1964 editorial wonders: What if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Boy Scout?

Today’s about remembering the life of John F. Kennedy, but it’s impossible to do so without mentioning Lee Harvey Oswald.

Kennedy was the first president to have been a Boy Scout, and earlier today I offered an in-depth look at Kennedy’s involvement with Scouting and strong positive opinion of the organization.

It’s clear our 35th president’s life was improved by his involvement in Scouting. But what if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Scout? Would it have altered his life’s course? Would he never have taken that history-defining shot?

That’s just what California Scoutmaster Robert W. Wiley posited in the July-August 1964 issue of Scouting magazine.

I recently uncovered his editorial while browsing Scouting magazine’s digital archives, and I wanted to share it with you. Full text after the jump. 

Lee Oswald and Scouting

I have just finished reading an exhaustive study of the life of Lee Oswald — the late assassin of our beloved President Kennedy. One theme struck me as I had read the tragic childhood past of this confused young man — the fact that he had never belonged to any group or never was part of the “gang.”

Here was a lad of 12 or 13 who had withdrawn from his own boyish world and its happy times. This isolation lasted until much later in life until his tragic act shocked the nation.

You might ask at this point, “What is wrong with a boy not joining a group?” The point is that we must learn to cooperate with our fellowman early in life if we are to be part of society later in life. Lee Oswald was never a member of any worthy, organized group in his early years. I’m not saying this produced a criminal, but I am saying that his withdrawal from his own boy world was a definite factor in producing a person who was “strange.”

Now comes the punch line. Yes, I am going to say that Scouting is a definite prevention of producing Lee Oswalds! If Lee had been a Boy Scout, he would have known the joys of comradeship with boys his own age around a campfire. If Lee Oswald had been a Boy Scout, he would have learned much, much more — he would have learned the meaning of patriotism and love of country!

I am saying that if Lee Oswald had been a Boy Scout, he would never have grown up to be what he was! Impossible? Scouting is NOT the only answer, but it is one of the best! I wish that I had been a Scoutmaster when Lee Oswald was a lad of 12, and that I had the chance to say to him “Welcome to Troop 72!” If I had been, I would have tried to teach him the right way in life. God help me to find more Lee Oswalds now while there is still time to shape their lives!

Robert W. Wiley, Scoutmaster
Editorial in Troop 72 Times
Riverside, Calif.

Original editorial as it ran in Scouting magazine

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About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.