Youth and volunteers at the Boy Scouts of America 2017 National Jamboree had a surprise visit from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today. Secretary Tillerson, a former volunteer national president of the BSA, came to camp for the announcement of a new leadership center to be named in his honor.

He confessed to the gathered crowd that this wasn’t exactly how he’d envisioned attending Jamboree: “About a year ago when I was thinking about the upcoming Jamboree, I was going to be a volunteer. I was going to spend the whole time here working either washing dishes or hauling waste or whatever they needed me to do, but I was going to have my Jamboree experience. Well this is my Jamboree experience, and I’ll take it.”

Secretary Tillerson went on to explain why he has continued to support the BSA leadership programs, saying, “I know of no other organization in the world that teaches values-based servant leadership except the Boy Scouts of America. It’s where I learned mine.”

Of course, he acknowledged that learning true leadership is a never-ending journey. Referring to his new position as Secretary of State, he explained, “I’m still developing myself as a values-based servant leader. And this new opportunity that I have to serve our country has provided me with new ways of learning things that I thought I had perfected and now I learn I didn’t have them quite perfected after all. So it gives me a chance to continue to grow as a leader.”

Secretary Tillerson emphasized the importance of learning to lead through service to God, your country, others, and yourself. He assured Scouts that they were on the right track, since the BSA “does provide the platform for values-based servant leadership and everything that’s needed is in the Scout Oath, the Law, and the tenants that guide us.” 

He explained that no matter how he tried, he could never add anything to the Scout Law to make it more complete: “Everything about living a principled, values-based life and being a principled, values-based leader is in those twelve laws.”

Rex Tillerson shakes hands with volunteers at Jamboree

He added the Scout motto and slogan as ways to live the Scout Law more fully: “Be prepared. Prepare yourself for what’s ahead. Prepare yourself to be a principled leader. Prepare yourself to be a servant leader. And then practice it by doing a good turn daily. It’s all right there—everything you need to know. Prepare yourself with these laws, prepare yourself with this promise, commit yourself, dedicate yourself to it, and then practice it every day with the smallest thing you choose to do for someone else, of your own initiative, without recognition.”

He reaffirmed that this is how he has lived and strives to lead: “So other than the Holy Bible that I spend minutes in every morning, those principles, that Law, that Oath, that Motto, that Slogan, is all I need every day to make every decision I’m faced with.”

Living by Scouting principles consistently can change your life, because “what you’re really doing is creating behaviors—behaviors that are learned and they’re like muscles in your body, and the next thing you know it’s just the way you are. You wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.” And the benefits of living by these principles and learning servant leadership? “If you dedicate yourself to it though, I promise that you will have a happy life. You will be a happy person. And that’s the greatest reward one can ask for.”

Secretary Tillerson closed with a line he used often as a leader in the BSA, “Don’t ever forget—the main thing to remember is to keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is to serve more youth. God bless you all, God bless the Boy Scouts of America, God bless America.”


  1. Avatar
    Ken Krogue ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Rex Tillerson is one of the best things we have going for us in President Trump’s cabinet. I’m impressed more than ever after meeting him and shaking his hand and listening him speak about his belief in God.

  2. Madison Austin
    Madison Austin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wow! I love that Jamboree is such a unique place that allows Scouts to experience powerful moments like this. Sec Tillerson is right, Scouting really does prepare you in the fullest way to become a values-based servant and leader. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Avatar
    Angela says:

    Cool! They make Jamboree so memorable! I can’t imagine the resources, connections and planning that goes into this!!! Secretary of State?! So cool! And what awesome connections he made to leadership and Boy Scouts

    1. Maria Milligan
      Maria Milligan ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

      You’re right, there’s definitely too much to see everything! It was amazing to be there in person. He took time to shake hands with people as he was walking in (very firm handshake by the way, he must have practice). He teared up when he talked about how grateful he was to have his wife with him, and after he closed his speech a crowd of Scouts around me started chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!”

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