Trump Doesn't Speak for Scouting...Or To It
It has long been a dream of mine to attend the National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America. There are few more welcoming and exciting prospects than the opportunity to meet and share the outdoors with fellow Scouters from all over these United States. I would relish the opportunity to explore Scouting philosophy with a Scoutmaster from Des Moines or a summer camp Program Director from southern California. Swapping tales of High Adventure mishaps and triumphs seems to me just about the most fun that could be had as an adult volunteer with the BSA.
Perhaps you’ll think me dull, but I would likely find a sitting president’s visit and speech to the National Jamboree to be the least interesting and most dreadful spot in the schedule.
I’m an Eagle Scout, and I’ve been continually registered as a member of the organization since I was five years old. Scouting’s tenets and teachings have a near-religious significance in my life, and I truly believe that -- second only to the influence of my parents -- Scouting has made me who I am. I know this sentiment to be held by many in Scouting. Principles, ideals, and morals are precious things to those who have spent their lives being shaped by Scouting, and indeed to those who have helped Scouting shape others.
In light of these truths, it was especially disheartening to read the transcript of Donald Trump’s speech last weekend at the National Jamboree.
It is wise to refrain from re-litigating all of the finer points of the speech, but suffice it to say it was the worst Jamboree speech by a president in the last twenty years, and that includes an almost literally phone-it-in performance by President Obama. Aside from some boilerplate pleasantries about the greatness of the Scouting program (duh) and the lauding of accomplishments of Eagle Scouts like Rick Perry (double duh), the president, in spite of protesting “...who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” chose this occasion to deliver a very political speech that included the flavor-of-the-week policy minefields his administration is currently navigating. There’s no question that some of the remarks were admirable and agreeable, but that all becomes rather lost when the speaker is most certainly not.
The low point of the speech came when The Donald conscripted the second point of The Scout Law into his Army of the Unscrupulous: “As the Scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal -- we could use some more loyalty I will tell that you that.” That may seem like a harmless quip to many. There is no question that Trump believes in that sentiment with every fiber of his wispy fold of hair, but he believes it more as a monarch believes it applies to his lords and ladies and less as the principle to live by that it is intended to be. If you read or heard that line and didn’t immediately think of Comey or Mueller or Sessions or Cruz, you’re either not interested in politics (good for you) or you don’t know The Donald.
It says a great deal that the Boy Scouts of America felt the need to release a statement in the days following the president’s appearance at Jambo. The extension of an invitation to the president is an exercise in Courteous tradition, and it is a tradition that deserves to be re-evaluated, as does almost anything that started with FDR. While in the past it has been a relatively harmless event, Scouting would do well to continue to promote the admiration of actual Scouts and Scouters that have risen to fame and notoriety in lieu of furthering an unhealthy American obsession with the highest ranking bureaucrat in the land. There’s a very long list to choose from when deciding who would make a good keynote speaker at Jamboree. The President of The United States? Who needs ‘em!
There were many in attendance of the Jamboree that thought the president’s speech was fine and probably many who thought it was great. For most of the Scouting youth in that crowd, I’m happy to write off their enthusiasm for #MAGA chicanery as youthful ignorance and impulsive hubris. To those volunteers and professional Scouters whose responsibility it is to set the best possible example of integrity and reinforce Scouting ideals for all its members, I would ask:
Are you comfortable with your boys and girls cheering for a president that lives up to none of those ideals?
To those outside of the Scouting community that believe that Donald Trump comes anywhere close to speaking for us, please read the Chief Scout Executive's “Perspective on The Presidential Visit” at Scoutingwire.
Andrew M.S. Boyd is a co-founder and editor of WriterDie. You can follow him on Twitter: @amsb