John Seng has no problem reciting the Boy Scout Law.
A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
“It’s things you should do,” he explained.
Those 12 traits are the secret to a good life. “If you live by the scout law and the scout oath, you will be of service to a lot of people,” he said. “You will have a good life and you will do a lot of good for a lot of people. That’s what we are put on this earth to do.”
Truly living the scout law as well as understanding the longterm impact scouting can have on one’s life, Seng, who earned his Eagle in 1973, has dedicated most of his life to leading boys to the coveted rank. That passion can be traced to his father, William, who along with his mother Mary Ann, pushed John to obtain it. William had been involved in scouts but did not obtain the rank. “He said one of his biggest regrets was that he never got his Eagle Scout,” John said Thursday.
Incorporating the 12 traits into his life has led to many years of volunteer work and many new Eagle Scouts. In recognition of those efforts, John received the Jasper Chamber of Commerce President’s Community Excellence Award Thursday afternoon.
John was surprised by the honor as outgoing chamber board president Laurel Seger read off his list of accomplishments during the annual luncheon. “This year’s award winner has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of local residents,” Seger told the crowd of more than 350 before announcing John as the recipient of the annual award.
John modestly accepted the award, spreading the credit among the many volunteers that have been involved at his side over the years. “There are more people here more deserving than I,” he told those in attendance including keynote speaker Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch.
Soon after starting his own family, John became a den leader of Troop 183 at Precious Blood Church. He recently became involved with Venture Crew 185—Venture Crew is a separate division of Boy Scouts of America.
Over the years, John has organized and conducted 53 fishing, canoe and wilderness trips to Canada bringing scouts of different ages as well as their fathers. He has personally led several of the trips including one with 40 people.
In nominating her son, Mary Ann noted that John has made special efforts to help boys who are lacking a paternal influence over their lives.
For John, the involvement with these boys and scouting has always been an easy decision.
“It has really been a labor of love to participate in the Boy Scouts the past 18, 20 years,” he said.
John is also a member of the Knights of Columbus and Precious Blood Catholic Church. He and his wife, Sandy, have four sons, Heath, Jeff, Ben and Eli. All four are Eagle Scouts.
In his keynote, Gov. Holcomb discussed the next steps of the Governor’s 2017 Next Level Legislative Agenda. He and Lt. Gov. Crouch have been traveling across the state to talk about the plan’s five pillars for taking Indiana to the next level.
Announced in his State of the State address earlier this year, the five pillars are economic diversification, infrastructure improvement, development of a 21st century skilled and ready workforce, impacting the drug epidemic and improving the government’s service to its citizens.
“We are very excited about, not just where we are, but where we can be,” Holcomb said as he praised the legislation for its progress in cooperating to get things done.
Holcomb pointed out several positives going on in the state including the 29,000 new jobs he recently announced, the $7.5 billion to support state roads and highways over the next five years and a growing technology-based economy. “U.S. News and World Report ranked Indiana the number one state government in January,” he said. “How do we maintain that position? How do we continue to improve? That’s what these five pillars are all about.”
Holcomb briefly spoke about each pillar but spent the majority of his time on what he considers an important aspect of the 2018 legislative session, developing a 21st Century skilled and ready workforce. To do so, he said, the improvements have to come from the bottom up rather than top down.
He said the administration will be seeking stakeholders in regions and communities to build focus groups, or cabinets, to work out solutions and suggest policy for the state to incorporate. The regional or community focus will allow potential changes to impact the needs of those areas. It’s an important approach for the governor who sees Indiana as a state with diverse needs.
“The City of Jasper has different employment and economic needs than Jasper County,” he said. “Huntingburg has different needs than Huntington.”
He explained the state has to address the 92,000 unfilled jobs across the state. “We are going to create an education to career pathway cabinet,” he explained.
This cabinet will work with the local groups to support their efforts to upgrade the educational needs of that workforce. Some of the larger issues include the 350,000 Hoosiers who don’t have a high school diploma and 712,000 Hoosiers who started college and then dropped out. On top of that, the state has 27,000 Hoosiers incarcerated or in the penal system, a number that remains steady due to the revolving door of inmates.
“Of the 6.6 million Hoosiers, we are over a million Hoosiers in just those three,” he said. “We are really going to be honing in on how do we break those cycles.”
The governor explained how as he goes around the state he meets people working in Cracker Barrel and other eateries. They’ll ask him for a selfie and he in turn talks to them about their employment. “You quickly learn that most of these folks are working two or three jobs and if they had the ability to improve, they would,” he said.
Along those lines, the governor is excited about initiatives the state has undertaken to improve training and access to training to help those that want to work, be prepared for the work they want.
The governor is optimistic despite the adversities the state faces in sysiphian issues like opioid addiction. He recounted a story of a discussion he had with a friend about the daunting task of battling opioid addiction. His friend wasn’t very optimistic about the battle. “He said, ‘the definition, Eric, of an optimist is a poorly informed pessimist,'” Holcomb said. “That’s the most cynical thing I’ve ever heard in my life and I refuse to go there. I have met too many people who have got back on the road to recovery.”
But again, the governor deferred to the specific needs of the different regions of the state and accented his efforts to develop changes from a region-centric approach rather than an Indianapolis-based approach.
“We solve problems in Indiana,” he said. “That’s what we do. We have a lot of work to do in 2018.”