The jamboree officially began on Monday, but Wednesday’s opening arena show made it feel like the party was just getting started.
This morning’s show at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree boasted an impressive guest list, great entertainment, and a spirit of patriotism. It all took place on a 395-foot-wide stage outfitted with three huge screens, dozens of lights, and powerful sound.
After a welcome by Anthony Thomas, the 2 millionth Eagle Scout, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates took the stage. Gates, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and past president of the National Eagle Scout Association, told about serving as a troop leader and director of the CIA at the same time.
That had its challenges, said Gates, pictured above addressing the crowd.
“I think the edge gets taken off the wilderness experience when 100 yards away there are three large black vans, a satellite dish, and armed security guards,” he said, drawing a laugh from the massive crowd. “It’s a challenge no scoutmaster ever anticipated.”
Gates said he’s thankful for the Boy Scouts of America for guiding him through his career’s early stages.
“When I joined the CIA at age 22, I had no connections and didn’t know a soul,” he said. “The only thing in my life that led me to believe I could make it was my Eagle Scout badge. It was the only thing that distinguished me from most high school kids.”
Gates was hardly the only noteworthy name in attendance at the arena show. Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca addressed the crowd, telling a story about how traveling in his BSA uniform led him to meet so many interesting current and former Scouts and Scouters.
Before Mazzuca’s speech, the show opened with a tandem of reality TV stars: Alex Boylan, winner of the second season of “The Amazing Race,” and Burton Roberts, who was a popular contestant on the Pearl Islands season of “Survivor.” Boylan and Roberts kept the Scouts entertained while the arena quickly filled with people.
Later, the crowd got pumped up by members of the WWE, sponsored by the National Guard. Included among the WWE personalities was Sgt. Slaughter, who offered this advice to the boys: “As you go through life, never, ever let your enemy eat your breakfast.”
The Scouts and Scouters also offered a warm welcome to Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, and Caressa Cameron, the current Miss America. Cameron offered some high praise to the BSA, speaking on behalf of her fellow Miss America contestants.
“You guys are the type of men in this world that we are looking for,” she said. “There might be a future husband of a Miss America in this crowd.”
Now that the jamboree has officially begun, more excitement awaits. Stay tuned. In the meantime, check out some photos from the show and the walk to it.