05/27/2014 05:11 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2014

Letter to Mr. Robert M. Gates, President, Boy Scouts of America

Mr. Robert M. Gates
Boy Scouts of America

Dear Mr. Gates:

I extend my heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of your inaugural as the 35th President of the Boy Scouts of America.

I read in your recent speech at the BSA's National Annual Meeting your outline of your vision for the Scouting movement. You said that "maybe it's time for some blunt talk." I agree that it's time for this.

I believe that one item in the blunt talk that America must hear about Scouting is the organization's role in forging America's youth. I had no previous experience, or contact, with Scouting until my son embarked on his journey from Cub Scout to Eagle Scout. I have observed in amazement how the wisdom and life experiences that Scouting gave my son ---made possible by Scouting leaders, parents and fellow Scouts--- have contributed to make him a stellar young man. I believe that, if every child in the U.S. had the opportunity to participate in Scouting, many of our woes as a country could be either solved or markedly improved in one generation. Scouting can be a strategic component of America's future strength as a nation.

The path to becoming an Eagle Scout is the best leadership training my son could ever have; or likely ever will have. Every child should have a real opportunity to become an Eagle Scout. Of course, parents' roles are critical for this. In an interview you stated that the single-most determinant factor in any Eagle Scout's achievement of the rank is his mother's role. In my family's case, this is undeniable. I believe that if an Eagle Scout exists, then there was at least one parent whose devotion deserves a "Procter & Gamble 'We Salute Mom's' hurrah." America must unabashedly celebrate Scouting. And Scouting must unabashedly celebrate America. All of America. Yes, Mr. Gates, it is time for some blunt talk; and it is also time for the BSA to move forward.

The core of the Scouting movement is its volunteer membership. Who should be part of this group? Of course, given our Constitution, membership eligibility is defined by the BSA. I wonder the following. Should I, as an obese father, be allowed the privilege and responsibility of being a role model for young scouts? Should I be granted permission to lead scouts in a camping trip? After all, I can hardly run 200 yards. What would happen if I needed to run a couple of miles to get help in an emergency? What kind of role model would I be for these impressionable young minds on nutrition and exercise? Would I transfer my un-wellness habits to them? Surely this should be taken into account when determining my suitability to volunteer in the BSA. Or should it? Yes, Mr. Gates. It is time for some blunt talk. And also to move the BSA forward. Membership in the BSA should be limited only by an individual's capacity to honor the Scout Promise and to keep the Scout Law, with his or her actions.

I wish you every success as BSA President. I believe that, in your's, the BSA is in most capable hands. Godspeed, Mr. Gates.


Manuel R. De Juan-vW.