The following was sent to Andy of “Ask Andy” fame. Hal Daume (his real name) is a longtime Commissioner and like me has been answering Scouters’ questions and queries electronically for a long, long time!!
Every once in a while, I assist him and (Dr.) Kenneth King with answering some of his, um, challenging questions. This is one of them….
Hey Andy!! A recent question was posed about the District/Division Award of Merit: A Scouter asked you…
“Hi Andy, Our Scoutmaster is about to receive his very well-deserved District Award of Merit. I’d love to be able to explain at the ceremony why this is the only “square knot” that’s actually an overhand knot. I’ve searched the Internet, but to no avail. I’ve called the BSA national office, and someone there is researching the answer, but I’ve not heard back yet. Any chance you can tell me why it’s an overhand knot?”
You responded “I have a complete conjecture that the overhand knot may be symbolic of the recipient having contributed vitally to Scouts in their learning/maturing process, hence the overhand knot, which can be considered an “uncompleted square knot.” If you can help identify the true reason for the overhand knot I’d greatly appreciate it and I’ll bet others would enjoy learning about the meaning behind this unique badge. (Ken Edwards, ASM, San Gabriel Valley Council, CA)
It’s simple, but not necessarily worth explaining at a ceremony, IMHO…”
Your writer wrote to you as a follow-up: “Thank you for responding, but I must confess I don’t understand the explanation. Why would a district-level award warrant an overhand versus a square knot? The “hence” part is what I don’t understand. Is the district “incomplete” versus national? Also, since the DAM is described as the highest recognition that a district can award, doesn’t imply that there are “lower” district recognitions? With square knots? It doesn’t state that it’s the only recognition that a district awards.”
It is the only NATIONAL recognition for service which the BSA awards through a local Council. As far as “incomplete”, remember please that a District is an “operational division or slice” of the local Council…so the “part of a square knot” thing works for this particular award’s cloth emblem.
Also please keep in mind that unlike all of those other service awards — the Silver Buffalo, Antelope, and Beaver Awards — the District/Division Award of Merit is a PLAQUE — not a “necklaced item” like those others — which is the primary award.
The certificate and square knot emblem are the other components of the award. (A District can provide other awards to its volunteers, subject to the approval of the local Council and of course, the District’s leadership. Many Districts provide special certificates, trophies and patches to its volunteers for service below that that would “garner” a District Award of Merit plaque. There are only so many District Awards of Merit which can be awarded in a particular year…the actual number of awards depend upon the number of registered units in that District as of the closeout date of the end of the year.)
Here’s the official answer: The District/Division Award of Merit is unique is that it is a national award which honors Scouters for their service to youth at the District or Division level over a period of time.
The symbology of the award is also unique. The silver border and overhand knot (which by the way, should be worn with the ends DOWNWARD) is symbolic of the District and local Council service to youth. The dark blue background represents the dark blue of the local Council’s flag and refers to the fact that it is awarded at the local Council — District — level. The overhand knot. Those who are familiar with how a square knot is “made” — right over left, then left over right — understands that the overhand knot is “half” or a “part” of the complete square knot emblem. In a likewised manner, a District or Division is “half” or “a part of” the local Council; and that Scouters who receive this award still have “work to do” to “complete the process” (or in other words, receive down the road the Silver Beaver/Fawn (when we had it as a BSA local Council award) ) for their continued service to youth through Scouting.
TJ VanHooten, then the BSA’s National Director of Programs, provided me with the explanation and justification of how that “knot emblem” came to be.
You provide great information and insight, Andy…keep it going please!! I am always in service to assist you and other Scouters!!