The sleeping bag hasn’t yet aired out from my oldest child’s stay at Boy Scout camp last week, and today I dropped my daughter off at Girl Scout camp. Despite some ambivalence about Boy Scouts in particular, our family has benefitted from Scouting in ways I’m very grateful for.
So I say with a lot of love for this organization: saying that you are “wholly non-partisan” after Donald Trump’s crass, inappropriate speech to boys gathered for the National Jamboree is not enough. In fact, it adds insult to injury.
Above, a Boy Scout uniform amid the rubble after an EF3 tornado tore through the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Sioux, Iowa, in 2008. Emergency responders had to use chainsaws to cut their way to the camp as the twister left a path of destruction 14 miles long. Four boys died, and more were injured, but the boys worked hard to put their knowledge of first aid to good use. Donald Trump knows nothing of heroism, sacrifice, valor, or bravery–in fact, he detests those things. He doesn’t deserve to speak before BSA, as his speech proved.
It’s a lovely tradition that the sitting president of the US is the honorary president of BSA. Anyone who has the character to serve as POTUS should surely be able to handle the duties of honorary BSA president. But, as so many of us yell daily, these are not normal times. The current president could not handle the duties of being a Denny’s hostess or a customer service rep at any of the major telecom companies. He should never be given access to children or families.
And so, that tradition should have been suspended at the election of Donald Trump. The Boy Scouts cannot be responsible for what this vile person said–words that violated the stated values of Boy Scouts of America throughout.
But BSA is responsible for bringing this moral failure to speak before their members. Boy Scouts of America should have seen this coming a mile away. The main problem with Trump’s speech wasn’t that it was “too political” but that it was disrespectful, unkind, and self-centered–as so many of his speeches are.
At some point, we have to hold those who hand this man a microphone accountable. That includes BSA.
If you want to share your concerns about BSA’s failure to vet speakers, you can do so by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is my letter, in case it is helpful:
Dear Boy Scouts of America,
The tradition of the current president of the United States serving as as honorary president of BSA is a noble one, but it should have been suspended with the election of Donald Trump. However you feel about his politics (and BSA’s effort to remain non-partisan is noble), he lacks character. He made it clear through the election process that he despises weaker people, speaks ill of those who cannot defend themselves, and and violates every single one of a Boy Scout’s values. He’s a promoter of pornography, gambling, sexual infidelity, and sexual violence against women. While I wish that the current president did follow the Boy Scout law (Certainly America would be a better place if every leader lived out these values!), the current president’s words, actions, and history mock the best of Scouting. You knew that and you endangered the boys entrusted to your care at the National Jamboree. You were foolish to trust him near children. As a parent of a Scout, I’m not just angry or disappointed–I’m discouraged at your lack of judgment. I didn’t watch that speech and think ill of the children who likely don’t know this man’s history of crass comments, but I was motivated to re-evaluate BSA’s ability to identify role models for boys.
Instead of offering a mealy-mouthed non-apology, change your policy to nominate an honorary president from among the many political leaders we have who do encompass the values of a Boy Scout. And apologize. (Start with, “We displayed a lack of judgment in inviting a guest to speak who does not understand or embody Scout values.” This is true, and it is not an attack on Trump, as he is quite proud about his lack of values.) It will cost you the support of Trump voters, but your integrity is worth it.
Parent of X,
Scout Troop XXX