Four meetings with cabinet secretaries yielded four strong responses to Scouting and the ways in which it prepares young people for life.
It’s safe to say that, thanks to the 10 terrific Report to the Nation delegates who represent 2.3 million outstanding youth participants nationwide, the BSA’s approval rating is high.
John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security
“I stand before you a former Boy Scout,” John Kelly said as he entered the conference room. “Life Scout. I didn’t make it all the way.”
Kelly grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Boston. At the time it wasn’t the most diverse area, he said.
“The first time I started to meet people of other colors, of other religions, of other nationalities was when I joined the Boy Scouts and went on jamborees,” he said.
At age 14, Kelly attended the 1964 National Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, Pa.
“It opened new vistas for me,” he said. “I would tell you that my introduction to what the greatest part of America is, was through Boy Scouts.”
Kelly considers Dr. Robert M. Gates, Distinguished Eagle Scout and former BSA national president, a “very good friend.” The two flew all over the world together to meet with foreign leaders.
“When he and I would just sit around and talk, he would always go back, somewhere in the conversation, to Boy Scouts,” Kelly said. “He talked about how that was fundamental to who he was as a man. As an American.”
Also worth noting are the remarks from Col. Alan Metzler, deputy chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security.
Metzler ran a law enforcement Exploring post in the 1980s — a revelation that thrilled Tyler Schutt, the National Youth Representative for Law Enforcement Exploring.
“So I know the enthusiasm and the commitment that Explorers bring to the post,” Metzler said.
Metzler said he was a Boy Scout and regrets not staying in longer. But he was involved long enough to know that Scouts don’t do it all alone.
“Scouting is built on the backs of a lot of amazing volunteers,” he said.
Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Scouting is part of the Tom Price family — both at home and at work.
As a Life Scout, his son caused his parents a bit of a scare when his 18th birthday — the deadline to earn Eagle — approached.
“Our son became an Eagle Scout, and he had 10 days to spare,” Price said. “Who got closer than that?”
Ron K., an Eagle Scout from North Carolina, said “I got my Eagle when I was 13.”
“Goodness gracious, you’re an overachiever,” Price said.
Striving to build bridges into Price’s department makes sense because of the BSA’s commitment to healthy living. Health and Human Services and the BSA would be natural partners in the fight against childhood obesity and our increasingly sedentary lives.
One other cool note: A personal aide to Price, John Twomey, is an Eagle Scout. He earned Scouting’s highest honor with Troop 77 of Atlanta. Twomey says a glance at Troop 77’s yearly calendar is what got him to register for Scouting.
“I saw Philmont on the radar and wanted to sign up and join,” he said.
Twomey said he never thought he’d work in a high-level position like the one he has. But he kept working hard every day, and now he’s there.
“I kind of keep looking around and saying, ‘are you sure? Are you sure I should be here?’ You know, there’s probably more qualified people,” he said. “That was the biggest thing I took from Scouting is that humility. No job, no matter how big or small, I’ll do with enthusiasm.”
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos also has a Scouting connection. Her husband was a Boy Scout and a Scout leader.
“He has quite a history, and he’s still involved with the council,” DeVos said. “It’s a great program.”
“Did he make it to Eagle?” asked Forrest Gertin, Eagle Scout and National Chief of the Order of the Arrow.
“He was just shy of Eagle Scout, and that’s one of his regrets as an adult,” DeVos said.
After posing for some photos and asking each delegate for his or her hometown, DeVos had some parting words.
“Thanks again for your commitment to Scouting,” she said, “and all the wonderful things that Scouting can do for you and for the nation.”
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State
Read my full recap of the Tillerson visit at this link.
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Photos by Michael Roytek and Randy Piland. See more photos here.