Most American presidents are invited to the Boy Scout National Jamboree, but while many attend the event and speak, a significant do not. Would that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, had passed up the invitation. What ensued when Trump addressed the Scout gathering sounded more akin to Adolph Hitler addressing a gathering of Hitler Youth members. Rather than being uplifting and talking about good citizenship and living by the Scout Law, Der Trumpenführer attacked the mainstream news media, sought to illicit boos against Barack Obama, and made the speech into a political case of verbal diarrhea aimed at harming anyone not swearing fealty to "Dear Leader." While cheers were heard on the audio of Trump's rant, many in attendance and others with strong ties to the Boy Scouts were not happy and the supposedly non-partisan non-profit organization felt compelled to distance itself from Trump's political and personal attacks. Coverage in the Washington Post looks at this vile and inappropriate screed by a man who sounded more like a peevish child that the president of a global super power. Here are highlights:
Trump’s speech at the Jamboree in Mount Hope, W.Va., broke with years of tradition — presidential traditions and Scouting traditions both. Past presidents had used these moments to extol American exceptionalism and civic virtues — such as service and honesty — that have long been pillars of the Boy Scout ethos.
Trump did a little of that before veering into a speech about his own exceptionalism.
“It pivoted to essentially a typical Trump rally. And it was not a campaign-rally audience. It was an audience of young boys and young men, who’ve come from around the country to celebrate Scouting,” said Robert Birkby, a former Eagle Scout who wrote three editions of the Boy Scout Handbook. “He did not share in the event. He shared of himself.”
By Tuesday, Trump’s speech had prompted a backlash from many current and former Scouts and their families, who say it was not only inappropriate but also undermines efforts to diversify and modernize the century-old organization.
On social media and in interviews, many said they thought national leaders should have cut short or condemned the speech, which included strong language — “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” — and a reference to cocktail parties attended by “the hottest people in New York.” Trump at times tried to raise issues more traditionally discussed at Boy Scout gatherings, such as character and perseverance. But he also lingered on his campaign fight against Democrat Hillary Clinton and seemingly joked about firing his health and human services secretary over Republicans’ inability, so far, to pass health-care legislation.
By midday Tuesday, the organization’s Facebook page included hundreds of comments from former Scouts and parents of Scouts, calling for the organization to make a stronger statement condemning the speech. Many threatened to pull out of Scouting.
The controversy comes as the venerable organization, which has promoted civic engagement and character development among children since 1910, strives to stay relevant and appear inclusive. Membership in the Boy Scouts has dwindled by a third since 2000, to just more than 2 million as of 2016.
The organization has sought to reach out to Hispanics through its Valores para Toda la Vida (Values for Life) program. It founded its co-ed Venturing program, which focuses on outdoor exploration for teens and young adults, in 1998 and has opened some of its other programs to girls, though so far not its prestigious Eagle Scout program. The organization rescinded its ban on gay members in 2014 and in January announced that it will allow transgender members.
The efforts have in part been an effort to keep from driving away parents and students in more liberal areas of the country, said Alvin Townley, a Georgia-based author who wrote “A Legacy of Honor,” a history of the Eagle Scouts, who have earned the highest level of achievement in the organization. He suggested that the political nature of Trump’s speech undermines that goal.
“No president has used the Jamboree as a backdrop to advance a political agenda. . . . . And Scouting’s vitality relates directly to its inclusion of people from different backgrounds and different perspectives.”
Trump’s remarks were the last straw for at least one former Scout. Eric Styner, 31, who works in quality assurance at a technology company in Seattle, said Tuesday that he had decided to renounce his status as an Eagle Scout.
Styner said he gradually became alienated from the Scouts, beginning at age 14, when he was rankled by the requirement that a Scout profess a belief in God to pass his Eagle Scout Board of Review. He was further disillusioned when the Scouts held fast to a gay ban even after many states had legalized same-sex marriage. Trump’s speech clinched it, he said.
Some defended the organization, saying that it did the right thing by inviting Trump. The problem, they said, was Trump.
For the record, I was a scout as was my son. That said, I have become increasingly disillusioned with the Boy Scouts which seems to aligned with Christofascists and pushes an anti-gay, anti-minority agenda. That Trump was allowed to engage in such an inappropriate and dishonest rant makes me more resolved to make sure that my grandsons are not scouts.