Acknowledging Our Times

1946 Handbook for Boys

In light of current events, I feel that scouts should keep themselves mentally awake to the events around them. As Scoutmaster of our troop, this message won’t endorse any ideology besides the mission of Scouting and its history.

My father’s Handbook for Boys from 1946 states: 

“Scouting is neither military nor anti-military. It carefully avoids political or commercial entanglements.

Scouting knows no race or creed or class. Troops are found in Catholic Parish, Jewish Synagogue and Protestant Church. It is available both to farm and city. It is found in schools–it serves rich and poor alike, It’s aim is to help each of these boys to become the best citizen that he can make himself.”

We don’t wear our uniforms to political events like rallies or protests. We can serve in official functions, providing color guards, but if you attend a political event, you must change out of your uniform after serving your ceremonial duties. Scouting respects the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

We grow leaders from the youth in our communities, including political leaders. Most of the US presidents of both parties, born in the 20th century were Scouts, but only Gerald Ford was an Eagle Scout. In addition to elected US leaders, other Scouts like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Ernest Green of the Little Rock 9, led Americans to challenge unjust laws and to promote civil rights so that our nation would live up to the words that, “all men are created equal.”

BSA is one member of the larger World Organization of Scouting Movements, a worldwide, youth led movement for peace, even from its inception which continues today. Scouts come together peacefully from Israel and the Palestinian Territories. One of the first youth organizations in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban was the establishment of Scout troops. It is understandable then, that in January 1933, the Hitler Youth adamantly claimed that the Scouting movement “had become a place of refuge for the young enemies of the new state.”

In contrast to today’s public image as a quaint old-fashioned organization, Scouting was once seen as dangerous. “…The Ku Klux Klan had strongly denounced the Scouts for even having segregated black troops. They claimed the BSA was a puppet of the Catholic Church, and it was not unheard of for Scout Jamborees and rallies to be broken up, often violently, by the Klan.”

Lending a helpful hand and doing a good turn for others remains the hallmark of a Scout’s job well done. I have seen several writers who say that our nation has reached an inflection point, a defining moment. We have seen significant events in the last few months, from the pandemic to protests in our streets. There is a sense that civic involvement may have been awakened in our great nation. 

Scouting has also changed, becoming more inclusive of all youth. Brothers and sisters can now serve together from Cub Scout to Eagle and Venture Scouting. I hope and believe that whatever changes we see around us, Scouting will be here to provide the leaders we will need.