Boy Scouts mark 100 years with a Washington march
WASHINGTON — Cyclists, tourists and the occasional jogger stood out in the sea of Boy Scout troops wearing tan shirts, green shorts and thick green-and-red socks — some rolled hastily down to their ankles. Spectators lined the sizzling sidewalks along Constitution Avenue in clusters wherever they could find shade.
The troops and accompanying bands were all smiles and appeared to be unaffected by the heat as they marched to celebrate the group’s 100th anniversary.
The Grand Centennial parade marked the first time since 1937 that Boy Scout troops had marched through Washington.
On Sunday, troops young and old marched in the parade, and some stood cheering. Among them was Ted Parker, 71, of Oakton, Va. He joined Troop 1956 as a child in Portsmouth, N.H., and said he made lasting friendships while learning values that served him throughout his life.
Parker said most of the troops marching Sunday were probably too young to understand the importance of the program’s moral teachings, — such as being honest, respectful and open with others. Time, Parker said, would unveil the importance of these values to the young men.
“They grow up and they’re confronted with various issues throughout life, and I think they see the meaning,” he said. “As I come here and watch, it’s sort of generational in many ways.”
Bob Hoffman, 46 of Ijamsville, Md., stood on Constitution Avenue next to his 11-year-old son, Hunter — a third-generation Boy Scout.
Scouting “teaches young men and women how to think for themselves, how to work as teams,” Hoffman said. “It really gives them a good tool set for handling things in the future.”
To Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive for the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America, there was no place better than Wash- ington for troops to celebrate 100 years of service, even if they had to do so in blazing heat, oppressive humidity and then a thunderstorm.
“This is where it’s at,” he said. “We’re part of the fabric of American society and have been for 100 years. So there’s no more appropriate place to proclaim that than the capital.”
In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Mazzuca discusses the challenges the organization faces as it enters its second century.
Membership has been declining for five years, and smart phones, iPods and laptops present stiff competition to a youth organization based on camping, hiking and quaint practices such as taking care of a pocketknife.
The challenge is how to reach out to families and convince them that Scouting is worth their time.
“I couldn’t spell ‘blog’ two years ago,” Mazzuca said. “Now I write one.”
Today, a tradition-bound organization must change without abandoning its core mission and values, Mazzuca said.
He talked about three specific areas targeted for change:
Integration of new technology into Scouting programs. This includes small things, such as a new uniform pocket for a smart phone, and large ones, such as a partnership with MIT to help Scouts earn a newly created Inventing merit badge.
Focus on bringing more Hispanic boys into Scouting. The Boy Scout Handbook has been translated into Spanish. But Mazzuca said it will take more than translating Anglo concepts into Spanish. “It means understanding what resonates in a community,” he said.
Becoming advocates for children’s health. “We are now talking about the first generation in history that is likely to be less healthy than the previous generation,” he said. In 2011, Scouting will launch an initiative to improve child health. “We have not positioned ourselves as advocates for children,” Mazzuca said.