(Editor’s note: This is Part 3 of a three-part series on the White House and the Boy Scouts.)
In Parts 1 and 2, I discussed a series of evidences regarding how President Obama is leading the White House pack in distancing his administration from the Boy Scouts of America, via delaying Eagle Scout certificate signings, denying the invitation to go to the BSA’s 100th gala anniversary, downplaying his acceptance of BSA’s honorary presidency, dodging official White House communications about the BSA, not defending the BSA against cultural attacks and, hence, devaluing his all-around role as BSA’s honorary president.
U.S. presidents have been proudly accepting the post of honorary president of the BSA since President William Howard Taft in 1910. Actually, every president since, both Democrat and Republican, has gone above and beyond expected presidential duties to support this all-American young men’s civic organization.
Let me document some of that presidential advocacy, as recorded on the official BSA website.
Although Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) was no longer president of the United States when the BSA was founded in 1910, he was an ardent supporter of the organization. He was a troop committeeman of Troop 39 in Oyster Bay, N.Y., first council commissioner of Nassau County Council and the first and only man designated as chief scout citizen.
In 1910, President William Howard Taft (1909-1913) agreed to be honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America to “thus sustain a similar relation to the movement as does King George V to a similar movement in England.”
On June 15, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) signed a bill, which was unanimously passed by both houses of Congress, granting federal incorporation to the Boy Scouts of America.
President Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) gave out “Harding Awards” to 5,058 Scout troops in 1923 for increasing their membership. He wrote to them, “I am with the Scout movement heart and soul.”
President John Calvin Coolidge’s (1923-1929) two sons were Scouts, and he was an involved father with them. He wrote, “If every boy in the United States could be placed under the wholesome influences of the Scout program, and should live up to the Scout Oath and rules, we would hear fewer pessimistic words as to the future of our nation.”
President Herbert C. Hoover (1929-1933) launched “a forward movement and development program” for the BSA at a dinner commemorating Scouting’s 20th anniversary.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) was an active Scout leader before becoming president. He was BSA president of the Greater New York Council. When FDR died in 1945, he had a 24-year record of service in scouting.
President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) was also an ardent supporter of the BSA. He even traveled to Valley Forge, Pa., during his presidency in June 1950 to open the Second National Scout Jamboree. He wrote, “What a greater nation this would be if the principles of Scouting could be woven more closely into our daily lives. … Let us work together to make the program of the Boy Scouts available to every American boy.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was another avid supporter of the BSA ever since his son was a scout. In 1948, he became a member of the national executive board of the BSA.
President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was a Scout before becoming president, a member of Troop 2 in Bronxville, N.Y., from 1929 to 1931 and a leader in the Boston Council. He wrote, “In a very real sense, the principles learned and practiced as Boy Scouts add to the strength of America and her ideals.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) was an active Scout leader with the Capitol Area Council in Austin, Texas, and was a member of the National Capital Area Council from 1959 to 1963. In 1963, he helped organize Post 1200 in Washington, D.C., which was chartered by the House of Representatives for page boys working in the U.S. Congress.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) hosted the first BSA National Explorer Presidents’ Congress on the White House lawn. Previously, as vice president, Nixon spoke at the national jamborees held at Irvine Ranch in California in 1953 and at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge State Park in 1957.
President Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) was the first Eagle Scout to become vice president and then president. He wrote, “One of the proudest moments of my life came in the court of honor when I was awarded the Eagle Scout badge. I still have that badge. It is a treasured possession.”
President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) was also an avid supporter of the BSA, having been a scoutmaster, troop committee chairman and explorer adviser.
Before becoming president, Ronald W. Reagan (1981-1989), then governor of California, became involved with the BSA on the Golden Empire Council, chairman of Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources) and served as membership roundup chairman and on the council’s advisory board.
President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) was a strong advocate for scouting too, appearing at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., on Aug. 7, 1989. He spoke to the BSA: “You are leading the youth of America by example.”
President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was a Cub Scout, and, as president, greeted 36,000 Scouts and leaders at the 1997 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
President George W. Bush (2001-2009) was also a former Cub Scout and praised the BSA when he spoke to the nearly 40,000 Scouts, volunteers and leaders at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in July 2005.
All that the BSA website could write about President Obama was that he “received the BSA’s 2008 Report to the Nation from a group of young people representing all the Scouts of America. In recognition of the president’s favorite sport, the report’s delegation also gave him a BSA basketball that each of them had signed.”
In this historical survey, do you see any U.S. presidential differences in their support and advocacy of the BSA?
Mr. President, it’s time to come out of hiding from the shadows of the White House, to quit playing duck-‘n’-dodge with BSA’s support and publicly stand up for and defend this amazing organization.
Mr. President, there’s still time to redeem your flailing honorary presidency of the BSA. And you can start by attending the National Scout Jamboree, from July 26 to Aug. 4, 2010, at the 76,000-acre facility of Fort A.P., nestled in the rolling green hills of Virginia, conveniently close to our nation’s capital and your home!
Just in case someone in your administration hasn’t informed you, the Jamboree is a 10-day gathering of tens of thousands of Boy Scouts from all over the world, usually held every four years and organized by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. (The first jamboree was held in 1937 in Washington, D.C., which President Franklin D. Roosevelt attended.)
Mr. President, I’m certain the BSA’s National Council and local leadership will cater to your schedule to attend the Jamboree at any time over its 10-day celebration, if even for a single hour. And I’m doubly certain that the prospective 43,000 Scouts and leaders attending there would love to hear from you, as they’ve heard from past presidents. And all of us will be anxious to hear what you have to say to them, especially me.
(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.)