Trump’s ad­dress to Scouts: A bad turn

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion -

The Boy Scouts are com­mit­ted to Good Turn projects. The good deeds that ben­e­fit in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties and so­ci­ety, as a whole, are demon­strated in many ways by mem­bers. Those con­cepts are re­in­forced dur­ing the Na­tional Scout Jam­boree, a gath­er­ing of tens of thou­sands of young­sters from around the world. They con­vene to em­brace the ideas of ser­vice, cit­i­zen­ship and global diplo­macy.

For 80 years, Amer­i­can pres­i­dents have been speak­ing to the jam­boree and on July 24 in West Vir­ginia, Don­ald Trump was among those who de­liv­ered his mes­sage in per­son. Those who have been un­able to at­tend have sent video mes­sages or some­one to speak on their be­half, as First Lady Nancy Rea­gan did for Pres­i­dent Rea­gan in 1985. It’s a tra­di­tion that dates back to the first Jam­boree in 1937. Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt posed for pho­to­graphs, awarded an Ea­gle badge and chat­ted with Scouts who swarmed his tour­ing car.

Since that first jam­boree, pres­i­dents have fo­cused their talks on con­cepts that com­pli­ment the goals of scout­ing and re­in­force points of the Scout’s Law. A Scout is trust­wor­thy, loyal, help­ful, friendly, cour­te­ous, kind, obe­di­ent, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and rev­er­ent. For ex­am­ple, Roo­sevelt talked about good cit­i­zen­ship. Harry S. Tru­man dis­cussed the im­por­tance of fel­low­ship: “When you work and live to­gether, and ex­change ideas around the camp­fire, you get to know what the other fel­low is like,” he said. Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower spoke of uni­fi­ca­tion – the “bonds of com­mon pur­pose and com­mon ideals.” And Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush spoke of “serv­ing oth­ers.”

The speeches are avail­able on­line via your pre­ferred search en­gine. When Bill Clin­ton spoke to the Scouts in 1997, it was the 60th an­niver­sary of the first jam­boree, and Clin­ton fo­cused on peo­ple do­ing “good turns” for one an­other. “If every young per­son in Amer­ica would give back to their com­mu­nity in the way you do, just imag­ine what we could do,” he said. “Imag­ine how many fewer prob­lems we could have. So many times I have wished that every young per­son in Amer­ica had the chance to be a part of Scout­ing. And tonight I see why, more clearly than ever. So I hope you’ll go home and help oth­ers to serve and learn the joy that you share by the ser­vice you do.”

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush ad­dressed the Scouts in 2001 and 2005. The sec­ond speech came at a time of grow­ing na­tional ten­sion over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: “Lives of pur­pose are con­structed on the con­vic­tion there is right and there is wrong, and we can know the dif­fer­ence,” Bush said. “You’ll find that con­fronting in­jus­tice and evil re­quires a vi­sion of good­ness and truth.”

Pres­i­dent Obama didn’t at­tend the jam­boree in 2010, which marked the 100th an­niver­sary of the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica. But he did send the Scouts a video­taped mes­sage prais­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s his­tory of com­mu­nity ser­vice and legacy of pro­duc­ing na­tional lead­ers. He noted that 11 of the 12 peo­ple who walked on the moon were Scouts. “That ser­vice is worth cel­e­brat­ing, but there’s still more to do,” Obama said. “In the years ahead we’re go­ing to de­pend on you, the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers, to move Amer­ica for­ward.”

In keep­ing with the

Scouts’ tra­di­tions, the pres­i­dents and sur­ro­gates who have rep­re­sented them have stayed away from par­ti­san pol­i­tics – un­til last week. “Who the hell wants to speak about pol­i­tics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” Trump said in his opener to about 40,000 Scouts.

Then, in typ­i­cal Trump style, he broke with pres­i­den­tial tra­di­tion. News re­ports indi­cated that he bragged about the “record” crowd size, bashed Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, crit­i­cized the “fake me­dia” and trashed Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. In the lengthy 35-minute speech, the pres­i­dent threat­ened to fire his health and hu­man ser­vices sec­re­tary if he couldn’t per­suade mem­bers of Congress to vote for the Repub­li­can health-care bill. At one point, he told a ram­bling story about a con­ver­sa­tion he had at a New York cock­tail party with a once-suc­cess­ful home builder who “lost his mo­men­tum.” The les­son, ap­par­ently: “You have to know whether or not you con­tinue to have the mo­men­tum. And if you don’t have it, that’s OK.”

Through­out the ad­dress, Trump did praise “the moms and the dads and troop lead­ers” and thanked the Scouts for up­hold­ing “the sa­cred val­ues of our na­tion.”

A friend of mine who has four sons clearly was dis­ap­pointed by Trump’s mes­sage: “All my boys are in scout­ing,” he said in a so­cial me­dia post. “We re­fer to the Scout Law as the ideal on how to live. As a re­sult, the boys rou­tinely point out how the pres­i­dent does not fol­low most of its points. I can’t ar­gue with them. Sad.”

I agree. We all fall short and none of the past pres­i­dents were per­fect, but they did of­fer speeches in keep­ing with the mis­sion of Scouts. Trump de­liv­ered a mes­sage that was in­ap­pro­pri­ate for his scout­ing au­di­ence. As my friend said, sad.

(Shea Wil­son is the for­mer manag­ing ed­i­tor of the El Do­rado News-Times. Email her at melsheaw­il­ Fol­low her on Twit­ter @sheaw­il­son7).

Shea Wil­son

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