John F. Kennedy was the first U.S. Pres­i­dent to be a Boy Scout, reach­ing the lev­el of Star Scout. Ger­ald Ford was the only Pres­i­dent to reach the lev­el of Eagle Scout. Both George W. Bush and Bill Clin­ton were Cub Scouts. Barack Oba­ma was not a part of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca; rather he was a mem­ber of Ger­akan Pra­mu­ka, the Indone­sian Scout Asso­ci­a­tion, and was the equiv­a­lent of a Cub Scout.

Since the orga­ni­za­tion of the BSA in 1910, all of the Pres­i­dents of the Unit­ed States have sup­port­ed the work of Scout­ing and dur­ing his term in office, each has served as hon­orary pres­i­dent of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca.

This Pres­i­dents’ Day, it seems appro­pri­ate to revis­it the rela­tion­ship our nation’s lead­ers have had with Scout­ing. We’ll begin with a man who was no longer pres­i­dent when we were found­ed:

Theodore Roosevelt

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When Scout­ing was orga­nized, Theodore Roo­sevelt became ear­ly on and stayed a long time sup­port­er. He used his image as a robust out­doors­man and oth­er influ­ence to push the fledg­ling orga­ni­za­tion for­ward, because he saw in it his hope for America’s boys to become stronger, man­ly men.

Roo­sevelt, who in in his own youth, was ill and seen as frail, worked hard to over­came his infir­mi­ties. His ded­i­ca­tion led to him becom­ing a nation­al icon of man­li­ness.

While pres­i­dent, Roo­sevelt estab­lished a rela­tion­ship with James West, who would become BSA’s first Chief Scout Exec­u­tive. In 1902, Roo­sevelt appoint­ed West to the Board of Pen­sion Appeals in the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or. When the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca was found­ed in

Chief Scout Citizen Roosvelt with Troop 1
Chief Scout Cit­i­zen Roo­sevelt with Troop 1

1910, Roo­sevelt became an ardent boost­er of the orga­ni­za­tion.

Roo­sevelt also served as the first coun­cil com­mis­sion­er of Nas­sau Coun­ty Coun­cil. As a for­mer pres­i­dent, he was elect­ed hon­orary vice pres­i­dent of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca and through his active involve­ment in the BSA, Roo­sevelt was the only man ever to be des­ig­nat­ed as Chief Scout Cit­i­zen.

More and more I have grown to believe in the Boy Scout move­ment. I regard it as one of the move­ments most full of promise for the future here in Amer­i­ca. The Boy Scout move­ment is dis­tinct­ly an asset to our coun­try for the devel­op­ment of effi­cien­cy, viril­i­ty, and good cit­i­zen­ship. It is essen­tial that its lead­ers be men of strong, whole­some char­ac­ter; of unmis­tak­able devo­tion to our coun­try, its cus­toms and ideals, as well as in soul and by law cit­i­zens there­of, whose whole­heart­ed loy­al­ty is giv­en to this nation, and to this nation alone.

William Howard Taft

William_Howard_Taft-Bfactsheet_taftIn 1910, Pres­i­dent Taft agreed to be BSA’s first hon­orary pres­i­dent, “thus [to] sus­tain a sim­i­lar rela­tion to the [Scout­ing] move­ment as does King George V …in Eng­land.” His exam­ple has been fol­lowed by each pres­i­dent since. The first annu­al meet­ing of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca was held in the White House on Feb­ru­ary 14, 1911, by invi­ta­tion of Pres­i­dent Taft.

I am very glad to give my sym­pa­thy and sup­port to such a move­ment as this. Any­thing that directs the boy’s spir­it in the right chan­nel for use­ful­ness and for the mak­ing of man­ly men should be encour­aged.

Woodrow Wilson

factsheet_wilsonWoodrow_Wilson-BAfter six years of work, James E. West won BSA a con­gres­sion­al char­ter on June 15, 1916, when Pres­i­dent Wil­son signed a bill grant­i­ng our char­ter. It passed with unan­i­mous con­sent in both hous­es of Con­gress, thus grant­i­ng fed­er­al incor­po­ra­tion to the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca.

The Boy Scouts have not only demon­strat­ed their worth to the nation, but have also mate­ri­al­ly con­tributed to a deep­er appre­ci­a­tion by the Amer­i­can peo­ple of the high­er con­cep­tion of patri­o­tism and good cit­i­zen­ship. Every nation depends for its future upon the prop­er train­ing and devel­op­ment of its youth. The Amer­i­can boy must have the best train­ing and dis­ci­pline our great democ­ra­cy can pro­vide if Amer­i­ca is to main­tain her ideals, her stan­dards, and her influ­ence in the world. Any­thing that is done to increase the effec­tive­ness of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca will be a gen­uine con­tri­bu­tion to the wel­fare of the nation.

Warren_G_Harding-Bfactsheet_hardingWarren G. Harding

Hard­ing  award­ed his “Hard­ing Awards” to 5,058 Boy Scout troops that in 1923 had grown in mem­ber­ship.

 I am with the Scout move­ment heart and soul. It is an orga­ni­za­tion teach­ing the spir­it of ser­vice and hon­or, which we must always have in our cit­i­zen­ship. It is a school of democ­ra­cy, because in it, stand­ing is won only by tak­ing the equal oppor­tu­ni­ty giv­en all indi­vid­u­als to show their own mer­it, capac­i­ty, and worth. I wish every boy in our Amer­i­ca could have the advan­tage and the hon­or of being in the Boy Scout orga­ni­za­tion.

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin_Coolidge-BPres­i­dent Coolidge was the first pres­i­dent to have sons in Scout­ing, two of them. As they par­tic­i­pat­ed, he had many oppor­tu­ni­ties to see the Scout­ing pro­gram at work. He per­son­al­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 16th Annu­al Meet­ing of the Nation­al Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in 1926 by pre­sent­ing the first Sil­ver Buf­fa­lo Awards for dis­tin­guished ser­vice to boy­hood.

The more I have stud­ied this move­ment, its incep­tion, pur­pos­es, orga­ni­za­tion, and prin­ci­ples, the more I have been impressed. Not only is it based on the fun­da­men­tal rules of right think­ing and act­ing, but it seems to embrace in its code almost every virtue need­ed in the per­son­al and social life of mankind. It is a won­der­ful instru­ment for good. If every boy in the Unit­ed States could be placed under the whole­some influ­ences of the Scout pro­gram, and should live up to the Scout Oath and rules, we would hear few­er pes­simistic words as to the future of our nation.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert_Hoover-BPres­i­dent Hoover launched a for­ward move­ment and devel­op­ment pro­gram for the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca at a din­ner com­mem­o­rat­ing Scouting’s 20th anniver­sary where he spoke after can­celling sev­er­al oth­er appoint­ments. As hon­orary pres­i­dent of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca he sent a mes­sage with US Scouts to the World Jam­boree in July 1929.

The first test of democ­ra­cy is that each indi­vid­ual shall have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take that posi­tion of lead­er­ship in the com­mu­ni­ty to which his char­ac­ter, his abil­i­ty, and his ambi­tion enti­tle him; … the progress of our coun­try is thus direct­ly relat­ed to the train­ing in lead­er­ship we can give the youth of the nation. In meet­ing the vital need that when the oncom­ing gen­er­a­tion takes over our nation­al affairs it shall be a gen­er­a­tion bul­warked with char­ac­ter, the Boy Scout move­ment plays a most use­ful part.

The Boy Scout move­ment has opened for him the por­tals to adven­ture and con­struc­tive joy, by reviv­ing the lore of the fron­tier and the camp­fire; by estab­lish­ing con­tacts with the birds and some­times with the bees; by match­ing his patience to the delib­er­ate char­ac­ter of fish; by effi­cient oper­a­tions of the swim­ming hole; and by peeps into the thou­sand mys­ter­ies of the streams, the trees, and the stars.

Franklin D. Roosevelt


Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt-BPres­i­dent Roo­sevelt was the first to enter the White House with a record as an active Scout leader. He had been pres­i­dent of the Greater New York Coun­cil. In 1934, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Scouts assem­bled to hear Pres­i­dent Roosevelt’s broad­cast appeal­ing for help for the needy. They respond­ed by col­lect­ing near­ly two mil­lion arti­cles of cloth­ing, house­hold fur­nish­ings, and oth­er items for dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies. He saw Scout­ing as a way to build a youth corps for his “New Deal” and he like­ly pat­terned his Civ­il Con­ser­va­tion Corps (CCC) after Scout­ing. In 1941, on the 31st anniver­sary of the incor­po­ra­tion of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca, Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt addressed the orga­ni­za­tion in this video link. When FDR died in 1945, he had a 24-year record of ser­vice in Scout­ing.

As one who has been inter­est­ed in Scout­ing over many years, it has been most heart­en­ing to have so many evi­dences of the prac­ti­cal val­ues of Scout train­ing. We must remem­ber that next to active mil­i­tary ser­vice itself, there is no high­er oppor­tu­ni­ty for serv­ing our coun­try than help­ing youth to car­ry on in their efforts to make them­selves phys­i­cal­ly strong, men­tal­ly awake, and moral­ly straight, and pre­pared to help their coun­try to the full in time of war, as well as in time of peace. We must make sure that those vol­un­teer agen­cies, which are sup­ple­ment­ing the church, the home, and the school by pro­vid­ing pro­grams that will help equip the present gen­er­a­tion to cope with life prob­lems in the dif­fi­cult days ahead, are main­tained to their max­i­mum capac­i­ty and effec­tive­ness.

Harry S. Truman

Harry_Truman-BPres­i­dent Tru­man gave strong sup­port to the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. He trav­eled to Val­ley Forge, Penn­syl­va­nia, in June 1950 to open the Sec­ond Nation­al Scout Jam­boree with these words: “As Hon­orary Pres­i­dent of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca, I am proud to open this Scout Jam­boree. I under­stand that there are near­ly 50,000 Scouts in this encamp­ment. I am glad to see such evi­dence of the strength of the Scout move­ment. And I think it most appro­pri­ate in times like these that you have cho­sen to hold your Jam­boree at this his­toric shrine of Val­ley Forge.”

The Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca, since it was found­ed in 1910, has con­tributed great­ly to the char­ac­ter train­ing of our youth. What a greater nation this would be if the prin­ci­ples of Scout­ing could be woven more close­ly into our dai­ly lives. If we can impress upon our youth prin­ci­ples of friend­li­ness and mutu­al respect, we shall go a long way toward estab­lish­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing among the nations of the world. The Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca is mak­ing a vital con­tri­bu­tion to the char­ac­ter-build­ing of our boys and young men. Let us work togeth­er to make the pro­gram of the Boy Scouts avail­able to every Amer­i­can boy.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

EisenhowerDwight_D._Eisenhower,_official_Presidential_portraitPres­i­dent Eisen­how­er became a mem­ber of the Nation­al Exec­u­tive Board of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca in 1948, but had been a staunch sup­port­er of Scout­ing ever since his son was a Scout. In 1960 he vis­it­ed the World Jam­boree in Col­orado Springs. CO. His entourage drove the 130 mile round trip from Den­ver to address the world body (view news­reel footage here)

The Boy Scout move­ment mer­its the unstint­ed sup­port of every Amer­i­can who wants to make his coun­try and his world a bet­ter place in which to live. Its empha­sis on com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and tol­er­ance and world friend­ship pro­motes a speed­i­er attain­ment of the endur­ing peace among men for which we all strive. By devel­op­ing among its mem­bers both a spir­it of stur­di­ness, self-reliance, and a real­iza­tion of the need for coop­er­a­tive effort in every major enter­prise, the move­ment is a prime force in prepar­ing tomorrow’s men for their duty to them­selves, their coun­try, and their world. Here in the Unit­ed States, the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca have accom­plished much in its years of ser­vice. But today, more than ever before, we need expan­sion of its mem­ber­ship and influ­ence

John F. Kennedy

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Dur­ing a White House vis­it by Scouts and Explor­ers in 1961 (pic­tured at right), Kennedy shared how Scouts “learn the qual­i­ties of per­se­ver­ance … you come to under­stand some­thing about nature and some­thing about our coun­try.”

JFKThe first Boy Scout to become pres­i­dent was John F. Kennedy. As a boy he was a mem­ber of Troop 2 in Bronxville, New York, from 1929 to 1931. In the 1940s and 50s he was active in the Boston dis­trict, serv­ing as dis­trict vice-chair­man, exec­u­tive board mem­ber, dis­trict vice-pres­i­dent, and nation­al coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tive. In 1961, he was Nation­al Hon­orary Pres­i­dent.

For more than 50 years, Scout­ing has played an impor­tant part in the lives of the Boy Scouts of this nation. It has helped to mold char­ac­ter, to form friend­ships, to pro­vide a worth­while out­let for the nat­ur­al ener­gies of grow­ing boys, and to train these boys to become good cit­i­zens of the future.

In a very real sense, the prin­ci­ples learned and prac­ticed as Boy Scouts add to the strength of Amer­i­ca and her ideals.

Lyndon B. Johnson

factsheet_lbjJohnsonPres­i­dent John­son was an active Scout leader with the Capi­tol Area Coun­cil in Austin, Texas, serv­ing on its Explor­ing com­mit­tee. He was also a mem­ber of the Nation­al Cap­i­tal Area Coun­cil from 1959 to 1963. In 1963 he helped orga­nize Post 1200 in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which was char­tered by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for page boys work­ing in the U.S. Con­gress.

I wel­come this oppor­tu­ni­ty to express my pride and deep sense of grat­i­tude for the out­stand­ing exam­ple and envi­able rep­u­ta­tion for human under­stand­ing and fair play, which have, through­out the pro­duc­tive life of your orga­ni­za­tion, been hall­marks of Scout­ing every­where. Your con­duct, both indi­vid­u­al­ly and in your group activ­i­ties, has been wor­thy of admi­ra­tion by all the young cit­i­zens of our land. Today, as we face the chal­lenges of an increas­ing­ly com­plex and fre­quent­ly dis­turb­ing world, Amer­i­ca needs an alert, respon­si­ble, and ener­getic youth to pro­vide her with a vital resource in a hope­ful­ly hap­pi­er and fuller future for all. As I applaud your past, I also urge you to reded­i­cate your­selves to the ideals of the Scout Oath, and to reaf­firm your oblig­a­tions to your God and to your coun­try. In so doing, you will con­tribute to the strength­en­ing of America’s her­itage and there­by to the real­iza­tion of our com­mon goals in the Great Soci­ety.

Richard M. Nixon

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nixon

As vice pres­i­dent, Richard Nixon spoke at the nation­al jam­borees held at Irvine Ranch in Cal­i­for­nia in 1953 and at Pennsylvania’s Val­ley Forge State Park in 1957. Then as pres­i­dent in 1971, Nixon host­ed the first Nation­al Explor­er Pres­i­dents’ Con­gress on the White House lawn.

I wel­come your deter­mi­na­tion to seek out new mem­bers in our great and grow­ing cities, as well as through­out rur­al Amer­i­ca. For through Scout­ing, many of these young cit­i­zens can more ful­ly devel­op their poten­tial for pub­lic ser­vice, and become effec­tive lead­ers in their com­mu­ni­ties and in our nation.

I strong­ly believe that Scout­ing offers an excep­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about good cit­i­zen­ship by being a good cit­i­zen, and I am glad to hear that we can count on you to car­ry on the very impor­tant work … in encour­ag­ing America’s boys to make them­selves into the men our coun­try needs.

Gerald R. Ford

factsheet_fordFordWhen Ger­ald Ford became pres­i­dent, he was the first Eagle Scout to serve in the nation’s high­est seat. His Scout­ing career start­ed Decem­ber 17, 1924, when he became a mem­ber of Troop 15. It was spon­sored by the Trin­i­ty M.E. Church in Grand Rapids, Michi­gan. In May 1970, for his ser­vice to the nation and com­mu­ni­ty life, he was rec­og­nized with the Dis­tin­guished Eagle Scout Award by the Grand Val­ley Coun­cil at Grand Rapids, Michi­gan. This made a sec­ond, unique hon­or for BSA when he became pres­i­dent, as the Nations only Dis­tin­guished Eagle Pres­i­dent. While pres­i­dent, he received the Scouter of the Year Award on Decem­ber 2, 1974, from the Nation­al Capi­tol Area Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

One of the proud­est moments of my life came in the court of hon­or when I was award­ed the Eagle Scout badge. I still have that badge. It is a trea­sured pos­ses­sion. I am the first Eagle Scout vice pres­i­dent. The three great prin­ci­ples which Scout­ing provides—self-discipline, team­work, and moral and patri­ot­ic values—are the basic build­ing blocks of lead­er­ship. I applaud the Scout­ing pro­gram for con­tin­u­ing to empha­size them. I am con­fi­dent that your abil­i­ty to bring ideals, val­ues, and lead­er­ship train­ing to mil­lions of our young peo­ple will help to bring about a new era—a time in which not only our repub­lic will progress in peace and free­dom, but a time in which the entire world shall be secure, and all its peo­ple free.

factsheet_carterJames E. Carter Jr.

In his home coun­cil in Albany, Geor­gia, Pres­i­dent Carter was involved in Scout­ing on troop 25’s com­mit­tee, spon­sored by his Lion’s Club. He also was an Explor­er Advi­sor and Scout­mas­ter in Troop and Post 25. In 1956, while their son was a Cub Scout, he and his wife served as Cub­mas­ter and Den Moth­er in pack 25. All three of their sons were Scouts.

Jimmy_Carter-BAs pres­i­dent, Carter appealed for an ener­gy con­ser­va­tion pro­gram in the BSA. Thus began Scout­ing Envi­ron­ment Day on April 23, 1977. Scouts par­tic­i­pat­ed in oth­er pro­grams that con­tributed toward achiev­ing nation­al ener­gy con­ser­va­tion goals.

As a for­mer vol­un­teer Scout leader … I am great­ly impressed by the role of your fine pro­gram in our nation­al life. It is a con­struc­tive ini­tia­tive on the part of young Amer­i­cans to explore career inter­ests, and to become bet­ter pre­pared for a more sat­is­fy­ing and reward­ing future.

 

Ronald W. Reagan

While serv­ing as gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia, Pres­i­dent Rea­gan became involved in Scout­ing with the Gold­en Empire Coun­cil in Sacra­men­to. Dur­ing his eight years as gov­er­nor, he chaired Project SOAR (Save Our Amer­i­can Resources) for the coun­cil, served as its mem­ber­ship roundup chair­man, factsheet_reaganpar­tic­i­pat­ed in the annu­al report to the gov­er­nor cer­e­monies, and served on the Council’s advi­so­ry board. For his ser­vice to youth, he was award­ed the Sil­ver Beaver Award. As a mem­ber of the Los Ange­les Area Coun­cil, he served as Scoutora­ma chair­man, as a speak­er for the coun­cil recog­ni­tion din­ner, and was a sus­tain­ing mem­ber (FOS).

ronald-reaganI applaud your many efforts and pro­grams encour­ag­ing char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and lead­er­ship among Amer­i­can youth. By spon­sor­ing many use­ful phys­i­cal, men­tal, and social activ­i­ties designed to pro­mote self-respon­si­bil­i­ty, the Scouts strength­en the cor­ner­stone of indi­vid­ual free­dom in our nation. These pro­grams devel­op the youngster’s con­fi­dence in his abil­i­ty to deal with nature, soci­ety, and a chal­leng­ing world

 

George H. W. Bush

factsheet_hwbushBushGeorge H. W. Bush saw his sons in Scout­ing and voiced strong sup­port for BSA and its fight against drug abuse. He appeared at the 1989 Nation­al Scout Jam­boree at Fort A. P. Hill, Vir­ginia, on August 7, 1989.

The Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca has assumed a lead­er­ship role in con­fronting this prob­lem [of drug abuse]. You are teach­ing self-pro­tec­tion strate­gies against drugs and oth­er dan­gers. You have cir­cu­lat­ed these strate­gies in direct lan­guage in a very suc­cess­ful pam­phlet called Drugs: A Dead­ly Game. And you have done some­thing else—you are lead­ing the youth of Amer­i­ca by exam­ple.

ClintonWilliam J. Clinton

Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, a for­mer Cub Scout, greet­ed 36,000 Scouts and lead­ers at the 1997 Nation­al Scout Jam­boree at Fort A. P. Hill, Vir­ginia, and com­mend­ed them for pro­mot­ing the impor­tance of ser­vice to oth­ers.

For almost a cen­tu­ry, the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca have helped to make vol­un­teer ser­vice an Amer­i­can ide­al. With every act of kind­ness, you’ve strength­ened our nation’s com­mit­ment to com­mu­ni­ty and pro­mot­ed a sense of civic respon­si­bil­i­ty.

 

George W. Bush

bush 2Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, a for­mer Cub Scout, praised Scout­ing and its endur­ing val­ues when he appeared to the near­ly 40,000 Scouts, vol­un­teers, and lead­ers at the 2005 Nation­al Scout Jam­boree at Fort A. P. Hill, Vir­ginia, in July 2005.

Every day, Scouts are show­ing that the great­est strength of Amer­i­ca lies in the hearts and souls of our cit­i­zens. Through your Good Turn for Amer­i­ca ini­tia­tive, Scouts have giv­en more than 1.4 mil­lion hours of vol­un­teer ser­vice this year alone … On behalf of a grate­ful nation, I thank the Boy Scouts for serv­ing on the front­line of America’s armies of com­pas­sion.

Barack H. Obama

factsheet_obama

Official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma praised Scout­ing for its first 100 years of ser­vice dur­ing a video address to atten­dees at the 2010 Nation­al Scout Jam­boree.

…For a cen­tu­ry, Scouts just like you have served your com­mu­ni­ties and your nation in ways both large and small. Dur­ing World War II, Scouts played a vital role in sup­port­ing the war effort at home by run­ning mes­sages and sell­ing war bonds….Today, Scouts across the coun­try con­tin­ue in the tra­di­tion of col­lect­ing food for those in need, improv­ing our neigh­bor­hoods, and reach­ing out to those less for­tu­nate….
Con­grat­u­la­tions on your first hun­dred years. I’m sure the next hun­dred will be even bet­ter.

Adapt­ed from Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca Fact Sheet. “Pres­i­dents of the Unit­ed States and the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca”

One comment

  1. Tyler North
    Tyler North ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It is amaz­ing to me to see just how many Pres­i­dents have been Scouts, Scout lead­ers, or advo­cates for Scout­ing. It will be inter­est­ing to see if that trend holds up in the future Pres­i­dents of the nation, although I´m sure sup­port for Scout­ing will always be there.

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