No Place For Those Words
August 3rd, 2017
What happened in West Virginia last week made me angry.
At a President of the United States who would wield the Boy Scout National Jamboree as a political sledgehammer against anyone who may dare differ, as a shameful spoon to slather himself with praise and glory, as a sharp chisel to shape young minds in his image.
At the Boy Scouts of America who would give him that forum and remain silent after he so abused it.
And I was embarrassed.
As an Eagle Scout, as the father of one, as a former scoutmaster. And as an American.
But then, as he should have done, the head of the Boy Scouts of America apologized publicly and in writing for what happened on that stage.
And then, as they are taught to do, a Boy Scout came to my aid in writing.
Words matter, Mr. President.
As published in The Memphis Daily News, August 4, 2017, and in The Memphis News, August 5-11, 2017
“WHAT TRUMP COULD HAVE SAID”
After Trump’s narcissistic impolitic/political rant/speech at the Boy Scout National Jamboree, I didn’t know what to say. But when my daughter sent me an opinion piece from LNP, her paper in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I realized it had already been said.
“In a time when our politics divides us, the Scout Law reminds us of our duty to ourselves, to one another and to our country. It extols the virtues of citizenship; it centers our mind on service; and it reminds us of our fundamental duty to love our neighbors as ourselves.
“A Scout is trustworthy. He can trust his neighbor; his neighbor can trust him.
“A Scout is loyal — not to any one political party or ideology, but to his peers and to his country.
“A Scout is helpful. He knows that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. To that end, when he has a hand to lend, he lends it, trusting that the next time he needs a hand, someone will lend him one.
“A Scout is friendly, courteous and kind. He doesn’t need a reason to show kindness to someone else, and he doesn’t expect a quid pro quo.
“A Scout is obedient. Whether or not he agrees with a directive, he upholds it, and then later, if he believes it’s unwise, he seeks to change it through proper channels.
“A Scout is cheerful. He maintains a positive attitude even when circumstances appear bleak. When the challenges appear insurmountable, he puts a smile on his face and presses forward because he realizes the only permanent failure is a failure to put forth one’s best effort.
“A Scout is thrifty. He uses his time, his energy and his money wisely.
“A Scout is brave. He stands up for what he believes is right even if that means he stands alone. Faced with a moral dilemma, he turns inward to confirm what he knows is right rather than looking outward to see what the crowd is doing.
“A Scout is clean — in thought, word, and deed.
“A Scout is reverent. He puts God ahead of everyone and everything else. He trusts in the divine wisdom of the Lord Almighty to guide him along his path.
“When we realize that leadership means putting others before ourselves, remembering the words of the scout’s oath of office (I promise to do my best to be worthy of this office for the sake of my fellow scouts and my troop and the World Brotherhood of Scouting) — which never mention self-interest — we can put ourselves on the path to the more perfect union our nation’s founders envisioned some 241 years ago.”
Benjamin Pontz, a Gettysburg College sophomore and Eagle Scout, wrote that under the heading, “What Trump could have said.”
While what was said on that stage had little to do with scouting, Benjamin’s words remind us that what scouting teaches the 30,000-plus in front of the stage can make us better than what was said.
I’m a Memphian, and we deserve better than that.