Every Boy Scout is required to earn at least 21 merit badge if they want to reach the rank of Eagle. There are 10 required badges among those 21. They include ones that you’d associate with the physical, outdoorsy background of the Boy Scouts: First Aid, Lifesaving, Camping, Swimming, Environmental Science.
However, there are three required badges that might not immediately come to mind when asked about which ones are required: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World. These were also my favorite merit badges to earn. They aren’t the most popular because you don’t get to do cool stuff like patching up wounds or going on backcountry trips. These require you to research issues, learn about the founding of your country, contact your local government representatives, and speak out about issues that matter to you. I loved it.
I wrote a letter to Congressman Jim Oberstar about gun control. His office responded with a two-page letter. I believe I still have it somewhere. That letter gave me faith in our country’s freedom of speech and democracy. It inspired me to continue to write letters to the editor to my newspaper and contact my representatives. I cherish our nation’s freedom of speech.
I have long argued that Boy Scouts does more for youth development than any athletic program. Maybe I’m biased because I wasn’t very good at sports, but I learned a lot of things about being an adult from the Boy Scouts. I learned how to work with many different stakeholders (leaders, other scouts, and parents) in order to plan trips and events. I learned how to go up to strangers and ask for money for a worthy cause. I learned how to be prepared for numerous scenarios that could befell you. I learned how to get out of my comfort zone. I learned how to work towards something that I really wanted: my Eagle Scout rank. I learned how to be an informed and active citizen. In short, I learned a lot.
I don’t believe Donald Trump subscribes to my same brand of idealism and optimism. That’s what made his speech at the BSA National Jamboree even more appalling. If he can’t be trusted to say appropriate things in front of thousands of Boy Scouts, what can we trust him with?
I worked at a Boy Scout camp for three summers during college. It was a nice way to complete the circle of my formal Scouting career. My first year was in 2008. I remember having a few political discussions with my fellow counselors, but I don’t ever remember it affecting my work or getting into a disagreement with a leader of some issue. A bunch of college kids over the course of the summer had an easier time being civil than the current president of the United States.
A thought that I haven’t been able to let go over the past few months is the sixth point of the Boy Scout Law: A Scout is kind. If you asked a random person for a description of a Boy Scout, I’m guessing that wouldn’t be the first word they think of. That’s the one I’ve held on to the most because it’s the one I think our world (especially in the social media age) needs the most. Kind made the list before strong and smart. It’s easy to be mean, you really don’t have to do much, but it’s difficult to be kind. It requires action and decisions.
I hope a few kind, helpful, and brave scouts were inspired to stand up for what is under attack by Mr. Trump.