Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits 2017 Jamboree for statue unveiling

Mike Surbaugh, BSA Chief Scout Executive, praised Secretary Tillerson’s leadership.

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, Distinguished Eagle Scout and past BSA national president, visited the 2017 National Jamboree on Friday for a statue unveiling in his honor.

BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh told a large crowd of Scouts and Scouters that the statue recognizes Tillerson’s longstanding dedication to the BSA.

“We are truly grateful to have as a friend of Scouting, as a supporter and as a mentor, Secretary Rex Tillerson,” Surbaugh told the crowd.

The event was attended by an impressive lineup of Scouting volunteers and supporters.

Tillerson said he remembers that day in October 2010 when he, then-Gov. Manchin and others turned the first spade of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.

“It was just a raw piece of land,” Tillerson said. “And now you see what we have.”

Tillerson said he was planning to be a Jamboree volunteer before he was tapped to serve as secretary of state.

“I was going to spend the whole time here either washing dishes or hauling waste or whatever they needed me to do,” he said. “But I was going to have my Jamboree experience. Well, this is my Jamboree experience. I’ll take it.”

‘Values-based servant leader’

Tillerson said he has long tried to help others understand “what it means to be a values-based servant leader,” and he’s tried to live those values himself.

“I know of no other organization in the world that teaches values-based servant leadership except the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “It’s where I learned mine.”

But there’s a funny thing about leadership skills, he said. You’re never done honing them.

“Whether you’re a young Scout attending your first Jamboree or you’re a Scoutmaster attending your fifth or sixth, you never stop developing as a human being,” he said. “You never stop developing as a leader.”

Tillerson said he’s thought about the 12 points of the Scout Law quite a bit over the years. He asked himself: Can you really condense every quality of an effective leader into just 12 words?

So he’s tried to add words to see if they fit, but he always came back to the 12.

“Everything about living a principled, values-based life and being a principled, values-based leader is in those 12,” he said.

When he finished the speech, Tillerson called his wife, Renda, to the stage. He got emotional as she joined him and put a blue Scout neckerchief around his neck.

‘Leaders with character’

Randall Stephenson, the AT&T CEO who serves as BSA national president, spoke about Tillerson’s long history with the BSA.

He explained that Tillerson is a “living, breathing model” of what kind of person the BSA helps shape.

“What the Boy Scouts do better than any other organization, is they produce what we see here: leaders with character,” Stephenson said. “You see it in every field. You see it in education, you see it in government, you see it in business, science, the arts.”

Later, two Scouts thanked Tillerson for his vision and generosity and presented the secretary with a U.S. flag and a replica of the bronze statue.

BSA photos by Randy Piland


  1. Hold on a second. This article failed to mention how many palms this distinguished Eagle Scout earned. Can’t we get the focus back to what truly matters.

    • Hubris – on the part of national BSA leadership, including Tillerson. A true Scout volunteer would have wanted to be represented on the Jamboree site by an image of one of the millions of youth who have been involved in Scouting.

  2. Grotesque – among the worst days in the history of the Boy Scouts of America, but pandering Donald Trump on Monday, July 24, at the Jamboree may be the absolute worst!

      • Exactly what points of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law does Donald Trump represent? He is the embodiment of American greed, meanness, and graft. He is an anti-Scout and should not be welcome at any Scouting event – unless he apologizes for his horrific behavior and corrects his mistakes. I hope that all true Scouts at the Jamboree will turn their backs to him and reject his lack of human decency.

        • Some of the so called scouts here or leaders have been drinking the anti trump kool aid too long. Obama did nothing for scouting hillery even less

        • Ken, as frustrating as our political environment can be, as an Eagle Scout, I personally will not stoop to the levels that some of our nation’s leaders clearly have dared to venture, but unfortunately not enough Americans apply their courage, to question instances of ‘negative’, unethical or illegal behavior and the resulting consequential actions taken by some in positions of power.

          Having just returned to the US after 5 years in Afghanistan, and 2 years previously spent in Iraq, I know many officers and soldiers who share similar sentiments, albeit not publicly spoken because of UCMJ, but ‘heard’ nonetheless and they don’t understand why folks tolerate it either, regardless of which elected official they’re talking about.

          Unfortunately because of fierce politically partisan bias and propaganda spread by many organizations, who usually have their own, often contentious and profitable agendas, we all seem to know and believe different versions of what the truth is; however, despite any underlying grievances, I would not turn my back on Trump at the Jamboree. Nor would I encourage our BSA youth to do so either. In this case, what’s done is done, and we are now obligated to the higher moral ground, to show tolerant respect, even if we don’t believe it has been earned, appreciated or shown in return. We should teach our children to be strong in such values, even when it’s unpopular, while strongly encouraging their own independent, questioning and critical thinking on such matters.

          For those that may question why I used the word ‘illegal’ in my comments above, I offer the below example to partly explain my reasoning. See, my own naivety got the best of me recently as I whole heartedly believed for the longest time that everyone wanted, expected and valued the truth; however, as I’ve grown older, experience has taught me that way too many people don’t value it, unless it serves to benefit them. For example, when I reported hundreds of millions of dollars in US taxpayer fraud in Afghanistan, the military failed to fully investigate because “it was too difficult to figure out,” it also implicated a former high level military officer in wrongdoing, and stateside political appointees claimed they didn’t have the personnel or money to fund such an investigation before the statue of limitations might run out (it still has 2-3 years before that happens). Subsequently my truthfulness, as the primary investigator, ultimately cost me my job and my former employer attempted to discredit me and to place an adverse action on my security clearance. So, why do I mention this you might wonder? Well, frankly when our President or others in government positions, place little appreciable value on things like the truth and justice, that sends an extremely strong message that reverberates to all others below them who are impressionable, and not completely vested in their convictions. Each instance of wrongdoing only reinforces the previous, until many just accept each new occurrence as the norm and some even become complicit in it. So, while I strive to maintain the high ground, even if it costs me my livelihood, since it’s absolutely the right thing to do; the BSA’s decision to invite Trump, makes it harder for me to teach my kids the value of why I chose to do things right. The stature of his office wields great symbolism, even if the man himself doesn’t measure up; but to our youth, who are always trying to absorb so much information at once, this is conflicting to them. Thus, why I suggested in another comment that BSA should have picked another less controversial leader to speak at the Jamboree.

          Anyway, hopefully my kids will comprehend much earlier than I did, that quite a few folks do not believe in, or follow, our Scouting values that are, as I was taught, to be vital to the preservation of our way of life.

    • The Jamboree didn’t invited Donald J. Trump, they invited the President of the United States. Its not about WHO he is, but WHAT he is. The BSA always invites sitting presidents to Jamborees, regardless of who they are.

      • I suppose therein lies the problem. Everyone knows WHAT the POTUS is supposed to represent, but in the opinions of many, Donald Trump doesn’t represent the WHO or WHAT of that highly distinguished office, or the BSA. Yes, he’s the president, but does he even remotely epitomize the Scouting virtues? There is a purposeful reason that ‘Trustworthy’ is the first of the twelve characteristics of the Scout Law, but Trump has publicly failed, repeatedly, at that plus another 2 to 3 of those tenants as well. So, while I respect the office he happens to hold, I definitely do not believe he follows our Scouting Oath or principles. Thus, WHO he is, is the most critical part of being a good civic role model, a quality leader and worthy of being recognized by our Scouting community. He should not be invited solely because he’s the POTUS, that kind of blind loyalty is morally dangerous and disregards the very high and historically costly standards our fore fathers established for the office of the president. To invite, praise and/or reward him, is to condone WHAT he is, to include his actions and that effectively encourages our youth to be like him. Saying it’s only because he’s the POTUS is naive, because the perception and influence of the decision will be quite the opposite. We must always chose right over wrong, ethics over convenience and truth over popularity. We have an obligation to keep our Scouting standards high, and if a particular POTUS doesn’t meet that historical level, then there are plenty of other worthy leaders to invite.

        • I like to think that hanging around with good people will make me a better person. Perhaps it will work for all who are fortunate to attend.

        • I guess Bill Clinton was a better role model? A man who had sex with an intern in the oval office?

        • I do not presume to dispute anything you said, but I would submit to you that holding that standard means consistency too. If we are to hold him to this, are we also going to hold the many celebrities who make movies and music as well as athletes who have had checkered histories to a high standard as well? Many could argue that they are as much role models to our youth as the President is these days but yet we continue to go to their movies, buy their songs, or get tickets to see them play. He just happens to have a public office. Again, I don’t necessesarily disagree with you, but until we are willing to be consistent with those who have public influence with our youth, we really don’t have a leg to stand on.

        • Well said. We hold high the office of President because of the honor the office-holder brings to the position, and our country. We have an obligation to teach our children to be discerning about who they choose as role models, no matter their title, position or power.

        • I agree with you totally. This “president” shows nothing but contempt for women, truth, the environment, the disabled, and for our form of government in general. He should stay away, this jamboree is for scouts and their values. It is NOT for someone to use for personal or political gain.

        • I have been an Eagle since the 60’s and now a Vietnam Paralyzed Vet in a wheel chair. I have put up with seeing are countries morals going down hill for decades and seeing the constitution torn apart by Socialized Anti God Agenda’s. I look at his family how none drink, or smoke and are not soaking off the system. so many of my Brothers and Sisters have lost their lives to protect what was a God based nation. You all make me sick to say I’m an Eagle any more as I see so many of the younger generation of Eagles have no Idea of the meaning of the scout Law. You put down someone that is trying to put things back on tract at no gain to Himself or his family except hatred and disrespect But support anti moral and anti American Constitution Hater’s like what we have had for way two many Years. All the good soldiers that have died for what. You all have to wake up and get educated or you will have a country where you have no freedom. Study what happen to people when they went to a socialized society.No More Freedom.
          Proud to be a true Eagle and Soldier. Larry Rilling

    • Respect for the office of President of the United States is not pandering. Almost all of the recent Presidents have attended, or at least acknowledged, the Jamboree.

    • Thank you for your comment, Kenneth. Be thankful for this forum that allowed you to voice your opinion.

      Be thankful that others will honor the several applicable points of the Scout Law and not share their thoughts on your comments.

      • After he turned his speech into a political rally and rant, how grateful should anyone be? This was entirely predictable.

    • You do realize the the President of the United States is the Honorary President of the BSA. Every President since Taft has been. It’s not pandering, he is the President.

  3. I noticed that you referenced Randy Piland for the BSA photos but I’m pretty sure the one taken of the Secretary and his wife was taken by Meagan Donaldson.

  4. For those of you who profess to be “true scouters” yet decide to turn the comments on this article into something political…SHAME ON YOU! My son is at Jamboree for the first time. He was really looking forward to seeing the Secretary of State but his unit went hiking instead. He loved the hiking but was disappointed. He is very excited about seeing the President of the United States. No matter what your politics, he is still the “President of the United States”. I am proud my scout GETS that!

    • After seeing that speech, there is more than enough shame to go around. I am glad I did not send my boys. I can see how you would be disappointed in your son not getting to see Secretary Tillerson. I would have wanted my sons to see and hear him.

  5. The last two Jamboree’s were not attended by the POTUS….. In Regards to Donald Trump…. He attended Military School for five years as a young man. He was Capt. of Cadets and lead is detachment in a parade down Broadway in New York City. He excelled in sports. At 6’3″ If any one was being picked on, he would make sure they knocked it off. He looked out for his fellow Cadets. He received the Ellis Island Award for helping inner city Black children along with Rosa Parks and Mohammad Ali, When 200 Marines were stranded, and would not be able to make it home in time for the holidays he sent his jet to pick them up, and made sure they did get home on time…… twice! He was a guest on Oprah’s show as well as interviewed by Barbara Walters…..they couldn’t get enough of him. Our top leaders from both parties went to him to fund their campaigns,i.e the Clintons, Romney and many more. They loved his support as well as having their picture taken with him. He has chosen four Eagle Scouts to be on his inner most staff/cabinet. Three Marine Generals, Two Army Generals, as well as a Navy Seal, and a Air Force pilot. One his Chief advisors was on the Chief of Naval Operations when he was a young Lt. At one of his events his wife opened with the ‘Lords Prayer’. “When is he last time have you seen that happen”!? He won the election fair and square…. according to our nations rules. He is providing our Veterans with care without having to wait….We must remember that ‘Our’ only agenda is the Scout Oath and Law, that we live everyday 24/7 365. Our military provides great support to make sure our jamborees, and some camporees….. are a big success…. He is their Commander in Chief, as well as all of us. A SCOUT IS KIND.

    • How kind was his talk? He has no self control. I hope that leaders will use this as a learning experience.

  6. I do hope our Scouts are on best behavior! 2010 they booed a video message from President Obama. After looking at the schedule changes because the President is attending this year I hope it goes well.

  7. As troop and pack leaders, we try to hold our boys to the twelve points of the Scout Law as listed below (excerpted from the

    Trustworthy – A scout is trustworthy, not because he is forced to be that way, but because he chooses to be. The reason why the words “On my honor” are so important to a scout is that his honor is the only collateral that he has to offer that ensures he can be trusted. If a scout has no sense of honor, then the Scout Law and Scout Oath lose their meaning and strength. A Scout is Trustworthy.

    Loyal – A scout is loyal to his family, friends, leaders, school, and nation. But most importantly, he is loyal to his beliefs. Loyalty is a character trait that is displayed when the scout believes no one is around, when he believes no one is watching. True loyalty happens when nothing is personally gained. A Scout is Loyal.

    Helpful – From the scout handbook, “A scout is helpful. A scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward.” A Scout is Helpful.

    Friendly – The Scout Law states that a scout is a friend to all, even to someone that is of poor character.
    To that person, the scout should demonstrate high values of friendship in the hope of turning that person around. A Scout is Friendly.

    Courteous – A scout is courteous. Being courteous is being a gentleman, opening and holding doors open for others or giving up your seat to someone else. Courtesy requires a personal interaction where the value of another person is demonstrated through respect. Many people, hoping to get ahead in life, will be very courteous to people above them in social standing, while at the same time, treat lesser ranked people with disdain. A scout treats all people with equal respect and courtesy. A Scout is Courteous.

    Kind – From the scout handbook, “A scout is kind. A scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated.” Maintaining a gentle demeanor when provoked and refusing to lower his honor by exchanging insults takes a strong person. A Scout is Kind.

    Obedient – A scout is obedient. He follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and his country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner and not create chaos. A scout with a strong character will obey his conscience in the face of adversity without having blind obedience. A Scout is Obedient.

    Cheerful – From the scout handbook, “A scout is cheerful. A scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.” A spirit of cheerfulness requires strong character and an understanding of life. When a scout realizes that it is completely up to him as to be depressed or cheerful, to be discouraged or resolved, to be cowardly or brave, then he is able to make the choice. Until this happens, he will tend to place blame on others for his feelings and actions. The amount of hardship required to adversely effect a person’s demeanor is a solid test of that person’s depth of character. A Scout is Cheerful.

    Thrifty – From the scout handbook, “A scout is thrifty. A scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.” A rich person can be thrifty without being a scrooge and a poor person can be thrifty and still share what he has. Desiring something enough to be willing to work for it, and to forego other things for it, gives that thing value and provides an understanding of thrift. If a scout is given everything he needs or wants, then he sees no value in it and has no ownership of it. A Scout is Thrifty.

    Brave – “A scout is brave. A scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.” Bravery is not a lack of fear, but rather the strength to overcome that fear. If there was no fear, then there would be no need for bravery. When fear controls a person, he loses his sense of honor and his gut instinct of self-preservation takes over, causing acts of cowardice. A scout needs to defend the weak, defend the truth, and defend his honor. A Scout is Brave.

    Clean – From the scout handbook, “A scout is clean. A scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He keeps his home and community clean.” It is a simple chore to scrub dirt from skin, but a much more difficult task to clean up dirty thoughts, habits, and behaviors. First a feeling of jealousy and mistrust towards someone, then a derogatory comment about them, and soon a person is a fountain of malice spewing forth filth, vulgarity, and hate. A Scout is Clean.

    Reverent – From the scout handbook, “A scout is reverent. A scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” As a scout experiences the wonders of the outdoors: stormy weather and calm blue skies, pounding surf and trickling streams, bitter cold and stifling heat, towering trees and barren desert, he experiences the work of God and he comes to terms with his place in the world. Though humans are the dominant beings on our planet, we need to play the role of steward rather than king-tending and caring for our world instead of taking all we can for our own comfort. Reverence fosters joy and a cheerful heart, and the ability to appreciate and care for the good in life. A Scout is Reverent.

    I wish that the people who are shoved in front of 40,000 of our young and soon-to-be-leaders and held up to be someone who they should strive to become were vetted to these same guiding principals.

    Jewel Kirkland

    • If only people that met the Scout Oath & Law 100% of the time would be “shoved in front of 40,000” I dare say that no one would be on the stage. I’m not perfect and the only person that was close to that died about 2,000 years ago.

  8. My husband – a U.K. Explorer Scout Leader, is currently at the Jamboree on the IST team. As well as us both being actively involved in UK Scouting we were also Scout Leaders / Trainers / Commissioners in BSA when we lived in GA many years ago. On both sides of ‘the pond’ Scouting is alive and encouraging our young people to become confident, useful, caring members of society. I hope all the young people enjoy their time at camp and take back positive experiences to help them on their journey to adulthood.

  9. I think people should leave their politics out of the Scouting Magazine. When you loose focus on important things like the young men and women in scouting, you have lost your purpose for being in scouts. If people prayed for the president instead of bashing him he would be a saint. Keep your political opinions to yourself and keep it out of the BSA.

    • Kelly, with all due respect, it would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to complete the required Citizenship in the Community, Nation (Reqs. #3/8) and World merit badges for advancement to Eagle Scout, without some discussions of civics/politics in the BSA, while young men learn to understand their duties, responsibilities and to be accepting of different or varying beliefs and interpretations. In my humble opinion, neither focus or purpose has been lost. Avoiding such a basic topic, doesn’t instill or teach the necessary critical thinking our youth deserve continued exposure to, but I strongly agree there must be healthy and fair moderation in everything we do to challenge our youth, as parents or leaders. Just as we teach our youth to overcome obstacles to survive, or to build bridges to cross physical barriers, or to adapt what you have to bind wounds, discussing politics has a definitive purpose. To this day, I’m continually thankful to my three Scoutmasters and Explorer Advisor, over my 7 years in youth programs, for all the opportunities they offered me to excel and grow without bias, so that I would have the conviction to question when necessary. Scouts should have the confidence and courage to confront, or question, those who wield our country’s authority in any manner not consistent with our values. Denying that perspective to them, would be a disservice to every young man and woman in scouting.

      According to the BSA website on Scouting’s values: “Scouting is a values-based program with its own code of conduct. The Scout Oath and Law help instill the values of good conduct, respect for others, and honesty. Scouts learn skills that will last a lifetime, including basic outdoor skills, first aid, citizenship skills, leadership skills, and how to get along with others. For almost a century, Scouting has instilled in young men the values and knowledge that they will need to become leaders in their communities and country.”

  10. I am just besides myself after hearing what President Trump said during his speech at the Jamboree. I have spent many years in scouts, both as a scout and an adult leader. I am an Eagle Scout, my son is an Eagle Scout and all of the boys in his patrol, where I was an assistant scoutmaster, are Eagle Scouts. I have participated in Wood Badge and enough Camporees to last me a life time. I have a vested interest in the Scouting organization. I feel that the organization has let all of us down, every single scout, past and present, with this shameful display of politics at an event that should have nothing to do with politics, at a location that should have nothing to do with politics and with a group or boys and adult leaders that should not be forced to listen to a man touting his own ego. What on earth does he know about the 12 points of the Scout Law. Is he trustworthy, kind, brave? No, he an egotist who used a captive audience to stroke his own ego, to further his political agenda and make a mockery of everything we have tried to instill in these boys. We are trying to make the next generation of leaders, not stroke the ego of a man who does not value anything that we stand for.

    I do not know what the organization could have done to prevent this shameful display of politics. Maybe ask to see a copy of the speech before hand (nope – he goes off script as often as he takes a step). Put him on 10 second delay to censor his vile remarks (nope – he is live). All I do know is that he has managed to make a mockery of an organization that I love and have spent many years of my life in. I just hope that some lesson can be learned from this and that the organization is never, ever put in the position of having to defend itself because the president of the United States gave a speech at the National Jamboree. All I can say is that I am glad I was not there to hear it in person.

  11. As an Eagle Scout, it’s pretty hard for me to see how Tillerson embodies scout-like values, particularly the imperative to “leave no trace.” As the CEO of ExxonMobil he’s left quite a trace: tanker and rig spills, poisoned land and water, melting icecaps, obfuscation and fake science, lobbying and bribes, and a long-term change in the composition of our atmosphere. He’s trashed the planet. Shame on BSA for this disgusting display of groveling and free propaganda. Real scouts with serious values deserve a better organization.

  12. I visited the Jamboree Sunday and Monday. I was overwhelmed by the size and activity at The Summit and believe that overall the scouts couldn’t help but have a life changing experience there. As for the visit by the President it has to be accepted that the BSA is obligated to invite him to the Jamboree. In regard to the overall Jamboree experience I like to look at it through the eyes of the scouts and how historic it is for them. Regardless of your opinion of the speech in their eyes it was historic in their lives. No matter what, we should not take that away from them.

    In regard to the speech itself, I have thought about it and have gone through many mixed emotions. On the surface it felt like there were two speeches: the written prepared speech that highlighted the many good qualities of the Boy Scouts and the non scripted rants said at rallies. After thinking about it through many different angles I again came back to how a scout would view it. And the main scout in my life is my son who is a Life Scout who is at the Jamboree. I talked to him on the phone briefly and asked him what he thought about the President’s visit? He said that it was really cool and was really excited about it. I then asked if he thought that everything Mr Trump said was scout-like (I am aware that this is a somewhat leading or pointed question but that’s what I said)? My son, who has some difficulty expressing himself, answered “No but Trump will be Trump.” Now, for my son, that doesn’t mean he was giving allowance for the “un scout-like” talk but that he was aware that there were parts that were not nice or didn’t seem right to him. After that I remember mentioning how a scout should follow the Scout Law and then went onto what activities he was planning for the next day.

    As parents and leaders of these scouts, I feel we should realize that this is a historic moment in their lives and not detract from that. I also feel we should talk to them and get their thoughts and feelings on the President’s visit to Jamboree. How else are they suppose to be able to navigate through the controversies of life as adults if we don’t teach them now. Personally I intend on talking to my son a little more about the whole Jambo experience when he gets home: activities he did, new people he met from other parts of the country, patch trading of course, how the food was, etc. But in there I will discuss this speech and help him work through the good stuff and maybe not so good stuff said and how it relates to Scouting and life in general. I encourage all who read this to do the same.

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