February 8th marks the 110th anniversary of the Founding of The Boy Scouts of America in 1910. A date that scouts and scouters know well. What many scouts, leaders and the public don’t know is the history of the organization and its immeasurable importance to the United States and around the world. Since that time, more than 100 million hours of community service and more than 5 million lives have been saved by scouts and leaders. Literally around the country and world everyday lives are saved and community service projects are building local communities and changing lives for the better thanks to scout volunteers and scouts.
From the very start of The Boy Scouts of America, boys of different races, religions, economic status and abilities were welcomed into the program. This was certainly a forward thinking idea that took the rest of the country decades to embrace. Meritocracy was the bedrock of the program and remains so today. Any boy could join and if a scout fulfilled the requirements, he earned the merit badge.
In 1930, the Cub Scout Program was launched, so this year marks the 90th anniversary. In the 1970s, the organization welcomed girls into its Explorer and Venturing programs foreshadowing its most recent history of welcoming girls into the Cub Scout and Boy Scout program. Scouts with disabilities do not have any time limit for completing their requirements to earn Eagle Scout rank. Girls joining the organization February of 2018 have extra time to work through the merit badges to achieve scouting’s highest rank of Eagle. The Scout Oath and Scout Law remain a cornerstone of the program.
Few people know the history of the organization and its immeasurable contribution to the country. During World War I, scouts planted 12,000 victory gardens to feed soldiers. Scouts collected 100 railroad cars worth of nut hulls and peach pits used to make charcoal filters for gas masks. They identified and charted the location of 21 million broad feet of black walnut trees for use as gunstocks and airplane propellers and distributed 30 million pieces of government literature to citizens. Scouts raised an incredible $23 million for the war effort by selling Liberty Bonds.
During World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made 69 formal requests of The Boy Scouts of America for aid in the war effort. These included the collection of rubber as spare tires and other consumer products. A two week drive alone netted 30 million pounds of rubber. Another 20,000 victory gardens were planted to feed soldiers. Other efforts were distribution of pledge cards for war bonds and war saving stamps, collection of aluminum, and paper. Scouts even served as fire watchers, emergency medical personnel, messengers and dispatch bearers according to the book, Four Percent, The Extraordinary Story of Exceptional American Youth.
Closer to home we see the positive affects of our local scouts everywhere we look, be it planting gardens at Onatru Farm, clearing hiking trails, building structures, or just “doing a good turn daily” helping neighbors and others in our communities. The uniform they wear is one of a “Messenger of Peace.” Last year several of our local scouts represented our local community at the World Scout Jamboree Held at Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. The event is held every four years in a different country and brings together thousands of scouts from around the world. It hadn’t been held in the U.S. in forty years. The amount of good will and understanding shared by our scouts with others around the world that are so different from themselves, yet share so much through scouting, is priceless.
I would suggest we would do well to replicate the Boy Scouts of America practice of meritocracy above any differences and above all else to make some determination of the character of a person on their each individual merits alone.
If the next 110 years is anything like the last 110 years, one of our greatest hopes for mankind lies with the world wide scouting movements that are alive and well around the world with 30 million members. Proof lies in the fact that Afghanistan just this year has again launched their scouting program in the country.
Scouting in Westchester has a long and distinguished history. Service hours performed by scouts in the Westchester-Putnam Council average about 45,000 a year according to their website.
I would urge everyone to read at least a little bit of scout history to really begin to understand what a tremendous impact scouting has had not only in building America and defending it, but locally as well. The Vista-Lewisboro Cub Scouts alone have a 55 year history in the community. Better yet, get your sons and daughters interested in scouting and join a local pack or troop.
The author is Cubmaster for The Vista-Lewisboro Cub Scouts and a Boy Scouts of America merit badge counselor for Scouting Heritage. He has achieved the highest training in the organization, having completed Wood Badge in the Fall of 2020 and all subsequent training prerequisites.
Published on February 7, 2020, in the Record Review.