Boy Scouts mark 100 years with a Washington march

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Phillip Lu­cas

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.

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