In a world that’s divided, Scouting unites us around shared values

There’s one key difference between Scouting friendships and other friendships.

It’s a fact Ray Capp has discovered after being involved in Scouting for more than 50 years. During his tenure, the Distinguished Eagle Scout, past chairman of the Order the Arrow and 2016 National Alumnus of the Year has formed countless long-lasting friendships.

“Now I’m going to tell you something non-Scouters will find hard to believe,” Capp writes in a new essay you can read in full below. “I have no idea who most of these Scout friends voted for, which party they have joined or what they think about certain political values.”

That’s because, Capp writes, “In Scouting, we don’t talk about issues from cable news programs.

“We talk about honor and the importance of one’s word; we discuss our next adventure, and how it will test and increase resilience and persistence among Scouts in our care. We talk about how Johnny needs a chance to lead his patrol. We talk about improving the troop’s next ski trip, who will help the boys plan the next worship service, or the need to retire that old flag in a proper, ceremonial way.”

To Capp, the value of Scouting is found in the values of Scouting.

Scouting’s values are fundamental and form the foundation of a young person’s life. They don’t revolve around the latest controversy playing out in someone’s Facebook feed.

They’re found in the 12 points of the Scout Law and 40 words of the Scout Oath.

Capp agreed to let me post an edited version of his essay here. He wrote it as an open letter to parents of Scouting-age youth. Take a read:

Scouting’s value? Scouting values!

By Ray Capp

Some parents of Scouting-aged kids wonder if Scouting has value for their family.

I say Scouting’s value can be found in the values of Scouting!

Scouting teaches values that transcend national origin, race, political affiliation, gender, class and time. Each Scout knows the Scout Law by heart. All Scouts recite THESE values weekly and remember them throughout life:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Every day we hear talk about controversies and issues that are really about values. For example, many people value transparency in government. But, would we even need to talk about that if everyone was trustworthy?

Adherence to principles can form a philosophy of governing for many patriotic people and serve as important guideposts in civic life, but how can their value exceed the importance of being loyal to one’s family, friends and country? Don’t the Scout values of being helpful and cheerful serve as a really strong foundation for a good life, regardless of political points of view?

As adults, we strive to instill the virtues of cultural diversity. Leaders of our religious communities work tirelessly to encourage positive behavior, generosity and service to the poor, sick, homeless and downtrodden. These are vital attributes to imbue into our youth. The points of the Scout Law (friendly, courteous and kind) deliver this message in no uncertain terms.

Before a boy knows to follow the laws of his community, state and nation, he knows the importance of following the rules in his family. Scout leaders reinforce this with the value of being obedient to God — and a young person’s mom or dad. Obedience applies whether or not anyone is looking.

As adults, we hope fellow citizens will show fiscal responsibility in their work, personal and civic lives. But first, our Scouts learn the more foundational value of being thrifty.

The Scout becomes part of a community. His fellow Scouts are his colleagues, and a Scout will be bold and brave in demanding just treatment of others.

Scouts commit to be clean in word and deed, in our personal, community and outdoor lives. A Scout learns to always leave a place or situation better than he found it. Applying this principle alone can positively turn the life of a Scout.

Aren’t these root Scouting values more fundamental to our nation’s health than the many other principles that flower from these roots?

As a Scout for more than 50 years, I’ve developed some of the longest-lasting relationships of my life. Now I’m going to tell you something non-Scouters will find hard to believe. I have no idea who most of these Scout friends voted for, which party they have joined or what they think about certain political values.

I don’t know whether my Scouting peers support charter schools or unions, lower or higher taxes, tariffs, less or more regulation, or net neutrality!

In Scouting, we don’t talk about issues from cable news programs.

We talk about honor and the importance of one’s word. We discuss our next adventure and how it will increase resilience among Scouts in our care. We talk about how Johnny needs a chance to lead his patrol. We talk about improving the troop’s next ski trip, who will help the boys plan the next worship service, or the need to retire that old flag in a proper, ceremonial way.

Every week, Scoutmasters end meetings by summarizing nuggets of learning. These “Scoutmaster Minutes” are mini-lessons that address values to help kids to grow into better citizens.

Scoutmaster Minutes are distilled for an audience of eager-faced young people. They’re never about political points of view, culture wars or divisive issues. They are always about life’s more fundamental values. Values like doing a good deed, telling the truth, being prepared and being helpful at all times.

Scouting delivers these messages (and the values that underpin them) consistently, creatively, robustly, timelessly.

A youngster has many choices for spending his discretionary time. But Scouting is like no other program in systematically and strongly putting kids into situations designed to help them grow physically, mentally and spiritually.

And there’s really no need to choose between Scouting and sports, debate, student council or videogames. In our troop’s last year, five of our Scouts were enrolled in Ivy League schools. Each of them was an Eagle Scout, yet each also excelled in another specific niche: an All-American lacrosse player, student council president, state champion swimmer, national debate finalist and videogame design genius.

Every parent who has encouraged a son to persist in becoming an Eagle Scout is glad they did. Get and keep your son in Scouting. He will be glad you did. And you will be glad you did.

Scouting’s value is in planting Scouting values.


  1. Thanks for reprinting this essay Bryan. I’m copying it to hand out to parents who are reluctant to get their sons into Scouting because of their immigrant status, their skin color, their ethnic background, their newness to our community. It’s hard sometimes to hold their attention in conversation long enough to express all the things in the essay. My hope is they can take home the printout, read it at leisure and think about it, without feeling any pressure to respond immediately. All of us will benefit when those shy boys who are reluctant to ask about joining, can enrich us with their knowledge, experience, and creativity with the full understanding and support of their parents.

  2. This year has provided opportunities for me to spend quality time with scouts and former scouts from around the world. One lesson that I learned: in some parts of the world you never really transition from “scout” to “scouter”. That is, even once you’re an adult, you are thought to be a scout, the vows you made as a youth still hold, and the skills you learned are to be passed along. In that sense, scoutmasters and other adult volunteers are just scouts who have one or two more campfire “songs” in their repertoire.

    It’s a nice way to look at the world: once a scout always a scout.

  3. My son has been scouting since he was 7 and he is working on his Eagle right now . He has never had any problems with any other scouts until recently that some scouts think it’s ok to call him “a stupid little Asian boy.”
    He was shocked and he didn’t understand why. He was born and raised here and considered himself American no less than anybody else. I told one of the leaders about this and I was told to talk to the boys’ parents myself. Nothing was done. It made me really really sad.

    • Jian, I’m so sorry. There would be zero tolerance in our troop in a circumstance such as yours. We transferred troops to meet our son’s needs and wish we would have done so sooner; I understand your son is in the project stage, but hope you will consider it. Or use his tenure and leadership skills in the current troop to educate others (sounds like it’s not just the boys that have some learning to do).

    • It would be the moment of SMC to the youths involved. Does that leader trained? try talk to Scoutmaster.
      If adult leaders(aka, SM/ASM specific Trained adult, not average parents) done nothing about those bad behavior, the troop is not healthy. Try raise concern through committee, when no hope to be take seriously, transferring unit would be effective, it’s rechartering season, if there’s nothing to be proud of in a racial bias troop, other troop should have no problem to welcome a soon to be Eagle Scout. (state the reason too, so Council award of the problem)

      • so local council ‘aware’ of the problem.

        Bryan’s 10/11 article is relate to this topic: “The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm,” …. “but because of those who look at it without doing anything.”

    • Having heard similar taunts toward my Middle Eastern heritage in a county that had few other minorities to single out, I feel your scout’s pain.

      I hope your son finds a courteous and friendly way to stand up to micro-aggression. Yes, your son. We can play round-about games with adults who are blind to the problem. But, at the end of the day your son must be the advocate for all of us.

      Yes, us. You and your family are welcome here. Period. This is not a matter of popular sentiment. It is a point of Constitutional law. As an Eagle Scout, your son will know this. I would encourage him (if he has not done so already) for his Citizenship Badges, to invite the offending scouter to visit a Naturalization ceremony. Or find some other way to be for this scouter whatever good thing his heritage has imbued him to be. There is a real temptation in these situations to stand off, when what our countrymen need is a lot of “leaning in.”

  4. Bryan, BSA’s values are the reason people like me were involved in Scouting. My son and I can go backpacking by ourselves, and frankly the hassle factor is a lot less. So the question is, why was someone like me involved in Scouting? When you tinker with your values you are changing our relationship at a fundamental level and causing me to question that relationship. In this case, BSA should have formed some synergistic partnership with GSA around some common goals.

    Look, Scouting is moving on. I get it. And it has more to do with funding that anyone wants to admit. But I don’t think your efforts to appease the culture will backfill the numbers because what BSA traditionally represents is a completely foreign thing to today’s elite egalitarians. I believe it is a strategic mistake, and it’s not over. You will find that you can never please these people. You will soon announce some kind of Eagle required “Diversity” merit badge and “sensitivity” training, and then you will eventually be forced to cave on the whole God thing. That’s going to have to go. You can’t exclude all of those atheist kids who also deserve the opportunity to…blah, blah, blah.

    A bunch of us are just very sad. It would be better to be a smaller organization with a well defined brand and core values intact.

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