A Boy Scout Jamboree or a Hitler Youth rally? (UPDATE)
Just as many other presidents have before him, Donald Trump addressed the Boy Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree. Unlike any other president, Trump turned what could — and should — have been a speech about Boy Scout values into a shameless and partisan political attack.
“Who the hell wants to talk about politics when I am in front of the Boy Scouts?” Sure, let’s get things started by swearing. As it turns out, Trump wanted to talk about politics, in ways bizarre, infuriating, embarrassing, and downright dangerous. Nearly everything he said went against every value in the Boy Scout Law.
The law says a Scout is:
- and Reverent.
Are those the words that come to mind when describing Donald Trump and his words and behavior in Glen Jean, West Virginia? Let’s look at the ways he dishonored the Boy Scouts in his Jamboree speech.
Was it Trustworthy to lie? To talk about politics when you just said you wouldn’t? To claim that the latest jobs numbers are the “best in 16 years,” when job growth was better under President Obama?
Is it appropriate to ask that Loyalty be directed mainly to yourself? Loyalty is directed to the country, not just one man.
Was Trump being Helpful in dividing the Jamboree into camps of Scouts who went to see him and those who went to an alternate event because they objected to what was bound to be the political nature of his address? Of course, they turned out to be right.
Was it Friendly to brag and dwell about your election victory over your political opponent? He just can’t get over the fact that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. And these Scouts were too young to vote, but not too young to be indoctrinated.
Is it Courteous to carp repeatedly about the “fake news” media? To a group of boys who have been camping for a week, not watching news?
Was it Kind to get the crowd to boo the nation’s first African-American president? Barack Obama addressed the 2010 Jamboree in a taped message; Trump falsely claimed Obama had never spoken to them. By the way, Obama was a Scout. Trump wasn’t.
Was it Obedient to ignore the Boy Scout law to keep the event nonpartisan? BSA guidelines say Scouts in uniform can attend a political event as part of a flag ceremony but may not take part in anything overtly political. Because this speech was as political and partisan as it gets, and some Scouts went against their own guidelines to wear “Make America Great Again” caps.
Was Trump being Cheerful when he threatened to fire a Cabinet member if the Affordable Care Act wasn’t repealed?
Did Trump demonstrate elements of being Thrifty with a bizarre story about a friend who sold his company for “a tremendous amount of money” and then had “a very interesting life” on board a yacht?
Is Trump being a Brave man when all he can stir up is self-adulation and hatred of others?
Was his language Clean when he swore in front of a crowd of Scouts?
Was it Reverent to revive the false “War on Christmas” meme, especially when there are Scouts of other faiths? Not to mention the fact that Christmas has nothing to do with a Scout Jamboree.
Trump did praise “the moms and the dads and troop leaders” and thanked the Scouts for upholding “the sacred values of our nation.” But those words pale in comparison with his partisan attacks.
A Washington Post story contrasted Trump’s address with that of past presidents:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the occasion to talk about good citizenship. Harry S. Truman extolled fellowship: “When you work and live together, and exchange ideas around the campfire, you get to know what the other fellow is like,” he said.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the “bonds of common purpose and common ideals.” And President George H.W. Bush spoke of “serving others.” …
Standing before all 40,000 of them, [Trump] bragged about the “record” crowd size, bashed President Barack Obama, criticized the “fake media” and trashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
New York Magazine ran a list of the 14 most “inappropriate moments” of Trump’s Jamboree speech. Perhaps the oddest and most inappropriate was the meandering story of real estate developer William Levitt, which hinted at sexual escapades aboard a yacht and described meeting him at a “hot” New York party:
“[Levitt] he sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. At the time especially — this was a long time ago — [he] sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go on any more than that because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did.”
“Should I tell you? Should I tell you?”
[Audience shouts, “Yes!”]
“Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life. So — look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right?”
“So, he had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate …” [Trump explains that years later Levitt bought his company back.]
“He so badly wanted it, he got bored with this life of yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored, too. Believe me. Of course, having a few good years like that isn’t so bad.”
Many current and former Boy Scouts nationwide are disgusted with the political nature of Trump’s speech, and how he took advantage of the address to turn it into a political moment to bolster his ego. It really was more like a Hitler Youth rally than a Jamboree. Tweets from many former Eagle Scouts and comments from parents and leaders on the BSA Facebook page show the outrage.
Boy Scouts of America needs to apologize for the embarrassment at the jamboree that goes by Trump. His speech was completely inappropriate and totally contrary to the scout values my boys have learned. I will be withholding donations and will not perform any fundraising for Boy Scouts until an apology is issued.
I’ll leave it up to my boys, but I don’t know if we as a family can continue with the Scouts after this. It breaks my heart. My 11 year old boy was upset about Trump long before I was paying attention, and he knows what comments he has made about women and minorities. How can he continue? Are my husband and I supposed to hide this from our kids? How could the Boy Scouts of America let this happen?
My father was an Eagle Scout and later a troop leader. He has supported scouting throughout his life, donating to fundraising every year. You’ll not see another dime of support from him or myself after today. The Trump “rally” today – and that’s exactly what it was- violates what scouting is suppose to stand for, on many levels! Trump’s speech was totally inappropriate- but, of course, that’s to be expected. The booing of a former president, a former scout, was Deplorable.
“The Boy Scouts of America must not, through its governing body or through any of its officers, chartered councils, Scouters, or members, involve Scouting in political matters.” (Rules and Regulations of the BSA, Section II, “Policies”)
The Boy Scouts of America organization, which embraces an awful lot of what’s right about growing up, has a poor record in areas like homophobia, although in recent years it is trying to correct that. The church we attend has a “Scouts for Equality” troop that was at the Jamboree but chose to attend the alternate event.
Personally, I’m a life member of the Girls Scouts, having spent time as a Girl Scout as a youth and nine years as an adult leader. Somehow, if Hillary Clinton (also a former Scout) had been president and addressed the Girl Scouts, I highly doubt that she would have turned her address into a partisan hate-fest.
If you’re a current or former Boy Scout, you can let BSA know how you feel. Call 972-580-2000 or 972-580-2489 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: The chief executive of the BSA, Michael Surbaugh, has now issued a statement about Trump’s speech.
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. … 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.
Good for the Boy Scouts.