On July 24th, President Trump addressed an estimated 40,000 Boy Scouts, parents, and volunteers at the organization’s National Jamboree. The National Jamboree is a time when Boy Scouts from across the country come together to share ideas and perspectives to improve their local and global communities. I was appalled by Mr. Trump’s partisan address. I became an Eagle Scout in 2002 after 12 years in scouting. Growing up as a gay teenager in rural Appalachia, there were few opportunities to experience the world outside of my homogeneous hometown. Scouting provided an opportunity to learn about other cultural perspectives and helped me cultivate the self-confidence to complete medical school and become a psychiatrist at an Ivy League University. My local troop accepted and supported me after I came out, years before the Boy Scouts of America welcomed openly gay scouts.
As an Eagle Scout and a physician, I was shocked by President Trump’s divisive rhetoric in front of an audience he was meant to inspire. As I read his spiteful words and watched him paint a bleak view of humanity, I was reminded of the Boy Scout Law. The Law is a list of 12 virtues to which every Boy Scout must aspire. Mr. Trump violates every aspect of the Boy Scout Law and exemplifies the sort of behavior scouting seeks to discourage.
The Boy Scout Law states that every Boy Scout will be:
Trustworthy: Trust is a basic prerequisite for effective governance, and Mr. Trump has proven himself to be uniquely untrustworthy. At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump pledged “to do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” Then on July 26, 2017, he issued a seemingly unilateral ban on transgender people serving in the military. He was in support of the Iraq War before he was against it. He has said his campaign had no contact with Russian officials, only to later reverse course once his son and son-in-law were “caught.” His administration even fabricated phone conversations with Boy Scout leaders after his speech.
Loyal: For someone who vociferously demands loyalty from others, Trump is decidedly disloyal to even his most ardent supporters. I’m no fan of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but he stands as a prime example of what happens when Trump is cornered politically and in need of a scapegoat for his own professional (or personal) failings.
Helpful: Taking health insurance away from millions of Americans or restricting immigration to deny entry to those most in need are the antithesis of “helpful.” Deceiving thousands of Trump University students is not helpful. These policies and actions by Mr. Trump are damaging to everyday Americans.
Friendly/Courteous/Kind: Let’s consider these three elements of Boy Scout Law together because Trump often violates them simultaneously. The image of Trump viciously mocking disabled Washington Post Reporter Serge Kovaleski is the epitome of how unkind Trump can be. His public persona is built on a mixture of insult comedy and self-aggrandizement that violates even the most basic standards for Boy Scouts.
Obedient: Touching women sexually against their will (as Trump has bragged about doing) certainly qualifies as disobedient. Trump has proven he is willing to disobey conventional politics by firing the people in charge of investigating his campaign. Boy Scouts know that sometimes it is necessary to disobey laws to fight injustice. However, disobedience for personal gain is not part of the Boy Scout Law.
Cheerful: Trump seems cheerful at a rally of his supporters or when receiving round-robin compliments at his first full cabinet meeting. However, he seems to bristle at even the slightest dissent. In 2015, an 18-year-old college student questioned whether Trump was “a friend to women.” The next day presidential-candidate Trump singled her out on Twitter as an “arrogant young woman,” inspiring his supporters to flood her phone and even threaten her with sexual assault. Boy Scouts know how to take criticism; Trump just nurtures grudges and a thin-skin.
Thrifty: If ensuring he pays as little taxes as possible is thrifty, then I guess Trump scores points here. However, his penchant for gold-plated household accessories and tendency to brand buildings with an enormous T-R-U-M-P exemplify his “My-das” Touch. Additionally, Trump’s regular trips as President to his Mar-A-Lago resort cost millions of dollars. Boy Scouts prides themselves on being both thrifty and humble.
Brave: In 2015, then-candidate Trump said of Senator John McCain, “He’s not a war hero… he is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?” The Boy Scouts have a strong tradition of patriotism, and Trump is the Commander in Chief of the US Military. Insulting military veterans and so many others makes Trump a bully. In psychiatry, we know bullies are not brave; they are often scared and reckless.
Clean: I will not attempt to critique the President’s personal grooming habits. However, he certainly relies on filthy language. From crudely boasting about sexually assaulting women to calling comedian Rosie O’Donnell “a fat pig,” Mr. Trump uses language that most Boy Scout parents would find reprehensible.
Reverent: I would not think of questioning someone’s religious beliefs. However, the Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Special Counsel Robert Mueller is working hard to find out where Trump’s treasure is buried. Let’s hope he finds out before this President violates any more Boy Scout Laws.