Wednesday, January 30, 2008
A Dying Breed: Boy Scouts Need Your Help
My father was quick to remind me earlier this week that today marks the 98th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America program. The Scouting program itself began with Lord Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 when 'LBP' opened a camp for boys on Brownsea Island. The following year, Baden-Powell created The Boy Scout Association. Then, in 1909 a scouting legend...'the scout in the fog' helped inspire W.D. Boyce to bring the principles of the scouting program back home to the United States.
A native of a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, W.D. Boyce jump-started the program on this side of the pond by establishing the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. Now nearly a century later, nearly three million young men participate in the program nationwide. But a quick check of the BSA's statistical breakdown shows a rising (or falling) problem. They are losing members. The numbers are down in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and in Venture Scouting. However, there is an increase in the amount of high school students participating which shows that older boys are valuing the program. However, there are less people to lead them because there is also a noticeable drop (1.4%) in total Scout leaders.
It's not a new trend. Here's the youth Scout totals over the last four years that the BSA has publicly reported to date:
Slight, but noticeable drops with each passing year. While the BSA has known about this issue for years, the country has yet to rally around their cause. It's because the government and our civic leaders are afraid to publicly support the program.
All of the negative press the Scouts have received, from membership controversies to an over-exaggerated history of sexual molestation cases, the Scouting program has been pounded with verbal salvos from the media and misinformed parents and/or community leaders. The message of the program has been lost.
College fraternities and 'old-boy' social groups like the Masons claim to value strong principles and to improve the lives of their members. But only the Boy Scouts consistently meet the challenge.
By simply reading the Scout Oath and the Scout Law one can see all of the qualities we would want our own sons to cherish. The qualities and principles that many of us adults forget to honor.
"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
When was the last time you met those criteria everyday.
"A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent."
Twelve points to live by that are seared into the memory of Scouts and Scouters across the world.
Scouts are taught to truly operate throughout their daily lives while applying the Law and Oath to every person, situation and obstacle they encounter. And it works.
I was born into a 'Scout family.' My father served as a Scoutmaster from the time he was 18 until last year. From 1964-2007. Think about that. And from 1984 until this very moment, he's watched me grow from Tiger Cub to father of two.
I know my father reads these blog entries. He's probably the only one. But here's something he may not now. When I was hovering between the ages of 11-13, I wanted to quit the Scouts.
I wanted to quit the program because I was tired of working on something non-school related. I went to my Mom about it. She told me to have an honest discussion with my Dad. I remember telling him once or twice that I needed to 'take a week off' from our meetings. I don't recall ever telling him what I really wanted to do.
But you know what...I'm sure he knew exactly what I really wanted. But he never relented. And he never took a week off.
And that taught me what I needed to know about the BSA and life in general. Life doesn't take a week off. And neither do the people who need you.
The Boy Scouting program needed my father. And he answered the bell every time.
I got the Eagle Scout award at the age of 16. My Dad (a lifetime Life Scout who uses the fact he never achieved Eagle as a way of inspiring his scouts) stood in the back of the room and wore one the biggest smiles I've ever seen.
Years later, I still remember that smile. I remember the joy of that accomplishment.
I remember making my father proud. I lived my whole life for moments like that.
Today I wear an Eagle Scout pin on my tie in celebration of the program that made me the man I am today. Along with the influence of friends and family, the Boy Scouts shaped my soul.
I owe the program for that. I owe my son the same opportunity my Dad gave me.
And you owe it to the men in your life.
The Boy Scouts may be one of the only programs left in our country that can truly help build the foundation for boys to become good men.
Do your part to keep it alive.