President Trump and the Boy Scout Fiasco

I have used this space in the past to talk about Jewish topics, specifically relating to the Conservative Movement, but after hearing President Drumpfs speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree earlier today, I felt the need to comment.

Let me begin by saying that I am a proud parent of a Boy Scout.  My son is a member of Troop 55 in Highland Park NJ and has attained the rank of First Class. It is his hope to become an Eagle Scout in the future.  He enjoys scouting and tries to live by the Boy Scout Promise and Boy Scout Law.  I am also a fan of the Boy Scout program and see all of the wonderful positives that my son and other boys get by being a Boy Scout.

Every four years, The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) holds a national scout Jamboree held at The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia.  Since the first Jamboree in Washington DC in 1937, every sitting President has been invited to attend and address the scouts.  They either come themselves or send a representative.  President Obama sent a video message during his term in office.  The President of the United States is also given the title of Honorary President of the BSA.   These speeches have always been talks about the positives of being a scout, the importance of being leaders, and the hope that the scouts will go on to greatness in their future.

As reported in the Washington Post, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the occasion to talk about good citizenship. Harry S. Truman extolled fellowship: “When you work and live together, and exchange ideas around the campfire, you get to know what the other fellow is like,” he said.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the “bonds of common purpose and common ideals.” And President George H.W. Bush spoke of “serving others.”

As is traditional, President Drumpf was invited to attend the Jamboree and address the scouts.I was horrified by the speech from President Drumpf.  He had a chance to really shine and bring a positive message to the scouts.  Despite saying “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” he spend the rest of the speech talking about politics.  He bad mouthed people.  He joked about people, and most importantly, he spent most of the time talking about himself and the “great things” he is doing (my words not his).

I was horrified after listening to this speech.  Not only was it inappropriate, especially given an audience of teenagers, it was possibly against the rules of the BSA!  BSA is a non political organization and it is open to all boys no matter of religion, political affiliation, or (now) sexual orientation.  There is no room in BSA for speeches like this.

I took some time earlier to write a letter to the Chief Scout Executive, Michael Surbaugh and to the National President of BSA, Randall Stephenson.  I am posting that letter hear as well.  I feel strongly that BSA MUST condemn this speech and let the President know that political speeches like this are not welcome at Jamboree.  Until that happens, I may have to withhold my financial support of BSA.

An open letter to Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America and Randall L. Stephenson, Nation President of the Boy Scouts of America


Dear Sirs:


Today I watched a video of the President of the United States, Donald Drumpf, speaking to the thousands of Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree.  I know that he had been invited to speak to the Jamboree, as had all of the sitting Presidents of the Unite States since President Franklin Roosevelt.


I had hoped that this would be an occasion for President Drumpf to really shine.  To give the scouts a positive message for their future.  Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.  He began saying that he would not speak about politics (in crude terms) and then proceeded to spend the next 40 minutes to bad mouth President Obama and his policies, say nasty things about Senator Hillary Clinton and even criticize members of his own administration.  He used his time with the scouts to speak about partisan politics that was both inappropriate for his audience, and perhaps violated the rules of the Boy Scouts of America.


My son is a proud member of Troop 55, in Highland Park, NJ.  He enjoys going to troop meetings, camping trips, and Boy Scout Summer camp.  He is currently a First Class Scout, well on his way to earning his Star and Life ranks.  It is his hope to earn his Eagle rank.  Up until now, I have never thought to write about my disappointment with BSA.  Even through the times when the BSA discriminated against homosexuals I stood by the BSA because I saw my son’s positive experiences.


I now find it very difficult to continue to support the Boy Scouts of America.  The speech by President Drumpf was an outrage and I feel strongly that BSA MUST condemn this speech in the strongest words possible.  Our President must be told that a speech like this, that violates the policies of BSA, is not welcome at Jamboree, and that this type of speech will not be welcome in the future.


Despite my difficulties with this situation, I would never force my son to leave scouting and I would not even suggest it.  The positives that he is getting far outweigh this negative.  However, I feel at this time, I cannot in good conscience continue to financially support BSA other than the dues we pay for my son to be a member.  Should the BSA choose to condemn the President’s speech, I will certainly reconsider this position.




Philip Goldwasser
Highland Park NJ

About the Author
Phil Goldwasser served on the board of directors of his synagogue, The Highland Park Conservative Temple - Congregation Anshe Emeth in Highland Park NJ, and chairs the youth committee. He holds a masters degree from JTS. For close to 20 years he was involved with USY as a USYer and staff member. Now he is learning how to be a parent of USYers and Kadimaniks.