Why Boy Scouting Matters…or Mattered

Eagle ScoutThe Boy Scout Oath: On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent. This is the Boy Scout Law.

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

What if…every boy grew up learning to live by the Boy Scout Oath? Or was taught the values outlined in the Scout Law. How different would our world be if every young man was raised surrounded by friends and friend’s fathers who were committed to these ideals? Of course our society would be significantly different.

I’m concerned – very concerned about the future of the Boy Scouts of America. I entered Scouting in Cub Scouts along with many of my friends in school – Scouting was cool, fun, part of most boy’s extracurricular activities (we would wear our uniforms to school on the days of our meetings), and highly encouraged and supported by schools and churches. I then progressed into Boy Scouting and learned everything from how to handle a knife, how to build a fire, how to tie knots, how to perform CPR and provide First Aid, how to captain a boat, how to cook, how to handle firearms, how to be a lifeguard, how to serve others, how to be prepared – for life. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout at age 12 and as today, joined the 2% of Scouts that follow-thru and complete the march to Eagle. Scouting was looked at highly and engaged boys from varied backgrounds and social classes. Some of my most extraordinary experiences and memories growing up are from Scout camping trips with my dad.

Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to hear more and more about “Scouting today.” And it is different – very different than what I remember. My 12 year-old stepson tells me that he’s not interested and neither are his friends as it’s just “not the cool thing to do.” I hear more and more stories of major sponsors pulling out of supporting the national organization due to slanderous, non-inclusive comments and perspectives from a board who also has over-invested in a new camp in West Virginia incurring significant debt. I look around at our many friends and families with sons and none of them (except one) are involved in Scouting. Something has changed.

This brings me to my question – does Boy Scouting matter any more? Is it still highly valued in today’s society? If not, why not?!

Two weeks ago, I attended the Court of Honor for the “one” young man (named Brendan) whose family has been very involved with Scouting along his path to Eagle. During the ceremony, they asked for all Eagle Scouts in the audience to stand and in the large church, there were only two of us who stood as representative Eagle Scouts. I had the opportunity to read the many letters of congratulations from government and community leaders and found a number of interesting comments and points – what is apparent to me is that yes, Scouting is recognized, appreciated, and well-respected by government, community, and business leaders – check the subset of notes below that I pulled from Brendan’s notes and letters.

- Eagle Scouts exemplify hard work and strong character…you are obligated to seek broader horizons of service. (Rex Tillerson, President, Boy Scouts of America)

- Young men like you who care about improving our world give us great hope for America’s future (Barack and Michelle Obama, President and First Lady)

- To an Eagle Scout there is no limit to what can be achieved through earnest effort. I encourage you to always pursue “honor, loyalty, courage and service” throughout your life. (Joe Biden, VP US)

- Life is not about self but about service to others. This belief guides my actions every day and as an Eagle Scout, you exemplify that spirit of service in your own life. (Casey Cagle, Lt Governor, Georgia)

- By becoming a strong leader, dedicating yourself to the community, and maintaining superior outdoor skills, you have fulfilled the requirements of Scouting’s highest achievement. (Al Gore, Former VP)

- The accomplishment proves that through dedication and hard work, you have successfully met the highest standards of performance in an effort to prepare yourself for maximum career and community service (John McCain, US Senate)

- The training offered by the Boy Scouts enhances our traditional American values of honor, service, and achievement. Your strength of character and commitment are an inspiration for other young men. (Ray Hood, Secretary of Transportation)

- The Scouting motto “Be Prepared” is one of the most important credos for a successful life, personally and professionally. (Muhtar Kent, CEO, Coca-Cola Company)

- Becoming an Eagle Scout speaks highly of you and the people you surround yourself with who helped you along the way. (Sandra Stosz, US Coast Guard)

- 180 current or former astronauts were Boy Scouts. (Charles Bolden, Administrator, NASA)

- Lives of purpose are constructed on the conviction that there is right and there is wrong…indifferent or cynical people accomplish little that makes them proud. (George W. Bush)

- In years to come, you will look back and be very pleased and proud that you were involved in the Boy Scout program. (Johnny Isakson, US Senate)

- The future of our great nation lies in the hands of young people such as you. (Saxby Chambliss, US Senate)

The open question is: how will Scouting stay relevant? How will Boy Scouting evolve and continue to be viewed as the ultimate boot camp for young boys / men as they trek through life in pursuit of making a positive difference? My answer: it truly starts with the BSA leadership as with any organization. It then progresses to the troop level where the dads lead the troop and ensure that boys are engaged, learning, and progressing.

It’s time for Eagle Scouts to step up and own the future of the organization. It’s time to reengage. I’m in.