The Dallas Experience
An inside look at the National Planning Meeting
Every year, Section Chiefs, members of the National
Order of the Arrow Committee, and some support staff
gather in Dallas for the biggest OA planning event
of the year. These top leaders from all over the country assemble for
an intensive four-day session, known as the Order of the
Arrow National Planning Meeting.
At the meeting, the Section Chiefs elect
the new National Officers,
plan for the National Order of the Arrow Conference (or other
national program of emphasis), and organize the
Order of the Arrow Program for the coming year.
The meeting is led by youth, as are other
Order of the Arrow events. "It's an event like none
other," tells 2001 National Chief Don Cunningham. "The National
Planning Meeting is an experience of a lifetime."
Section Chiefs gather.
|Section Chiefs feast.
The majority of the section chiefs who attend the National
Planning Meeting are there for the first time; about twenty percent
prior meetings. 2001 Central Region Chief Dominique Baker notes that every year
is different. Dominique had attended the meeting before he was elected
Region Chief. "Both times were very different. The different types
of people make it a different kind of event."
After traveling from all over the country, everyone finally
arrives for the much-anticipated meeting.
All of the section chiefs, national officers, and adult advisers have time
to meet each other talk. "You make friends with people really quickly,"
says Dominique Baker. "It's the coolest feeling to be in a room with
the top youth leaders in the nation."
The first order of business is to elect the new national leaders,
the new National Chief and National Vice Chief. After a welcoming
the election commences. This goes on from about 8:00 PM to quite late,
often 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM. "It's the changing of the
guard," exclaims Don Cunningham. "It closes the last chapter
of a generation." The new National Chief immediately takes control
of the National Planning Meeting. With this long night of creating history,
everyone gets some rest at their hotel rooms, only to wake up at 7:00
AM the next morning.
The second day begins with a breakfast and then it is straight to business. Section Chiefs
group by their home region to elect their Region Chief. This election
is much shorter than electing the National Chief and National Vice Chief;
it only takes about an hour. After the Region Chiefs are elected, they get
10 minutes to themselves and then hit the phones. "I had to call so many
people; my parents, lodge adviser, Scoutmaster, and friends," tells
Dominique Baker. "It's very overwhelming; you go from a Section
Chief to a National Officer in a split-second."
Once the new National Officers are elected, a National Order of
the Arrow Committee meeting takes place. This meeting consists of
the National Chairman, OA Director, and the all of other members
of the committee. The new National Officers are introduced,
and then join the committee.
The Section Chiefs are then assigned to the various NOAC committees,
according to their preferences.
Later, the committees meet for
the first time and elect a Conference Vice Chief who presides over
Section Chiefs planing.
National Committee meeting.
Later, The outgoing National Chief gives a final report along with
the other past National officers. The past National Officers receive
token of thanks (aside from an applause): the famous black sweater. Next,
the new officers are sworn in and business returns. Committees gather
up and planning starts. "People just start spiting out ideas and
voting on them. Eventually the bad ones are filtered out and the good
stay on the drawing board," tells Dominique. The day ends with a dinner,
and the food at the meeting is usually well received. Many specialties include the
Texas BBQ Beef, Turkey, Pasta, and traditional pizza. Salad is said
to be plentiful. Lots of good food for hungry leaders.
The next day begins with the job of planning the next NOAC.
(On non-conference years, the planning focuses on the appropriate
other national programs.)
Creating the Conference
theme is the first item of business. Everyone gets into one room and starts throwing
ideas around. The bad ideas are voted out and the good ones stand. Eventually,
a sound theme is voted on and the committees break off to begin their planning
based on the newly chosen theme. Committees write, erase, think, and speak
to plan for the future. After a hard day of planning and thinking, the
committees present everyone with a closing report. The new national officers
deliver their first report and challenge everyone for a strong future.
The final day rolls by quickly with a continental breakfast and then departure for home.
Past National Officers thank their
Past Northeast Region
Chief Pat Boyd making his closing remarks.
The whole Dallas experience
is "one of a kind," tells Don Cunningham.
"It is the one place, with exception of the National Order of the
Arrow Conference, where the top OA leaders in America gather." Don finds
it so remarkable to plan for a weeklong event in practically a weekend,
let alone the planning for programs like Trail Crew and Wilderness
The National Planning meeting is
organized by the National Chief, OA Director, National Chairman,
and Vice Chairman of National Events. The adults at the
meeting pay their own way.
Section Chiefs attend without charge, and their transportation is
usually paid for by their section.