As the Boy Scouts of America revealed the decision to become co-educational, numerous articles have been posted in response. As an Eagle Scout, I can attest to the great impact scouting had on my development as a boy, and the impact of the role modeling provided by my Scoutmasters and the adult volunteers for our troop, Troop 724, all of whom were either Special Forces officers or NCOs, or officers or NCOs in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The potential for and importance of shaping the moral character of youth cannot be understated, as youth eventually grow to influence others in all aspects of life, even to the highest levels of leadership. As we consider a deficit in moral leadership on so many levels of public service and private enterprise, I am reminded of President Gerald Ford's response to an accusation that he was too much of a Boy Scout in his leadership approach to the presidency. He said in retort,
“It has recently been said that I am too much of a Boy Scout in the way I have conducted myself as president, and so I reviewed the Boy Scout laws and Boy Scout oath. They say that a Scout is ‘trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.’ … And the Boy Scout oath is, ‘On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout laws, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’ Well, if these are not the goals of the people of the United States, what they want their president to live up to, then … either you have the wrong man or I have the wrong country.”
While I believe there are strong benefits to having youth development programs that are not co-ed, the decision has been made, with numerous considerations, to make Scouting a shaping opportunity for boys and girls together. If the moral foundations are not only remembered, but infused to the children who participate in scouting, developing them through rigorous challenge, that comes through growing to respect, love and embrace the power and beauty of nature and nature’s God, Scouting will continue to impact our nation by producing strong potential leaders who will not shy away from responsibility in the face of difficult times.
Our nation needs dependable leaders, male and female, at every level in every neighborhood, in every state who will live by a code that guides them to consider others beyond and before themselves and who have the moral toughness to stand firm in their convictions, defending the weak, walking in goodness and standing for justice even under pressure to preserve themselves, positions of influence and the perks of power. If we as a nation, can revive Scouting to be available to all who desire to take on its adventurous challenges and willing to abide by its code, what an accomplishment that would be. Let us hope that the changes proposed will grow a cadre of strong men and women who are willing to abide by the dictates of this timeless oath:
“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Let us “Be Prepared” by seizing this opportunity to develop strong women and men to lead our nation. The challenges in this world require it. The future demands it.
Brownsea 22 Camp, BSA, Camp Reeves, NC 1976