Do you know the story of George Washington and his father’s cherry tree? It goes that six-year-old Washington damaged a cherry tree with a hatchet. When he was confronted by his father, George bravely responded, “I cannot tell a lie … I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington’s father’s anger at the injury to the tree was replaced by joy that his son was so honest. It’s a tale that’s been passed down for generations, but ironically was made up by a biographer who was short on information about Washington’s early life, but took it as an opportunity to promote good values.
April 30 is National Honesty Day and interestingly, Washington’s ethos of honesty is a part of how that date was chosen when the holiday was created in 1990. National Honesty Day was created by M. Hirsh Goldberg, the former press secretary of Maryland, who chose the date of Washington’s first inauguration to celebrate. His rationale was two-fold, though, because he also felt April needed to end with a counterbalance to April Fool’s Day, which Goldberg felt celebrates deception.
While not a long-standing tradition in this country, National Honesty Day is a nice reminder of something we as Scouts should do every day. It’s a part of our law to be trustworthy.
Being trustworthy includes, but goes far beyond, just being honest. It means being dependable, being a person who lives up to their word and acts with integrity in everything they do. This portion of our law is why we can begin the Scout Oath with “On my honor.” It’s no small thing to lay on the line. Someone’s honor is made up of their honesty, integrity, reputation, how they treat others and how they act when no one is looking. It’s everything a person is. By giving our word at the outset of the Scout Oath, Scouts are promising to be guided by its ideals and we are measured by how well we live up to that promise.
These values are central to lessons our programs teach. Scouting builds a solid foundation of character, leadership, values and education that stays with a child for a lifetime. Independent studies have shown that our programs successfully develop character in young people, including increasing their trustworthiness. Establishing a strong foundation of values is key to preparing a young person to be a successful, responsible adult and the foundational element of ethical leadership, which we hope to inspire the next generation of leaders. I hope we all will take National Honesty Day as a reminder of the values we all share and an opportunity to reflect on the importance of trustworthiness.
Yours in Scouting,