I’m proud to say that we have had a number of American presidents who were Scouts as they were growing up. The first Scout to become president was John F. Kennedy, a member of Troop 2 in Bronxville, New York. President Gerald Ford was– and remains today –the first and only president to earn his Eagle Award.
Historically, Scouting has been a good fit to help groom America’s great leaders. When you consider how the office of the President of the United States has always stood for leadership, commitment, civic pride, trust, integrity, strength and caring … those qualities fall very much in line with the values we teach our Scouts every day … based on the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
And it’s important to note that other great leaders have come from the ranks of Scouting to serve our country in other capacities. Former Defense Secretary Dr. Robert Gates – a Distinguished Eagle Scout – has demonstrated to our Scouts and this nation his commitment to his country as well as to the Boy Scouts of America by leading our volunteer force as BSA National President.
So it is poignant for me to pause and reflect as President’s Day draws near, how Scouting’s values mirror the traits of those strong leaders who have – and are – shaping our nation’s history. That Scouting leaders take such great care to teach these values to America’s youth and provide practical, hands on experience to grow leadership skills is a precise reason why our movement has and will continue to produce great men and women who lead communities and corporations, inspire change and innovation, and work for the greater good.
Several of our American presidents have reflected on this symbiosis as well:
“In a very real sense, the principles learned and practiced as Boy Scouts add to the strength of America and her ideals.” —President John F. Kennedy
“By developing among its members both a spirit of sturdiness, self-reliance, and a realization of the need for cooperative effort in every major enterprise, the (Scouting) movement is a prime force in preparing tomorrow’s men for their duty to themselves, their country, and their world.”—President Dwight D. Eisenhower
“In meeting the vital need that when the oncoming generation takes over our national affairs it shall be a generation bulwarked with character, the Boy Scout movement plays a most useful part.” —President Herbert C. Hoover
“The Boy Scouts have not only demonstrated their worth to the nation, but have also materially contributed to a deeper appreciation by the American people of the higher conception of patriotism and good citizenship.” —President Woodrow Wilson
As we look toward President’s Day, I urge my fellow Scouts and Scouters to think deeply about what makes a great leader … and reflect on how the Scouting movement offers the right training and ideals to bring new generations of strong leaders who will work for the greater good of our nation.
Yours in Scouting,