Friday, May 8, 2009

The significance of Scouting

From the 11 May 2009 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

What do Gerald Ford, Neil Armstrong, Walter Cronkite, and William DeVries have in common?

All of them were members of the Boy Scouts of America who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and went on to do great things.

That begs the question: Would they have contributed to society as much as they did were they not scouts? Would they have led our nation, walked on the moon, spoke to a people, or transplanted hearts? Maybe. Maybe not.

What can be said with some certainty, though, is that the BSA had a significant impact on their lives and is partially responsible for what drove them to greatness. It taught them the values of community, work ethic and leadership which cannot be found in our schools or in many homes. It has done the same for millions of young men since its inception in 1910, inspiring, if not creating, yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.

The Scouting program is just as important now as it was nearly a century ago. It could even be argued that it might have greater significance today. It’s the perfect outlet for today’s youth and it can help them overcome some of the obstacles in their paths. There’s a lot missing in their lives: Their outdoor pursuits have taken a back seat to new-fangled electronics, they don’t share the same bond with their real-world communities that they do with their trivial Internet communities, their schools have totally lost sight of civic education, and they struggle to find continuity in broken homes which, sadly, have become the norm.

The BSA addresses all those issues and then some. Camping and other outdoor activities are the cornerstone of the Scouting program, using the struggles and successes of pastoral adventure as a source of experiential learning, teaching the boys a wide variety of skills accompanied by a powerful mix of leadership, teamwork, self-reliance and self-confidence. Scouting also gets them out and about in their towns and villages, fostering a sense of community pride and a desire to help make better the world around them. It is all of this - in combination with the guidance provided by peers and scoutmasters - that can give today’s youth the support needed to survive a broken home or beat a broken community.

Not only does this help the boy, it also helps the parent. Many mothers and fathers struggle to help their son find his voice, his calling, in any number of activities, be they sports, bands or other extracurricular activities. Quite often these families find themselves with a void, unable to satisfy their desire to better their sons. Scouting is the one-stop source that can alleviate that stress. It combines the best of everything else into an all-encompassing program, one guaranteed to keep a boy’s attention and interest and one destined to make him a better man. For today’s busy parents, it’s a convenient option for those who feel spread thin: It’s one meeting a week, one campout a month, and one week-long trip a year. That small investment of time can create a lifetime of memories and, more importantly, a lifetime of success. Scouting accounts for better students, better citizens, and a better America by instilling timeless values and character into young men.

Take it from someone who was a Boy Scout and who himself achieved the rank of Eagle. I know I would not be the man I am now had it not been for Scouting. I never would have been a columnist or activist without its inspiring ways. Secondary schools and colleges spend so little time on civic and community responsibility that to most folks it’s an afterthought. Scouting’s lessons more than made up for that and created the drive behind these columns, not to mention the values that I apply in my day-to-day decisions. The BSA was so important to me that I place its importance on my upbringing second behind my family and far ahead of schooling at a distant third. It’s that significant.

It can have that same effect on your son, too. I strongly suggest that he give it a try. Visit to find a local scout council near you that can assist in finding a troop in your hometown. Joining the Boy Scouts of America is a decision you – and your son - won’t regret.

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