Tonight, 45,000 Boy Scouts will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization’s founding at the Boy Scout National Jamboree, a quadrennial event being held at Ft. A.P. Hill, Virginia — just a short car ride outside of Washington, D.C.
President Obama was invited to attend this celebration of one of America’s most important institutions. But rather incredibly, he declined and appeared on an episode of The View with Joy Behar instead. If the president’s advisors had any sense at all, they would squeeze in a trip to the jamboree this coming weekend. He would find thousands of our nation’s future leaders exhibiting character, honor, and love of country, while having a whole lot of fun.
For more than seventy years, Boy Scouts have assembled every four years a jamboree. In 1937, President Roosevelt started the tradition by inviting all the nation’s scouts to participate on the National Mall. Never since has so much character and integrity been found in Washington, D.C., as when these 25,000 Boy Scouts were encamped around the Tidal Basin and Washington Monument.
The jamboree has become the grandest event in a grand organization. I had the joy of attending the 1981 event. Scouts participate in a marvelous week of character and confidence building, adventure, fun, and interaction with fellow Scouts from around the country and the world. The public can visit and see the jamboree fun firsthand at Fort A.P. Hill through next Tuesday.
As I noted, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, and our nation owes them a salute. In our age of fractured culture and frayed character, the Boy Scouts have endured. Some of our nation’s greatest leaders, innovators, and heroes are Eagle Scouts: Neil Armstrong, Steve Fossett, Bill Bradley, Stephen Breyer, Ross Perot, Gerald Ford, Clive Cussler, Ellison Onizuka, Louis Freeh, Steven Spielberg, and Elmo Zumwalt, Eagles all.
Central to Scouting are the ideals of honor, integrity, and character. The Scout Oath starts: “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God and country.” What simple but profound American ideals — doing your best, duty to God, honor, country. Perhaps Scouting is the prescription for what ails so much of modern America, whether it be shrill political discourse, cultural sloth, or outright lawlessness, whether inside government or on tough city streets.
I earned my Eagle Scout in 1984. Decades later, it is amazing how many problems in life are resolved by turning to the Scout law that every Scout knows by heart: a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Consider what a service this proud organization is doing for our nation by instilling these values in millions of Scouts who probably don’t hear much about these traits in schools these days. Imagine how much greater our nation would be if every young man followed these rules.
We live in an age of vanishing shared experience. Americans have different places to find news and different places to find music. The ties that bind us are corroding, and this is not good for our nation. But every four years, Scouts from sea to shining sea descend on the Washington, D.C., area for the jamboree. These Scouts preserve the “mystic chords of our memory,” as Lincoln more than once called the living history that binds our nation. He called these shared experiences the “pillars of the temple of liberty,” subject to crumbling unless we supply new pillars from time to time to keep the temple upright.
I saw hundreds of Scouts in Union Station last week. They were an amazing sight. Their exuberance, character, and love of America are on display for anyone to see this week at the jamboree. They are the real hope for America. It’s a shame our president can’t pay them a short visit and learn more about the great importance of Scouting.