoyed it as a kid because I loved the outdoor part of it.”
Schmidlkofer joined Troop 408 as a child to compete with his older brothers, Steve and Tim. He earned the highest Boy Scout rank, Eagle Scout, at age 14. He and his brothers passed the panel interview required to receive the honor, also known as the Board of Review, on the same day.
“My fondest (Boy Scout) memory is of our High Adventure trip that we took when we were all older. We were all anywhere from 15 to 17 years old. We went to the Region 7 National Canoe Base as kids, and we spent a week in the backcountry canoeing across northern Wisconsin,” he said. “Real exciting, real fun, real challenging, real rewarding — obviously. … It’s really beautiful up there, too.”
Scouting entered his life again when his son Bryan Schmidlkofer joined. During his son’s time, he volunteered as a den leader and assistant scoutmaster and shared his knowledge. They created memories together until Bryan achieved Eagle status at age 18.
Since then, he volunteered for Boy Scouts of America Last Frontier Council’s board of directors and now serves on the council’s executive board advisory committee. The Last Frontier Council oversees programs within 24 counties across central, western and southwestern Oklahoma.
Schmidlkofer dedicated about 35 years of his life to Boy Scouts, and it inspired him to give back to the Tribe.
“You’re taught certain things in scouting like helping other people. Whenever people ask you to help with the organization, you just go ahead and do it,” he said. “It’s not much different than volunteering to be on the Tribe’s Council for all those years and now as a legislator. You help out where you can.”
He uses social media to keep up with old scouting friends and some of the men he taught as children. Schmidlkofer uses his merit badge skills occasionally. He whittles, hunts, fishes and hikes in the woods, although not as often as he would like.
“Learning to help other people, learning to be true to yourself and being a good citizen and all that stuff; It’s good for me. It’s good for the country,” he said. “I wish more people were involved in it just because of the values.”