Dr. Robert M. Gates, in his farewell address as BSA national president, said America needs Scouting and offered three priority areas for the continued success of our movement.
Gates, the former defense secretary and director of the CIA, addressed a crowd of volunteers and professionals at the BSA’s annual meeting this morning in San Diego.
It was the Distinguished Eagle Scout’s final official address as the BSA’s top volunteer. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson begins his two-year term as the BSA’s national president today.
Among the many reasons Scouting is essential, Gates told the rapt crowd, is that it recognizes young people for what they do — not simply for showing up. Participation ribbons? Not here.
“America needs Scouting because it teaches boys that the only self-esteem or esteem from others worth having must be earned,” he said. “Not every boy in Scouting gets a trophy. Every badge, from a merit badge to the Eagle award itself, must be earned. And Scouting does not grade on a curve.”
Scouting, Gates continued, introduces young people to new places and new experiences you just won’t find anywhere else.
“America needs Scouting,” he said, “because what other organization takes boys into the wilderness to find adventure, to learn about our priceless natural heritage and to develop the inner strength and confidence to overcome challenges and adversity?”
Three priorities for the BSA’s continued success
Gates offered three priority areas for Scouting’s future, which he characterized as “bright”:
- Excellence in continued program development and membership growth, which he said “are joined at the hip.”
- Scoutreach, which “must be a high priority. No child of any ethnicity should be denied the Scouting experience because his family is too poor or his neighborhood lacks proper adult role models or a sponsor.”
- Increased diversity of Scouting boards at every level.
Optimism for the future
Gates’ voice filled with emotion as he concluded his remarks.
“I joined Cub Scouts nearly 65 years ago,” he said. “In my adult life, I have never been more optimistic about the future of the Boy Scouts of America than I am today. Our challenges finally are manageable, and our opportunities limitless. We must leave this place prepared to be bold, courageous and daring in the service of the greatest youth-serving organization in the world.
“This is our moment; we must seize it.”
As usual, Dr. Gates delivered a compelling speech that can’t be fully encapsulated in a few quotes. I urge you to read his entire address over at Scouting Newsroom.