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(Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series on the White House and the Boy Scouts. In Parts 2 and 3, Norris will not only give further proof concerning how the Obama administration is creating an arm’s-length relationship with the BSA, but show how President Obama’s advocacy of the BSA compares to the past 100 years of U.S. presidents.)
Over the past months, a widely circulated e-mail has reported that President Obama is not signing Eagle Scout certificates, which only 4 to 5 percent of Boy Scouts attain. Categorically, Internet watchdog sites like Snopes.com and TruthOrFiction.com have classified the claims as “hogwash.” But I have found a steady stream of White House whitewashing when it comes to the Boy Scouts of America.
A new entry on Snopes defends that “President Obama’s signature has been appearing on Eagle Scout certificates since late 2009,” roughly one year into his presidency. But the BSA’s National Council confessed that scout candidates who had a board review earlier than spring 2010 received an unsigned certificate. That’s nearly a year and a half after Obama’s induction.
“No Eagle recognition letters have been received this year from the president,” said Richard Meyers, who attained his Eagle rank in 1957 during the Eisenhower presidency and is now assistant scoutmaster for troop 162 in Arlington County, Va. Meyers made this clarification at a Chain Bridge District 2010 Life-to-Eagle Seminar on Jan. 30, 2010.
So why the tardiness? The BSA says the primary reason was due to an administrative delay authorizing the president’s signature – something they say occurs every time there’s a change in the presidency. Fascinating how I don’t recall any “administrative delay” with the host of presidential signatures on a wide variety of issues and legislation from Obamacare, further stem-cell research, additional federal liberties for abortions or increasing the U.S. debt to bailout banks, the car industry, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, etc.
It’s also peculiar that Snopes explains that the president has sent out 13,000 letters of congratulations to Eagle Scouts from the beginning of his presidency (with his signature on them, to boot), yet a year after his inauguration Eagle Scouts can’t get a presidential signature on their certificates. Is that really all on account of “administrative delay”?
In January 2009, the American Humanist Association and 18 other nontheistic organizations sent a letter to then President-elect Obama pleading with him to be the first president in 100 years not to serve as the BSA’s honorary president. As a progressive, you can imagine the pickle Obama was in. But he’s no political fool and unwilling to deal with the collateral damage in denying the honorary post of one of the largest and oldest youth organizations in the U.S.
But it’s even more peculiar that the Eagle Scout signature delay existed, when in fact Obama became the honorary president of the BSA way back on March 3, 2009 – an event that was done almost completely in secret in the Oval Office. Since President William Howard Taft in 1910, U.S. presidents have proudly fulfilled the position of honorary president of the BSA. But neither the honor nor event was highlighted in any official White House communication. Nothing said at the March 3 White House briefing. Nothing noted anywhere on the White House official website. Obama simply accepted the honorary presidential position behind closed doors in the Oval Office with seven or so Boy Scouts present.
On the other hand, on that single day of March 3, 2009, the White House considered all the rest of the following events as newsworthy enough to post on its official website: “President Obama announces more key appointments,” “President Obama and Vice President Biden announce investment in transportation infrastructure and jobs for Americans,” “Message to Congress from president regarding export certification,” “Remarks by the president and vice president on transportation infrastructure,” “Vice President Biden to travel to Brussels to consult with NATO allies,” “Highway spending from Recovery Act to create or save 150,000 jobs by end of 2010,” “Remarks by President Obama on AFL-CIO executive council,” “The first lady speaks to American servicewomen” and the “Remarks of the president to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the Department of Interior.”
Yet, not a peep mentioned about the president’s acceptance of BSA’s honorary presidency. Could it be the 160th anniversary of the Department of Interior ranked of higher importance than Obama’s acceptance of the BSA’s position in its 100th year of celebration?
I suppose it’s also coincidental that Obama was unable to attend the 100th Anniversary Gala of the Boy Scouts of America in his own backyard (Washington, D.C.) on Feb. 9, 2010. Why? Because that evening he had his first national press conference! Is it just me, or would you have delayed the press conference to any other evening in February to attend this unique centennial celebration of one of the oldest and most influential boys’ organizations in U.S. history? How about at least a quick shout-out at the press conference? No such luck.
The president did, however, send a semi-congratulatory letter to the BSA on its centennial, though at the same time subtly distancing himself from being a celebratory participant: “I send greetings to all those celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. … I wish you all the best.” Seems like a rather flat centennial note for the prospective honorary president of the BSA, wouldn’t you say? Actually, he never even thanks or mentions that he’s about to be the honorary president in the body of his letter. But I’m sure that’s just a minimalist coincidence, too!
To be frank, I think Obama’s delay in signing Eagle Scout certificates has more to do with White House political correctness and establishing an arm’s-length relationship with the BSA than it has to do with any simple “administrative delay,” especially when a series of lawsuits have been levied against the BSA because of its stand against atheists, agnostics and homosexuals.
One 1980s Eagle Scout recipient, Keith Ryan Brafford, Troop 910, Winston-Salem, N.C., posted on a blog with a photo of his Eagle Scout certificate, “Who wants Obama’s signature anyway? … Obama is doing the Scouts a favor [by not signing the certificates]. The president who signs it was so important to me that when I got mine, I insisted on a Reagan-signed award even though he wasn’t president anymore.”
For years, I’ve signed and sent out hundreds of Eagle Scout recognition letters. And I’ve personally known a host of Boy Scouts, Eagle Scouts and other Boy Scout leadership. These individuals epitomize the best of America. Indeed, the BSA is as integral of a part to American life and culture as hot dogs, baseball and Grandma’s apple pie.
I couldn’t agree more with Bob Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, when he explained: “I think that American leadership is vital to peace and prosperity and the advancement of democracy in the world, and that requires having strong leaders. And I don’t think there’s any organization in the world, certainly not in the United States, that better prepares young men for leadership in this country than the Boy Scouts of America – in teaching leadership skills, in teaching values, in teaching importance of standing up for what’s right.”
Mr. President, do you agree?
(Building up the next generation is not only why Chuck Norris fully supports the Boy Scouts of America, but why he started his own nonprofit KickStartKids organization. He and his wife, Gena, consider it one of their life’s greatest passions and missions. You can learn more about the Boy Scouts of America by going to Scouting.org and more about KickStartKids by going to KickStartKids.org.)