Robert Gates, Eagle Scout and former defense secretary, begins term as BSA president

national-key-3-2014The Boy Scouts of America today elected Robert M. Gates, Eagle Scout, former defense secretary and former CIA director as its national president. He officially begins his two-year term as the BSA’s 35th president today.

The BSA’s volunteer and professional delegates attending this week’s National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., voted to confirm Gates as president. You may remember I first blogged about his selection as president-elect in October of last year.

Gates will lead the National Executive Board and be the newest member of the National Key 3, which you can learn more about in the sidebar at right.

His election means that all three members of the National Key 3 are Distinguished Eagle Scouts. Impressive.

Speaking of impressive, Gates’ professional career — during which he served under eight U.S. presidents — is just as awe-inspiring as his Scouting career. He’s a past member of the National Executive Board, past president of the National Eagle Scout Association, recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow.

His vision for why he wanted to take on this role proves that he believes in the Boy Scouts of America now more than ever.

“I can say without hesitation that my memories of Scouting are every bit as vivid and meaningful as what came later in my life,” Gates said. “I believe every child deserves an opportunity to experience what Scouting offers.”

Wayne Brock, the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive and another member of the National Key 3, officially welcomed Gates on behalf of the BSA.

“As one of our nation’s most respected public servants and a proven leader of the highest caliber,” Brock said, “Dr. Gates is a shining example of how our organization positions individuals for success, and he will be a great ambassador for sharing the Scouting story throughout the country.”

Scouting magazine spoke with Gates earlier this year and published the interview in our May-June 2014 edition. Read that interview after the jump.

Scouting magazine interview with Gates

SCOUTING: What are some of your great memories of Scouting as a boy?

ROBERT GATES: Scouting has been a big part of my family’s life. I have a photograph of my father in a Scout uniform in 1918, when he was 12 years old. In Wichita, Kan., in those days — before videogames and the Internet and all the rest — life pretty much revolved around family and school and church and Scouts. I went to Philmont twice, once as a hiker and once as part of what was then called the National Junior Leader Training Program. I’ve always joked that it was the best and only leadership course I ever took.

SCOUTING: Do you recall how you felt when you earned your Eagle?

GATES: Probably a sense of relief. I was only 15 years old, and I was sort of stuck with three or four merit badges to go. The national meeting of the OA was being held that summer of 1958 at the University of Kansas, and the only way you could get to be a VIP escort was by being an Eagle Scout. That provided the additional motivation for me to finish those badges. As with a lot of kids, the primary motivator was my mother keeping on me to get it done.

SCOUTING: How did your time in Scouting prepare you for your career?

GATES: Scouting taught me an enormous amount about leadership, particularly how to persuade people. One of the great things about Scouting is that it’s a volunteer organization, so no matter whether you’re an adult or a kid, a Scoutmaster or a patrol leader, you have to persuade people to do things rather than just telling them what to do. I think that approach to leadership, trying to get people on one side working together, was a very important learning experience for me.

SCOUTING: You told a great story at the jamboree about a father-son campout with your son.

GATES: Yes, it was when I was director of the CIA. We had black vans with satellite dishes and a lot of armed CIA agents around the campsite. The security guys got really nervous because the Sunday morning activity was teaching all these kids to shoot skeet, so you had the CIA director out there with a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds firing shotguns.

SCOUTING: What’s your view of Scouting’s youth membership policy change?

GATES: I think it’s an important step forward, and I strongly support it. No question that it was the right thing. Now we need to turn our attention to further improving the quality of the program, getting more kids into Scouting and re-establishing our unity as a movement.

SCOUTING: As president, what will you say to parents considering Scouting for their kids?

GATES: Scouting offers uniquely the experience that makes boys into leaders, gives them a sense of responsibility, makes them self-reliant and clearly builds character. I don’t know of any other institution that gives boys that foundation for future leadership. Scouting certainly did that for me.

See also

For more on this story, check out the release on Scouting Newsroom.

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