Bryan on Scouting

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