Note: After the president’s controversial speech, the BSA National office released the following statement:
“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one political position, candidate or philosophy.
The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. Since then, an invitation to speak has been extended to every U.S. President that has had a Scout Jamboree occur during his term. This 80-year-old custom of inviting Presidents to speak to Scouts is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. Rather, the speaking invitation is based on our “Duty to Country” from the Scout Oath and out of respect for the Office of the President of the United States.
As one of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America reflects a number of cultures and beliefs. We will continue to be respectful of the wide variety of viewpoints in this country.”
In the interest of maintaining Scouting’s non-partisan stance, this article focuses on the portions of the speech that were about Scouting’s contributions to the nation, leaving out political rhetoric.
Tonight at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, President Donald J. Trump became the eighth president of the United States to visit the National Scout Jamboree. He spoke to a crowd of over 40,000 Scouts, staff, and volunteers who had begun filing through security into the area five hours prior to his arrival. The lines to enter the arena snaked toward the stadium from every part of the huge camp. Getting that many Scouts to one location and providing food and water for them must have been quite the logistical feat, but by the time the president arrived, Scouts were arranged in neat, color-coordinated sections.
President Trump’s speech included comments on his presidential campaign, healthcare, U.S. energy production, Christmas, and the media, but kept coming back to the value of Scouting for young people. He told the crowd, “There are many great honors that come with the job of being president of the United States. But looking out at this incredible gathering of mostly young patriots—mostly young—I’m especially proud to speak to you as the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America. You are the young people of character and integrity who will serve as leaders in our communities and uphold the sacred values of our nation.”
He thanked BSA leaders, parents, and volunteers who have made Scouting possible, explaining that “When you volunteer for the Boy Scouts, you are not only shaping young lives; you are shaping the future of America. The United States has no better citizens than its Boy Scouts.”
He went on to explain how Scouting affects his work as president: “I’ll tell you, the reason I love this, and the reason I really wanted to be here, is because as president, I rely on former Boy Scouts every single day. And so do the American people. It’s amazing how many Boy Scouts we have at the highest level of our great government. Many of my top advisors in the White House were Scouts. Ten members of my cabinet were Scouts. Can you believe that? Ten.” These cabinet members include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (former BSA national president) and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump brought three other Scout cabinet members along with him: Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Energy Rich Perry, and Secretary of Health Tom Price.
After extolling the efforts of these leaders, President Trump used their success to inspire the Scouts: “Each of these leaders will tell you that their road to American success . . . was paved with the patriotic American values and traditions they learned in the Boy Scouts. And some day, many years from now, as you look back on all the adventures in your lives, you will be able to say the same: I got my start as a Scout.”
The president also praised the efforts of these young people to serve others, saying, “Last year you gave more than 15 million hours of service to helping people in your communities. That’s an incredible statement. All of you here tonight will contribute more than 100,000 hours of service by the end of this Jamboree. 100,000. When natural disaster strikes, when people face hardships, when the beauty and glory of our outdoor spaces must be restored and taken care of, America turns to the Boy Scouts, because we know that the Boy Scouts never ever ever let us down.”
President Trump told stories of his own experiences, clapped along to chants of “USA! USA!”, and began the Scout Law, then let the crowd finish it, joined in by advisors who raised their arms to the square. He told Scouts, “Let your Scouting Oath guide your path from this day forward. Remember your duty, honor your history, take care of the people God put into your life. And love and cherish your great country. You are very special people. You are special in the lives of America. You are special to me. But if you do what we say, I promise you that you will live Scouting’s adventure every single day of your life and you will win, win, win and help people in doing so.”
He closed by saying, “God bless you, God bless the Boy Scouts, God bless the United States of America. Go out, have a great time in life, compete, and go out and show me that there is nobody, nobody like a Boy Scout.”