An absolutely amazing message from the Scout Executive of the Lake Erie Council, BSA.
Friends, Neighbors, Fellow Scouters, Fellow Parents,
Today, as I’m sure you can imagine, has been a difficult day. But, it’s been the type of day that brings in... to clear focus why we do the work that we do. In between meetings and our efforts to move Scouting forward here at the local level, I reflected on the news coming out of the National Jamboree and tried to figure out what I could say on behalf of our council as well as from me personally that could encapsulate how I and many of you who have reached out to me feel.
As I am closing out this day’s work, I can come up with only one thing and it’s the one thing that no one else seems to want to say. I am sorry. Truly sorry.
Scouting is a platform for young people to observe and learn about civics, but it is not a platform for politicized messages. To use Scouting for that purpose is poor judgement and inappropriate behavior and runs counter to many, if not all, of the points in the Scout Law and tenants of the Scout Oath - PERIOD.
Before I go further, let me address a few facts to hopefully dispel any misconceptions.
Fact: Since its inception in 1910, each sitting U.S. President has served as the Boy Scouts of America’s honorary president. It is a long-standing tradition for the Boy Scouts of America to invite the U.S. President to attend the National Jamboree. Seven of the eleven U.S. Presidents who were in office at the time of the National Jamboree attended the event in person to address the largest gathering of Scouts in the country.
Fact: The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not favor the interests of one political candidate or party over another. We do not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.
Fact: The president had prepared remarks. They, like presidents before him, focused on patriotism, leadership and citizenship. Here are a few excerpts:
“The United States has no better citizens than its Boy Scouts. The values, traditions, and skills you learn here will serve you throughout your lives, and just as importantly they will serve your families, your cities, and in the future and in the present, will serve your country. The Scouts believe in putting America first.”
“When natural disaster strikes, when people face hardship, when the beauty and glory of our outdoor spaces must be restored and taken care of, America turns to the Boy Scouts because we know that the Boy Scouts never, ever, ever let us down.”
Unfortunately, despite a well written speech designed to inspire the thousands of Scouts and Scouters in attendance, the sharing of extemporaneous thoughts and ideas cast a shadow over an event many years in the making. By many accounts, including those of our local leaders and scouts in attendance, it has been otherwise incredibly successful. But, it has also damaged our credibility with many of those who rightfully look to Scouting to teach our young people lessons that will help them be successful and to understand the simple differences between right and wrong.
I am sorry that this happened.
I am sorry that we have come to a place where we are unable to trust that the patriotic remarks might not be delivered in the way they were written.
I am sorry that ANY (even if had been only one) Scouts acted in an un-scout-like manner by displaying any kind of disrespect to others through their actions and/or reactions.
I am sorry that we shook your faith in what we stand for.
Dr. Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the FBI, as well as past president of the BSA, once said “we must address the world as it is and not how we wish it was”. For some, this instance has caused them to question this movement and whether they can or should continue to support it with their time, talents and treasure. I will tell you that it has reminded me that our work is more important than ever.
In fact, it has reminded me that how we react to the circumstances we encounter is precisely what this movement has sought to instill in each of us since the first day we chose to become part of it.
For those of us in the Lake Erie Council, how we react to this moment, to this challenge to the very ideals of Scouting, matters. Remember that our goal is not to simply build a bigger council, but a new and more relevant organization that focuses on the positive impact we can and should have on our communities every day by providing solutions and service; and by helping to improve the lives of young people. We are focused on putting our youth and our units at the center and focusing on their success.
We have a significant amount of work to do to achieve our goals. And I truly understand the frustration and the sense of mistrust an incident like this can create. But I humbly ask - please stay with us. Let’s continue to work together. Young people are counting on us and they deserve the opportunity to benefit from what this movement does when it does it well.
God bless each of you.
Yours in service to youth and communities,
Eagle Scout, Father, Scout Executive
Reflections about SFE @ Jamboree, 7/27/2017
Day 9 of 10- Cate Readling
Two years ago today, hundreds of people waited to hear the result from a conference call meeting of the National BSA Board. They were deciding on the remaining ban on openly gay adult leaders. The ban on openly gay youth had been lifted the year before and for some that had felt like a setback. I remember at the time I felt generally positive about the progress. After all, I signed up as an adult leader th...inking that my kids would be long aged out of Scouts before we could get the BSA to reverse this very detrimental decision and yet two years ago my oldest boys were still Cub Scouts!
This past weekend, when we were reprimanded by programming staff for over stepping our agreement regarding the content of our booth, I felt deflated. I felt as though maybe the organization I have put so much faith into would never live up to its own ideals. When doubt is the strongest, we must surround ourselves with the people who can help carry the load. Surround ourselves with those who will listen, let you feel those feelings and then remind you of the mission. Those who have been where you are, who remember how dark it can seem and have come back from that place. And then we do that for others.
Any effort toward progress that requires a paradigm shift is going to include setbacks. When I saw the Facebook reminder about this day back in 2015 and looked around at where I was: in an exhibit in the Duty to God and Country Tent at the premier event of the BSA, among supportive friends from many different denominations and hundreds of youth who visited and shared their answer to “What does Diversity mean to you and why is it important?” Remembering this, my faith was restored and I find myself ready to Scout On!
“The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” ― James Baldwin