- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

This week, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates the 94th anniversary of its incorporation. On a probably cold winter day back in 1910, when America’s dreams of being a world power were shared by perhaps only a handful, a charitable organization was formally created that would, over the next 94 years, instill virtue, love of nature, excitement, wonder and manhood in tens of millions of American boys.

Yet, in recent years, caught up in the larger culture wars that are ravaging Western civilization, many in America have come to loathe not love, criticize not praise, and sue not support, this most American of institutions. Why? I’m not really sure other than perhaps a bit of envy on their part.

But, at a time when the most frequent gesture to be witnessed on American TV seems to be the crotch grab, and public eloquence is measured not by the beauty of phraseology but by the number of curse words one can cram into a sentence, it is indeed appropriate to thank the Boy Scouts of America — battered and tattered as it may be — for continuing to stand tall for God, country and family.

With the flurry of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts for refusing to allow homosexual men to lead its members or atheists to infiltrate its ranks still fresh in the clerks’ offices of courthouses across America, those who support the scouting movement should challenge the anti-scouters to let us know which of the following 40 words comprising the Boy Scout Oath, they find so objectionable:

On my honor, I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically fit, mentally awake and morally straight.

I, for one, would be genuinely interested to learn which of these words the Scouts’ critics disdain.

Perhaps it is one of the following 12 attributes of Scouts, the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law, its critics find so distasteful that they feel themselves forced to bring suit against: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Or, maybe it’s simply the Boy Scout Motto that so troubles its detractors — “Be Prepared.” Perhaps it’s unfair to those who are un-prepared, or who fail to exhibit any of the characteristics of Scouts, to champion these things that the Boy Scouts of America cherishes; maybe it’s simply passe or politically incorrect to be courteous, kind or obedient to the law. Maybe the Boy Scouts are simply no longer relevant. I don’t think so.

Yes, standing for honesty and against dishonesty constitutes a value judgment at a time in our history in which the intelligentsia ridicules values. But, what’s wrong with standing for such things? Are they not to be valued? Has not America always stood for these things?

During the eight years I served in the U.S. House of Representatives, I had the pleasure and the honor of writing dozens of letters congratulating young men for achieving the pinnacle of scouting: the rank of Eagle Scout. I can tell you, every one of these young men, each of whom had worked hard for years to win the Eagle Scout badge, is among the finest of the fine. Every one of these young men, many of whom are now husbands, fathers and professional workers, remains the embodiment of what Ronald Reagan referred to in his second Inaugural address as “The American Sound.” I know, because I still run into these Eagle Scouts turned-full grown men — in coffee shops, in churches, on the street — and they always come up respectfully and say, “thank you, Congressman, for that letter you wrote congratulating me on my attaining Eagle Scout.”

Many of these young men are now serving — and dying — in our armed forces, just as did millions of their predecessors, including many generals, admirals and presidents. And while today’s Reality TV and Shock Radio revels in nudity, vulgarity, profanity and iconoclasm, the fact there are still thousands of young men each year who aspire to help others, who unashamedly love their country, who consciously remember we are all God’s children, who obey rather than flout the law, and who seek to strengthen rather than weaken families, gives me more faith in the future of America that all the glitzy glamour of the Grammys, or the decadent hoopla of Super Bowl halftime shows, ever could. It is particularly impressive when you realize these young men do all this in return not for money but for a simple cloth badge.

Happy Birthday, Boy Scouts of America. God bless you.

Bob Barr, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia, is a columnist for United Press International.

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