An Open Letter To Chief Scout Executive Michael B. Surbaugh

By your own rules, the Jamboree must not be made a youth rally for any political figure or campaign.
07/26/2017 12:49 pm ET Updated Jul 26, 2017
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Ours is a Scouting family. We joined Cub Scouts at 10 and 8, respectively. We joined Boy Scout Troop 24 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania as soon as we were eligible; and we both became Senior Patrol Leaders of that troop, for a combined four years. Our father joined us at every Monday Troop Meeting and attended nearly every one of the 27 nights a year our Troop spent camping up and down the Eastern Seaboard. We attended summer camps from Maryland to Canada. We spent ten combined summers working as counselors at Ockanickon Scout Reservation. We were leaders of our Troop’s Venture Scout program and have hiked hundreds of miles with our Scouting brothers. We have spent hundreds of nights between us camping under the stars following the tradition of Scouting. We are both Order of the Arrow, and we are both proud Eagle Scouts.

We both have young sons, who we hope will share our love of the outdoors and join their own Scout troops someday. But we will insist that they join a scouting organization that will teach them the values of citizenship and leadership, without subjecting them to involuntary indoctrination by the intolerant. We are appalled by Chief Scout Executive Michael B. Surbaugh’s decision to invite President Donald Trump to deliver the keynote address at the Boy Scout Jamboree this week.

The Scout Law states that, “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” There is no person in American society today who less embodies the laws of Scouting than President Donald J. Trump, and so we were unsurprised that the President chose to deliver a speech that was xenophobic, jingoistic, riddled with petty political attacks, and which violated, over forty rambling minutes, every tenet of the Scout Law.

To Mr. Trump ― is it trustworthy to continue to reference the size of your Inauguration Day crowds relative to President Obama’s, despite the fact that your repeated claims are demonstrably false? Did it demonstrate loyalty for you to threaten to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price if he can’t get the votes to overturn the Affordable Care Act? Do you feel brave or courteous attacking Hillary Clinton so many months after the election has ended? Is it reverent to tell Muslim or Jewish scouts that “under the Trump administration you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again”? Is it the obedience of a mob crowd that you seek when you encouraged the gathered Scouts to boo Ms. Clinton or President Obama? is it cheerful, kind, courteous, or friendly to repeatedly solicit jeers from a crowd of impressionable young men?

To adult Boy Scout leaders from across America, shame on you. The boos and jeers from the crowd Monday were not reflective of the Scouting we grew up with. Allowing your Scouts to participate in Monday’s farcical and disturbing demonstration, and in some cases, to participate in it yourself, are a stain on Scouting.

Prior to the event, Mr. Surbaugh sent out a message to volunteer adults and employees of Scouting, stating that “chants of certain phrases heard during the campaign (e.g. ‘build the wall,’ ‘lock her up’) are considered divisive by many members of our audience, and may cause unnecessary friction between individuals and units.” These tacit suggestions never indicate that these phrases are considered divisive by the Boy Scouts of America.

But by acknowledging the divisive nature of Donald Trump’s presidency, you recognized that inviting such a man was creating a scenario that encouraged friction. You did so in such a way as to make yourself seem blameless, but the BSA taught us to take responsibility for our actions. And your actions run counter to the very rules and regulations of Scouting, which state that “[t]he Boy Scouts of America must not... involve Scouting in political matters.“

Mr. Surbaugh, by your own rules, the Jamboree must not be made a youth rally for any political figure or campaign. Scouting, for us, is a deeply warm community of people of strong ideals and morals, a place to teach and encourage citizenship, not partisanship. It was among the primary formative elements of our youth, and it made us who we are today. But this week, Scouting bears no resemblance to that community. By allowing this political speech to take place during a Jamboree, you have cast our lot in a political sphere in which Scouting has no place, and you have forgotten the face of Lord Baden-Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts in 1910. You must resign, along with Scouting President Randall Stephenson and Jamboree Chairman Ralph de la Vega. All three of you now have the responsibility to show the Scouts under your care how to take ownership over a bad decision.

When you do resign, then for the first time this week you will have exercised your leadership in a way that commands our respect.

Travis and Tyler McCann

Eagle Scouts, Boy Scout Troop 24

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