Scout­ing a new stamp with a 100-year legacy

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - PETERTERRY M. REXFORDKOVEL

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.

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