Because of His Impact on the Pacific Palisades Community
No individual has had a bigger impact on Pacific Palisades youth than resident Mike Lanning. Since becoming the Scoutmaster of Troop 223 in 1953, he has seen 804 boys attain the rank of Eagle Scout–a national record.
But it’s not only the teenagers who have felt Lanning’s influence; the troop now has more than 123 assistant scoutmasters because “There is intense parental involvement,” he said. “Probably about 50 of those scoutmasters are parents whose kids have already gone through the program.”
When asked if being named parade marshal was unexpected, Lanning said: “Frankly, I was surprised. I thought they hired generals and movie stars.”
This will be Lanning’s first time riding in the parade since 1979, when he was a Community Council Sparkplug awardee. A half-dozen years earlier, he helped form the Pacific Palisades Community Council as a way to help the town leaders have more influence with City officials and departments.
“I recruited the first chair,” Lanning said.
Born in Indio in 1932, Lanning became a Boy Scout in 1941 and an Eagle Scout in 1947. When he was accepted at UCLA in 1952, he and several friends started looking for a place to live near campus. One apartment was $85, “which was exorbitant,” Lanning recalls.
One of his friends knew about a choir camp at the Presbyterian Synod grounds in Temescal Canyon that had cabins. A man in charge told them that if they fixed up a couple of cabins they could live there–for only $15 a month.
Lanning got involved as a Scoutmaster a year later and stayed in the Palisades. “Parents didn’t want to lose me,” he said, and he was able to live in a remodeled garage while completing his undergraduate and law degrees at UCLA.
After graduating, he went into the Army for six months, and then took his first job as an attorney, in 1958. “It was in Beverly Hills with one of the brothers of a fellow scoutmaster.”
Recognizing him as an eligible bachelor, the moms in town went into overdrive and he could have had a home-cooked meal every night of the week. “One week I had eight dates,” he said.
He eventually met his wife Carol through Scouting, when her two boys signed up. They started dating in 1962 and were married in 1973. The couple have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
From 1961 through 1976, Lanning worked in real estate development before setting up his own law practice. He specializes in estate planning and asset protection.
He has received numerous Scouting awards including Distinguished Eagle, and regional, council and district awards of merit, Scoutmaster of the Year, the James E. West Society Award and the Americanism Award Honoree (past awardees included Gerald Ford and Bob Hope).
Lanning is active at St. Matthew’s Church, where he served as the Senior Warden. He and Carol were named 2017 Honorary Canons of the Cathedral Center, for long outstanding service to the diocese, its bishops and the Parish.
Lanning was asked why so many Scouts make Eagle status in Troop 223.
“What we do week to week leads to merit badges,” he said, but more importantly, the troop has established a tradition. “If you’ve joined the troop, you’re going to become an Eagle. It’s an expectation.”
Lanning cited two other reasons: the individual attention given the boys by the Assistant Scoutmaster and the physical facilities at the troop’s meeting place at St. Matthew’s.
After being in Scouting for nearly eight decades, Lanning said he wishes that “I could figure out a way to get more parents to come and take a look at the program.” He notes that there’s no way to quantify the leadership skills and self-confidence that youth in the program acquire.
He feels that many parents sign kids up for sports, but that there is no comparison between club sports and the life lessons Scouts learn.
For example, on an adventure trip, “Scouts average 50 miles a week backpacking. They carry everything they need to wear and to eat,” Lanning said, noting that Scouts soon realize they can’t just go down to the store and buy something. They learn self-reliance.
And, he rues that more people don’t realize that Scouting “is the oldest conservation organization in America. We’re trying to get kids to take care of nature.”
When asked if he has plans for retirement, Lanning said that he remembered when he was camping as a Scout, an older Scoutmaster went to take a nap under a tree and died.
“Might not be a bad way to go,” he said, but added, “I have no plans of retiring.”
In a 2014 speech to Eagle Scouts, Lanning said: “First remember to be thankful, it will empower you and help you set aside the small stuff. Second, be opportunistic—the world is full of opportunities and it is fun to be a leader. And third, remember, when the going gets tough, there is an indefatigable force within you that will take you anywhere you want to go.”
(Boys or girls who want more information about Scouting can contact Greg Frost (310) 454-2593 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)