While I have yet to encounter serious opposition to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, an argument can be made, perhaps, that a healthy life is its own reward, and that offering recognition – especially presidential recognition – for simply living a healthy life is a great big precious-snowflake-everybody-gets-a-trophy cow pie.
Statistics and my own experience speak volumes against it. Providing any reasonable incentive to entice people out of McDonald’s and off the couch is not only a good investment, it sets people on a positive path. Getting people addicted to achievement instead of instant gratification is a very different kettle of fish than rewarding mediocrity, especially if you build a program that rewards higher and higher levels of participation and achievement.
I weigh 50 pounds less today – and am healthier now than I was in my thirties – in part due to the President’s Challenge, of which the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, is a part. The act of exercising regularly, recording the foods you eat, and gradually replacing less healthy foods with healthier choices is a powerful start, and was my ladder to a place that I always felt was beyond me.
I’ve won the award four times in the past five years, and subsequently used it as a stepping stone to higher achievements. But I can honestly say that this program probably saved my life and my marriage, and I have no doubt I earned this damned patch.
It is one of my proudest achievements, and I will wear it on my BSA Jac-shirt with pride.