Thursday, July 27, 2017

President Trump Creates Stir Following Speech at Boy Scout Jamboree // Updated: The BSA Leadership Apologizes

(Originally written on 07/25/17): News started circulating last night about President Trump speaking at the Boy Scout Jamboree last night. There was an article that he swore during his speech. He said "hell," which made me shrug. I then went to bed and learn more about the president's speech -- and the reaction from the crowd. Trump started out by saying that he would avoid talking about politics -- before he began talking about politics. He got the crowd booing former President Obama. He got the crowd chanting "USA! USA!" after threatening to fire HHS Secretary Tom Price if the ACA didn't get repealed. He went after former Secretary of State Clinton. He went all over the place.

And the Boy Scouts loved it.

I'm a married gay dad. The BSA recruited my son into the Cub Scouts back in 2009 (I wrote about it here). This private religious organization recruited a boy that (at least back then) actively exercised its right to exclude people like his father.

This is what I wrote back then:
The big introductory meeting was tonight. Husband Mark opted to go with D'. We warned him immediately that we had some questions for the pack leader before we made a decision either way. Stuff like, will it be a problem that D' has two dads? Is there a risk that he'll be kicked out after getting established because some busy-body parent or troop leader throws a snit about us? 
Mark learned that the troop is sponsored by a local Methodist church. About 6 years ago, there was lots of drama within both the church and the troop about how they would respond to families like ours. We learned that we cannot become official leaders within the organization. The church is opposed to this and the pack would be disaffiliated by the national BSA. Otherwise, we're welcome to come to meetings, to be involved with activities, etc. 
We've reluctantly agreed to give the group a chance. Mostly because many of D's classmates are in the group and we know most of the parents involved with our individual troop and generally get along with them. I'm hopeful that we won't regret this decision. If D' wasn't so gung ho about joining up and getting involved, I wouldn't have even gone this far into the group.
In other words, we stayed for our son. And we were warned that we would be allowed to participate unless another Scout parent -- any Scout parent -- complained about our presence. Fortunately, D' quickly grew bored with the Cub Scouts and we were able to quit before we got in too deep.

But it always bugged me that Mark and I weren't "morally straight" enough to officially participate in our son's Cub Scout troop. And it really bugs me that President Trump -- with all of his personal and moral failings -- is not only morally straight enough to get invited, but that he was easily able to turn a politically neutral event into a political rally.

Pushback has been hard against the BSA -- some for inviting the president in the first place, and some for not stepping in after it became clear that this nonpolitical speech was clearly becoming a political rally. Not that there hasn't bee a lot of support for the BSA for Trump's speech yesterday.

The Hawkeye Area Council of the BSA finally issued a statement about three hours ago:
We have received many phone calls and emails this morning from those expressing their concern regarding President Trump’s remarks at the National Jamboree in WV yesterday. The Hawkeye Area Council values your input & feedback. 
As you may be aware, since the inception of the BSA in 1910, each sitting U.S. President has served as the Boy Scouts of America’s honorary president, regardless of their political affiliation or popularity. Eight of the 11 U.S. Presidents who were in office at the time of a National Jamboree attended the event in person to address the group, while others addressed the group remotely by video message. Although National BSA representatives suggest appropriate talking points with all speakers, and reminded the President of the BSA’s non-partisan stance and our policy of refraining from political comments, as you can imagine, the BSA has no authority or control over the content of the comments made by the President of the United States of America. 
The Boy Scouts of America, and the Hawkeye Area Council is apolitical and does not endorse or support political figures or specific political platforms. The President’s invitation was a longstanding tradition, and in no way expresses an endorsement or support of his comments. 
The BSA as an organization has emphasized leadership, integrity, respect and service to others for over 100 years, and has a great history of teaching youth positive morals and values. We hope youth at the Jamboree use this as an opportunity and lesson in America’s politics, and will continue to work hard to reinvigorate our communities and country with the lessons taught in the Scout oath and law that all Scouts strive to live by: (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent). America needs Scouting for our youth now, more than ever before. 
We appreciate your expressions of concern and take your messages as an important communication that will be shared with the National office headquartered in Irving, TX. 
*Anyone who would like to contact the BSA National Office directly regarding this topic, may contact them at 912-580-2489.
And there you have it. "Thanks for calling. We always invite presidents and they usually come. We tell them to keep it non-partisan, but obviously this one didn't listen. Thanks for calling, but why don't you call the national office instead?"

Don't get me wrong. I understand that my frustration is largely misplaced here. It was Trump's speech, not the organization's. Still, it really bugs me that they can throw their support behind this man so readily and yet it's still controversial that a pair of gay dads might actually want to be part of the BSA with their son.

Updated on 07/27/17: Michael Surbaugh, the Chief Scout Executive for the BSA, has finally issued an apology for this weekend's political jamboree:
Over the course of ten days, Scouts have taken part in adventures, learned new skills, made new and lasting friendships and completed over 200 community service projects that offered 100,000 hours of service to the community by young men and women eager to do the right thing for the right reasons.
These character-building experiences have not diminished in recent days at the jamboree – Scouts have continued to trade patches, climb rock walls, and share stories about the day’s adventures. But for our Scouting family at home not able to see these real moments of Scouting, we know the past few days have been overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States.
I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.
You can read the full apology here.

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