On Feb. 8, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 104th anniversary. It is one of only a handful of organizations chartered by the U.S. Congress and the president of the United States is its honorary president. Because of that fact, the BSA presents its state of the organization to the president each year. The presentation is done by using youth representing the various levels of the Scouting program to include Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Teams and Venture Crew members.
In 1950, at the opening of the second National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America (which occurs every four years), President Harry S. Truman said, What a greater nation this would be if the principles of Scouting could be woven more closely into our daily lives.
Some of those principles are written into the Scout oath and the Scout law. In the oath the youth promises to do his best to do his duty to God and country and to help other people, to keep himself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight and to practice the 12 points of the Scout law, which are to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
The Boy Scout progresses through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life in his goal to become an Eagle Scout. During this course, he has to earn at least 21 merit badges (some earn many more), and he has to give many hours of service to the community. He does this as he is learning to be a good citizen and a good leader. To become an Eagle Scout, the boy has to formulate a major service project for the community or his troops sponsoring organization. He has to plan out the project, obtain supplies and tools needed for the project, enlist several people to assist in carrying out the project and give leadership to the project and those assisting. This is like a final exam to test what the Scout has learned about leadership, citizenship and the objects of the Scout oath and waw. The requirements all have to be done before the boy reaches his 18th birthday.
There have been many great leaders who went through the Boy Scout program and became Eagle Scouts. A few that come to mind are Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon; Gerald R. Ford, president of the U.S.A.; H. Ross Perot, founder of EDS and Perot Systems and former candidate for U.S. president; Steven Spielberg, writer and movie producer; Thomas S. Monson, president of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Bill Bradley, former professional basketball player, U.S. senator and presidential candidate; Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and father of Bill Gates; J. Willard Marriott Jr, chairman and CEO of Marriott International; Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs television program; William Sessions, former federal judge and director of the FBI; John Tesh, recording artist and performer; Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City; Steve Fossett, world-record holder and first to circumnavigate the Earth solo in a balloon and an airplane; Guion Guy S. Bluford Jr., retired U.S. Air Force officer, space shuttle astronaut and first African American in space; Gary Locke, former governor of Washington and first Chinese American governor in the U.S.; William C. DeVries, M.D., surgeon and educator who transplanted the first artificial heart.
Many of these men were introduced to their field of endeavor when they earned certain merit badges on their way to becoming Eagle Scouts. Merit badges are glimpses into professions. The Scout, in doing the requirements for the badge, gets his feet wet in learning about that profession. It is often from these glimpses that the Scout decides on what he wants to do with his life. There are more than 120 merit badges, and the Scout is guided in earning the badge by volunteers. In fact, the Boy Scout program is a volunteer-run program. There are so many men and women who give of their time in training these boys to become our citizen leaders of tomorrow.
Like President Truman, I, too, wish that the principles of the Boy Scouts of America could be woven into the lives of everyone. What a better world this would be. Happy Birthday to the Boy Scouts of America.
Ruby Jacobs is a Dry Branch resident.