Open Letter to Boy Scouts of America in Response to President Trump’s Jamboree Appearance

July 25, 2017

Mr. Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive
Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, TX 75015

Dear Mr. Surbaugh:

I write as a former Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Explorer Scout. I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow as a youth. Both of my parents were active scouting leaders: My mother served as a Den Mother and my father as a Scoutmaster. The troop I belonged to was very active in our Council and sponsored a 50-mile hike every summer. I was an active and proud participant, including serving as a junior leader. I participated in an early 1960s Jamboree in Colorado Springs. My interest in a specialty Explorer Post that had a focus on Science and Engineering was the only reason I did not complete requirements to become an Eagle Scout. Later in life, as a pastor, I mentored boys as they worked for the Religion and Life award.

Scouting was important in my formation as a youth. Emphasis on helping others, honesty, and respect for the whole earth and all of its inhabitants were important ways Scouting contributed to my development. I developed leadership skills through Scouting activities. And yet, I know that religious bigotry and homophobia have deep roots in Scouting. (My father resigned as Scoutmaster in the 1930s when the troop’s sponsoring organization refused to permit participation by two boys who identified as Jewish.) I was encouraged by the relatively recent beginning steps to reduce Scouting’s systemic homophobia. I found hope that there might be an opportunity for healing the scars from some of the old misdeeds.

Now it is with heavy heart and embarrassment for Scouting that I observe President Trump’s totally inappropriate appearance this week at the Jamboree and the response of Scouts that included booing former President Obama and Senator Clinton. For Mr. Trump to use the occasion to curse, to brag, and to promote misogyny is incredibly shameful. It is hard for me to imagine a speech more disengaged from the values Scouting espouses. I wonder what you could have possibly expected that he would say and do, and why you invited him to participate. To fall back on “it’s tradition” [to invite the President to speak to the Jamboree] is nonsense — when tradition no longer serves, it ought to be readily abandoned.

I would have expected the BSA to immediately issue a statement distancing Scouting from the President’s remarks, to restate the ethics and values that form the foundation of Scouting, and to apologize publicly for the behavior of some of those present at the speech. I have searched your website (including the press section) and looked at news and social media channels in vain for such a statement. The lack of appropriate response speaks volumes by its silence.

In addition, this would be an opportune time to declare a Jamboree emergency and hold small group gatherings among the participants to discuss values, independent thinking, and appropriate reactions to disturbing rhetoric. Some public apology would be appropriate.

I have seven grandsons. The oldest are approaching the age to begin engagement with Scouting. Should their parents ask me for advice now, I would discourage them from enrolling their boys. There are other, healthier and more appropriate, ways for them to learn independence, resilience, compassion, and personal integrity while developing leadership skills. Those seem to no longer lie at the core of Scouting.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Duane H. Fickeisen
Portland, OR

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10 Responses to Open Letter to Boy Scouts of America in Response to President Trump’s Jamboree Appearance

  1. Well and passionately said, Duane! Thank you for speaking out.

  2. Wes Stevenson says:

    Thank you very much, Duane! Well said. Every former Scout should send a similar statement. I have sent mine.

  3. Patricia K. Peterson says:

    Thank you for your letter. I was horrified by the President’s remarks–they were totally inappropriate. Does he really not know how to speak to young people? Is he really that empty of values and ethics? Well, he continues to shock and disturb sensible people.

  4. Shirley Erikson says:

    Thanks much for your letter, Duane, it hit the mark in so many ways! Thinking back
    to the years my sons were in scouting, I can’t imagine any president EVER making
    such inappropriate and foolish remarks to this audience, in particular. Those remarks call for
    the kind of response your well thought out piece contains!

  5. Darcy Potter says:

    My hat’s off to you Duane. I had two boys in scouting.

  6. Lynne Moffitt says:

    Well said. Monday evening I walked back into our tv room and President Trump was on giving his speech to the Boy Scouts of America. I went to change channels but as I was listening it became increasingly clear he was giving one of the most appalling presidential speeches I have ever seen. Like a train wreck I could not tear myself away. As former teacher in one of my career incarnations and the daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister of teachers I can hardly express my indignation, my anger, my frustration that a president and someone who purports to be a leader could give such a dismaying speech to children and young adults. A presidential speech to such a group should be inspirational and aspirational and non partisan not petulant partisan ravings. Honestly I feel at a loss to describe how profoundly inappropriate that speech was. His egregious behavior goes beyond partisanship; anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty should denounce this speech; starting with all the former Boy Scouts in his administration. The Boy Scouts of America needs to come out and strongly disavow themselves from this speech and the values President Trump displayed in his speech. I have already emailed my sentiments to the BSA at myscouting@scouting.org

  7. Mary T Sepulveda says:

    Thank you Duane. You said it well.

  8. Agreed, except for one thing. I think every scout, leader, parent, district, field service council, etc should demand an apology from President Trump for turning an event that only occurs once every 4 years into a bashing stump speech for himself. It was a disgrace. Don’t leave scouting, demand we no longer have the president as the honorary president of scouts. Do not invite politicians to our events, there all tons of hero’s across our country that can speak to our scouts about the values we hold dear.

  9. Sue says:

    My Grandson is in his Third year of scouts. This year he proudly bridged into Boy Scouts. The values, ethics, and morals are a wonderful guide into adulthood.
    I watch President Trumps’ speech, and was appalled by his nasty politicicsm in his comments.
    He may have broad plans for our country, some good, some bad, but NEVER should political rhetoric be a part of a speech to our Scouts. I was disgusted by his insensitive, immature self-promotion. He shouldn’t have been promoting himself! This was honoring Scouting. I hope that the Leaders can explain this in a tactful way to their scouts, so that it won’t taint their views of future Presidents’ attitudes.

    Love our Scouts,
    Susan Fisher
    Franklin, MA

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