What Shall We Tell the President?

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Here’s a question to ponder. If you knew a Cub Scout who was going to meet President Obama in the Oval Office, would you:

  1. Tell him how lucky he is to have that opportunity.
  2. Remind him to watch his manners.
  3. Suggest that he too could become president one day.
  4. Encourage him to tell the president to go to hell.

I raise this question because two Cub Scouts did get to meet the president recently as part of a youth delegation that presented him with the BSA’s Report to the Nation. When a photo of the event appeared on the Scouting magazine blog and Facebook page, a number of people who I assume are Scouters decided to vent their spleens with decidedly un-Scout-like comments. The prizewinner, in my opinion: “I wish that Cub Scout would have told Obamajad to go to [hell]. Lord knows Obama is against everything being a Cub Scout and Boy Scout stands for.”

So much for “A Scout is courteous”!

I totally get that many Americans don’t like President Obama–according to RealClearPolitics, 45.2 percent of Americans approve of his job performance while 49.8 percent disapprove–but the recent Scout visit wasn’t about this president; it was about the president. When a president meets with a bunch of Scouts or the winners of the Little League World Series, when he unveils his NCAA Tournament bracket, or when he leads the nation in mourning after some tragic event, he is acting more as the head of state than as the head of the government or the head of his party. You don’t have to love him to respect his office. (Perhaps we’d be better off if we were like those parliamentary democracies where the president is head of state and the prime minister is head of government.)

It’s also worth keeping in mind that every president since 1912 has served as honorary president of the BSA. That includes the first Eagle Scout president (Gerald Ford), the first president to resign from office in disgrace (Richard Nixon), and a host of other presidents that people either loved or hated depending on their politics. I think we should celebrate the fact that support for Scouting is a thread that runs through all their presidencies.

And one more thought. We as Scouters are called to teach our Scouts citizenship, not partisanship. Perhaps those of us who can’t tell the difference should go back and read the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge pamphlet.

Lest you think I’m an Obama partisan–and I’ve written before about why I keep my political leanings private–I’ll leave you with this comment from Thomas Kisner who is not:

Congratulations to the Scouts who earned this opportunity. For the record, I’m a very conservative Republican, and it is an honor to visit with the sitting President of the United States, no matter who is the current occupant of the office. Shame on all of you for suggesting otherwise. I’m not sure where you learned civics, but it wasn’t in the BSA.

Amen to that.

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2 thoughts on “What Shall We Tell the President?

  1. In Scouting, generally no one would ever know my political leanings. With my Cubs, the civics that we do are usually local, which in Texas is usually non-partisan (City Council / School Board, etc – candidates don’t run as Republicans or Democrats). In this case I thought it would underscore my credibility how incredibly wrong and frankly shameful their comments were. Scouting is non-partisan and non-sectarian, period.

  2. Scouting is supposed to be non political. Parents should leave their politics at home while participating in any Scouting activities. They sure wouldn’t like me indoctrinating their kids with my political beliefs. I would prefer they show the same level of restraint with my kids. Unfortunately that is not always the case. It is something that people have to be reminded of especially when new kids join the troop. Some people naturally assume scouting is a politically conservative organization. It is not. Scouting is about teaching boys how to be self reliant, self assured, self aware. It is about teaching them how to plan and how to lead. You can talk to your kids at home about politics.

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