Scout Earns All Merit Badges Possible

Scout Shawn Goldsmith shows off his merit badges.

hide captionScout Shawn Goldsmith shows off his merit badges.

Courtesy Shawn Goldsmith

Shawn Goldsmith has accomplished a rare feat for a Boy Scout — he earned all 121 merit badges available. You only need 21 to get the title "Eagle" Scout. "If I run into a stranger, there's definitely something to talk about. I have 121 topics to talk about," he says when asked why he did it.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Shawn Goldsmith isn't much of a hunter, but he is a boy scout. And he just managed to earn a merit badge for shotgun shooting.

Mr. SHAWN GOLDSMITH (Boy Scout): First time I picked up a shotgun, and I'm about to shoot, and then I pulled the trigger and I almost fell backwards on my face.

RAZ: A narrow escape and part of an epic quest Shawn just finished on Long Island. He earned 121 badges in all, every single one possible. You only need 21 to get the title Eagle Scout, so this is an eagle with a wide wingspan. And it took more than tying square knots and starting campfires.

Mr. GOLDSMITH: I had to do sculpture. I had to do surveying.

RAZ: Now, these badges aren't exactly easy to get. If you look in the scouting manual, there are multiple requirements for each one. And we printed out the workbook for the journalism merit badge, and that's five pages long. There's even a badge in nuclear science. To earn that one, you could build your own electroscope and place a radiation source inside or just take a field trip to your nearest particle accelerator. Some of the badges are even death-defying. Take the one for water skiing.

Mr. GOLDSMITH: That was really difficult because when the boat is going 50 miles an hour and you hit a bad wave and you take it the wrong the way, you can fall and go flying. And when that happened to me, my life preserver, which was zipped in, it had all the buttons on it, they all popped off, and everything fell off because I hit with such impact.

RAZ: And there are badges for stamp collecting, dentistry, space exploration, even insect study.

Mr. GOLDSMITH: So, I go around with plastic Ziploc bags and have to try to like swipe the bugs in the bags. And at one point I was carrying like 15 to 20 bags of bugs. And I would like look on the ground, like I'd be like falling on my hands and knees. And people would, like, say, what is this kid doing?

RAZ: And why do this? Why earn all 121 merit badges? Why collect the bugs and shoot the guns and learn about nuclear science?

Mr. GOLDSMITH: Well, if I run into a stranger, there's definitely something I could talk about. I've 121 topics to talk about.

RAZ: Shawn Goldsmith, Eagle Scout extraordinaire. Our parting words today come from another over-achiever - legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein. He said, "To achieve great things, two things are needed, a plan and not quite enough time."

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