Scouting a new stamp with a 100-year legacy
Let’s dial the clock back 50 or 100 years. Maybe even just 25 years ago. Then, most children enjoyed a wonderful sense of innocent wonder about so many things that were a comforting constant, a given, an absolute.
In his or her mind, every politician, policeman neighbor and relative was honest. People in the clergy were above reproach and safe. TV and/or radio were unwaveringly wholesome. Summer vacation was truly a vacation. And if you really wanted to be somebody, you aspired to be a Scout.
Without many exceptions, the current open-book lifestyles have compromised or eliminated that innocent wonder. Reality TV has nothing on reality life. Both have become about as strange as children might never have once imagined. But tucked away in a corner is a constant — becoming a Scout.
Some 102 years ago, a man named Robert Baden-powell created the original Boy Scout program. Now in 2012, we celebrate Juliette Gordon Low’s vision and practice of a “sister” program for girls. This month, Girl Scouts celebrated their centennial. It could be argued that the true anniversary will be in 2013 — I’ll explain why in a moment.
What’s great, if not magical, about scouting is how much of a continuum it really is. Technology may have changed some of what Scouts learn, but the basics are always there. Survival skills, outdoor adventures, learning about new areas of interest or hobbies, and of course, working as a team with others. All are essential to the experience.
Since the inception of Girl Scouts, more than 50 million girls have participated. In 1920, just eight years after the organization was formed, the first printed manual for girls was created. Today’s Girl Scout manuals echo the 1920 original by continuing to encourage girls to aspire to and above their potential. They underscore the equality of girls and the importance of “being a friend to all and a sister to every other Girl Scout.” That’s the kind of message you don’t hear much about these days.
That commitment to equality extends to the composition of the Scouts themselves. Originally, Girl Scouts were composed of Protestants, Catholics and Jews. The initial complexion was white. That too changed just one year later in 1913, when the first troop to include black girls was established. That’s the reason next year could be considered the true 100th anniversary. Of course, that may be splitting hairs, and, happily, divisiveness is not a part of scouting.
To the point of evening the playing field, last week an autistic individual accomplished a scouting milestone. Even though his impediments created barriers not experienced by his peers, he not only became a Scout, he achieved the highest possible honor — Eagle Scout. That puts him on the same plane as Gerald Ford, Steven Spielberg, Neil Armstrong and Walter Cronkite.
Another element of equality for Girl Scouts is a planned first-class “Forever” postage stamp to be issued in June that bears a striking resemblance to a stamp released for the Boy Scout centennial two years ago. (Yes, I would have released the stamp on the actual Girl Scout anniversary, but I suppose the USPS has enough on its plate.)
The upcoming Girl Scout stamp features a silhouette of a girl with a prominent ponytail about to look through binoculars at a distant outdoor scene. Behind her is another silhouette depicting a hiking girl with a walking stick and a backpack approaching a redwood-filled mountainside near a scenic lake. It’s exactly the type of scene that’s been iconic of scouting for every one of the past 100 years.
No information is available yet regarding first-day-of-issue cancels on the stamps for collectors, but as the date of issuance gets closer, I’ll be sure to let you know.
For Girl Scouts, this stamp can be more than something just used for mailing a letter. Stamp collecting is a classic merit badge. And with almost 2,000 stamps having been issued worldwide over the years on the subject of scouting, one of the stamps and a first-day-of-issue cancel could get you on your way to earning that badge. Happy to help.