Ideals of Scout­ing lost on cur­rent pres­i­dent

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - By ROBERT J. BYERS Tri­bune News Ser­vice © 2017 Robert J. Byers Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC

I don’t blame the Boy Scouts for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bizarre speech at the Na­tional Jam­boree in West Vir­ginia on Mon­day.

The U. S. pres­i­dent is, af­ter all, the hon­orary pres­i­dent of the Scouts. If he wants to speak at the Na­tional Jam­boree, it would be hard to say no.

I don’t blame the boys in the au­di­ence who took the bait and booed Hil­lary Clin­ton and Barack Obama or who chanted “USA! USA!” in re­sponse to Trump’s child­ish cues. They’re im­pres­sion­able kids.

I’m long past lay­ing blame at the feet of the elec­torate. It gets us nowhere.

And, hon­estly, it’s hard to even blame Trump. He’s just be­ing him­self — in­ap­pro­pri­ate, un­hinged, nar­cis­sis­tic.

But, as an Ea­gle Scout, I’m still dis­ap­pointed at what is yet an­other stain on the Boy Scouts pro­gram.

Af­ter fi­nally pulling it­self from the mire of dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay Scouts and lead­ers, Scout­ing is on a path to right the ship and lure an­other new gen­er­a­tion to its ranks. West Vir­ginia’s Sum­mit Bech­tel Fam­ily Na­tional Scout Re­serve, home of the Na­tional Jam­boree, is proof of that.

Through­out the past week, re­gional me­dia out­lets have shared nu­mer­ous sto­ries and pho­tos show- ing Scouts hav­ing fun and work­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties. We’ve also ex­plored the eco­nomic im­pact that 40,000 Scouts, troop lead­ers and oth­ers can bring to an area.

And, un­for­tu­nately, we’ve also shown how quickly all of that can be tar­nished for the ben­e­fit of one man’s ego.

Speak­ing to the chil­dren as if they were vot­ers, Trump said his elec­tion was “an un­be­liev­able tribute to you and all of the other mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple that came out and voted for ‘Make Amer­ica Great Again.’”

He re­counted the Elec­toral Col­lege break­down, try­ing for the umpteenth time to re­live the vic­tory he claimed on that night in Novem­ber. He re­vis­ited the Merry Christ­mas non- is­sue. He made false claims about the press. He made threats about the health care vote.

He ba­si­cally de­fied most of the 12 points in the Scout Law — you know, the one that in­cludes terms like trust­wor­thy, loyal, friendly, cour­te­ous, kind.

But, then again, Trump has made his pres­i­dency about de­fy­ing sto­ried Amer­i­can institutions. The free press comes to mind.

The back­lash against the Boy Scouts over Trump’s speech led the or­ga­ni­za­tion to put out a state­ment on Tues­day:

“The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica is wholly non­par­ti­san and does not pro­mote any one po­si­tion, prod­uct, ser­vice, po­lit­i­cal can­di­date, or phi­los­o­phy. The in­vi­ta­tion for the sit­ting U. S. pres­i­dent to visit the Na­tional Jam­boree is a long- stand­ing tra­di­tion and is in no way an en­dorse­ment of any po­lit­i­cal party or spe­cific poli­cies.”

Of course, that’s not re­ally a re­sponse, just a re­it­er­a­tion of the Scouts’ stance on these mat­ters.

The re­sponse has been largely panned as not be­ing strong enough.

I can’t say I’m sur­prised the Scouts wouldn’t say more. It would be a tricky move to come out and dis­avow some of Trump’s re­marks, em­bar­rass­ing their hon­orary pres­i­dent and mak­ing an enemy of the na­tion’s top loose can­non.

But, just for the sake of ar­gu­ment, what if the state­ment in­cluded a few more sen­tences:

“Fur­ther­more, the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica is first and fore­most about kids, about build­ing strong kids with a strong re­solve. It is about hon­esty. It is about suc­ceed­ing — with hu­mil­ity. It is about ser­vice and in­still­ing the drive to help oth­ers. It is about en­cour­ag­ing our peers to rise to the chal­lenge and of­fer­ing a hand when needed. It is about ci­vil­ity.”

That’s the Scout­ing that I re­mem­ber.

One man play­ing the fool can’t change that.

Robert J. Byers is ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of The Charleston Gazette- Mail, West Vir­ginia’s largest news­pa­per. His email ad­dress is rob­by­ers@ wvgazettemail. com.

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