I am a Cub Scout leader, and more important, a dad. As a leader, I work, along with other parents, to try to teach boys many valuable lessons in Cub Scouts, lessons that reinforce the “Scout Law” that says, “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” We emphasize the importance of faith, serving your community, honoring country and learning about nature and science.
And as parents and scout leaders, we try to model these traits for our kids.
It’s more than unfortunate that our own president has difficulty exhibiting these traits when he speaks publicly to a national gathering of the Boy Scouts of America. During Trump’s recent appearance at the National Scout Jamboree, he bragged about his electoral victory, he railed against “fake news,” he called out the past president for not attending a Jamboree, and mocked his former campaign opponent for her failure. (Shockingly, some Scouts in the crowd even “booed” the reference to Hillary Clinton.) He swore, he made references to the importance of being rich and of sexual innuendo.
This was not the place for this talk, to children who are supposedly there to learn about honor, kindness and reverence. It was the opposite of what we leaders are working toward.
Yes, the president did indeed speak of Scout values and rightly thanked the moms, dads and other volunteer Scout leaders who dedicate countless hours to make the joy of Scouting possible for our children. But my youngest Cub Scout could have watched that speech and realized that no Scout should think of Trump as a role model. Trump boasted, he preened, he whined, he threatened — and he spoke about the importance of winning. Win, win, win, he chanted, as if he were channeling the Great Santini character in the well-known book.
Last fall, during the presidential campaign, my son’s Cub Scout pack organized a mock election to teach the boys about the U.S. electoral process. Our “candidates” were two different candy bars and, as the campaign manager for one of the candy bar candidates, I made a speech extolling the virtues of its taste, ingredients and manufacturer. I jokingly told the assembled boys that voting for my candy bar would “Make America Taste Great Again.”
One of our Cub Scout parent leaders, who is an elected official, spoke to the boys about the importance of voting in our democracy. He then organized a number of rounds of voting by all the dens to demonstrate the differences between popular votes and electoral votes. (Cub Scouts, which is organized under the Boy Scouts of America, is open to boys ages 6 to 12; they are divided by school year into dens. All the dens meet together as a pack.)
Our Cub Scouts enjoyed this mock election and we leaders were pleased that we could find a way to teach an important lesson in civics during what was then appearing to be a divisive campaign season for the country.
And then this “speech” at the Jamboree.
I want my children and Cub Scouts in our pack to succeed in life — I want them to win — but not by sacrificing other Scout values, such as honesty, trustworthiness, courtesy and kindness. Trump emphasized the importance of Scout’s loyalty and said “we could use some more loyalty,” but does he realize that loyalty is earned, not given blindly to those who hold a certain title or office?
Trump’s appearance at the National Scout Jamboree was certainly an honor granted due to his office. I have no objection to Boy Scouts inviting a sitting president to address the Scouts, as earlier presidents have done before. But now that Trump has disrespected the Scouts with his inappropriately bizarre performance, I urge the Boy Scouts’ leadership to state, unequivocally, that the president’s words and actions — and the unfortunate outbursts by some in the audience — set a poor example for the children we are trying to mentor into successful adulthood.
I imagine that the membership of the Boy Scouts tilts to the conservative side of the national spectrum. (Was Trump’s behavior what conservatives want to emulate?) I know there are diverse political beliefs among the parents of boys within my son’s pack. In our pack, we welcome diversity of beliefs, people and cultures.
I had respectful discussions about politics during last year’s election with a number of Cub Scout parents who hold different beliefs than my own. I am not searching for a political statement from the Boy Scouts, but I do feel that a forceful pronouncement about what makes a model Scout is warranted, especially in light of the president’s poorly delivered remarks at a Boy Scout event.
If I am to encourage my Cub Scout son to continue into Boy Scouts, I need to know that the Boy Scouts of America as an organization has the conviction and moral fortitude to oppose publicly divisive words and actions, no matter who the speaker is.
Steven Bosak is a D.C. resident and parent of a Cub Scout.