“A 100 years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank, but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.” – Forest E. Witcraft.
Nice quote exemplifying high ideals about sacrificing the self for the greater good – in this case, the greater good is the future generation represented by the “child.”
But who wrote it?
Forest Witcraft (1894-1967) was the editor of the Scouting magazine (ScountingMagazin.org, accessed 3/30/2020), a publication of The Boy Scouts of America, from 1951 to 1958. The quote appears in a short essay titled “Within My Power” published in the October 1950 edition apparently before he became the editor.
Of note, the original essay ends with the world “life of a boy,” not “child.” Thus, by the time I came across it, people have made some slight grammatical changes, including making it gender-neutral.
One of the big news from earlier this year (February 2020) was about The Boy Scouts of America filing bankruptcy (accessed 3/30/2020) while facing 300 lawsuits from men who accuse the organization of sexual abuse in the past decades.
The essay makes interesting references to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Perhaps, Americans in the 1950s would readily recognize the men by mere mention of the first names and the context. This is not assured today.
Otherwise, the essay generally is about an ordinary man departing positive influence on ordinary boys so that with some luck that boy makes a positive contribution to history and not turn into a monster like Hitler or a dictator like Stalin.
The essay is reproduced here.
Within My Power
I am not a Very Important Man, as importance is commonly rated. I do not have great wealth, control a big business, or occupy a position of great honor or authority.
Yet I may someday mould destiny. For it is within my power to become the most important man in the world in the life of a boy. And every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history.
A humble citizen like myself might have been the Scoutmaster of a Troop in which an undersized unhappy Austrian lad by the name of Adolph might have found a joyous boyhood, full of the ideals of brotherhood, goodwill, and kindness. And the world would have been different.
A humble citizen like myself might have been the organizer of a Scout Troop in which a Russian boy called Joe might have learned the lessons of democratic cooperation.
These men would never have known that they had averted world tragedy, yet actually they would have been among the most important men who ever lived.
All about me are boys. They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow. If I can have some part in guiding them up the trails of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.
A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.