November 15, 2020
I am terribly disheartened and even confused by the mountain of abuse claims filed against the BSA in recent months.
The Scout organization that I became intimate with was an organization whose adult management I witnessed at the very basic troop level… The Scoutmasters and adult assistants who coached and guided neighborhood kids through our troublesome adolescent years and propelled us toward adulthood. They were the adults that I connected with on a weekly basis at Scout meetings and through merit badge quests, camporees and fund raising events.
I was in Scouting from age 12 through 18. From Boy Scouts to Explorers to Order of the Arrow to camp counselor. I was surrounded by male adults who taught me basic skills from camp craft to first aid, and introduced me to concepts like social responsibility, fellowship and leadership. Scouts allowed me to grow socially and glow in the rewards of personal achievement. In hind site I suspect I was involved in Scouting during its final period of widespread acceptance and popularity in Detroit…from 1960 through 1966. By the time the 70s rolled into view “Scouting” and it’s quasi-military structure was facing widespread popular disinterest.
For me though, Scouting was a way of life that I adored and that I flourished within. My deep appreciation for Scouting now rests firmly on the broad shoulders of the men who guided me through some precarious adolescent times. Let me recite the names that I can still remember…all prefaced by the title, Mr..
Unfortunately…and to my own shortcomings…I cannot remember the names of others. But their faces, laughter, encouragement and most important, fellowship, linger in my dysfunctional memory and conjure up a warm sense of gratitude. There was never a hint of sexual innuendo, nefarious behavior or questionable conduct by any of them or any other Scouting adults that I came in contact with…never!
These men were all WWII veterans. Every one…Born in the 1920’s, they were circling 40 when I came under their influence. Their knowledge, experience and interests were vast compared to my own. They could certainly be task masters when required but always accompanied by empathy and flexibility. They were also role models, influencers, instructors and most important…leaders. There were no “bad seeds” among them. That I am aware of, none were drunks or criminals. Their code of conduct was guided by their own moral compass and encouraged by the Scouting organization. They were exemplary.
I think you can see from my experience why all of the recent allegations against Scouting’s adult leaders is so disheartening to me. My own experience was far from loathsome. My Scouting years were lively, safe and adventurous and what I am today, some 60 years after my first Scouting adventure is certainly owed to the leadership and integrity of those terrific scoutmasters who I hold in the highest regard. Bless them all…and thank you Scouting for six years of fun and guidance that opened hidden doors into a life of adventure and exploration.