Jamboree no place for politics
Foremost among the influential experiences of my formative life as a youth was my participation as a Boy Scout.
Wherever we lived, I was a Scout. I started as a Cub Scout, and belonged to three different Boy Scout troops. I filled my sash with merit badges of every kind, went to Scout camp every summer, was initiated into the Order of the Arrow, and attained the rank of Life Scout before our troop disbanded. I was later an Explorer Scout and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster.
I loved scouting. It challenged me physically and mentally, and spoke to my deep interest in being outdoors and in nature. It opened my mind to learning things I would never have known had I not been encouraged to try them. Scouting shaped my life. I learned about helping others.
Underlying it all were the grounding principles captured in the Scout Oath:
On my honor, I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
The Scout Law, which I can still recite from memory, calls for a Scout to be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.
When President Donald J. Trump addressed the Scouts’ Jamboree on July 25, he ripped his britches by turning his chance to set a high example of statesmanship into a sleazy partisan political stump speech that demeaned the office he holds.
For 80 years, every U.S. president has paid tribute to scouting. They have acknowledged the Scouts’ contribution to civic responsibility and the life values that build citizens and leaders. But Trump squandered the opportunity by making it all about him (surprise!) and took cheap shots at his predecessor while pandering to his young audience.
Trump’s shrill, aggressive bombast hearkened back to disturbing memorable scenes of thronging brown-shirted German mobs of Hitlerjugend spewing “Sieg, Heil!”
The Scouts are not political. They do not take partisan political positions. Instead they stress engagement by individual Scouts in civic affairs, voluntary service and active involvement in government at every level, regardless of party. The holder of the highest elected office in the land should set an example of thoughtful and challenging rhetoric that invites aspiring young men to be the very best they can be and to serve their community to the best of their abilities.
Does the man have a modicum of propriety? Does he have any sense of what is appropriate? It appears that he does not. To have a president of the United States brazenly brush aside the long-standing Scouts’ tradition that such an address is nonpolitical is a crass gesture of disrespect, and deeply disappointing.
His behavior indicates he thinks it is always about him. But it most certainly is not, especially at such occasions.
One thing is clear: Had Trump been a Scout, he would have been exposed to ethical behavior that models respect for others, and (perhaps) might have followed the Scout Oath and Scout Law instead of morphing into a self-centered, prevaricating, mean-spirited wheeler-dealer.
Throughout their lives, men who were Scouts have retained a moral compass and sense of service fostered by scouting that continues to serve them well. Scouts learn early that they must serve and be selfless, and to model proper courtesy as an example to others.
With this tainted and skewed outburst, Trump has offended untold numbers of former Scouts to the core by twisting the Scouts’ invitation into a politicized love-fest for himself. In so doing, he dishonored the Scouts and himself.
Shame on you, Sir.