Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Richard M. Nixon

Richard M. Nixon

Gerald R. Ford

Gerald R. Ford

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush

William J.

W. J. “Bill” Clinton

George W. Bush

George W. Bush

Barack H. Obama

Barack H. Obama

prez_T-RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt

BSA Hon. Vice President 1910 – 1919
BSA Chief Scout Citizen 1912 – 1919

“Let every good American show his patriotism by encouraging and supporting the Boy Scouts of America in every way within his power.” – Col. Theodore Roosevelt, September 2, 1917

If there was anyone upon whom BSA could depend, it was the organization’s first and only Chief Scout Citizen, Theodore Roosevelt. Born in 1857 with severe asthma that nearly claimed his young life, the sickly Roosevelt grew to manhood determined to defeat his infirmities through physical fitness and strenuous activity. He also trained his mind through constant reading of books, which filled him with an enormous amount of information and knowledge. Both processes contributed to his legendary moral incorruptibility.

Roosevelt graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Harvard College and was elected the youngest member of the New York General Assembly. Then, upon the tandem deaths of his young wife and beloved mother on Valentine’s Day 1884, he retreated from New York City to become a cattle rancher in the Dakota Territory.  Although Roosevelt ran unsuccessfully for the mayor’s office in New York City, he served as a U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, the president of the Police Commission of New York City, the assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy, a Colonel in the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, the governor of New York, the vice-president of the United States, and finally, the president of the United States—all accomplished by the age of 42.

While U.S. president, Roosevelt built the Panama Canal, broke-up corporate monopolies and trusts, and federally protected 230 million acres of national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and national monuments.  He helped build the modern navy, delivered a “Square Deal” to every American family, and was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

He was the father of six children, the author of more than thirty-five books and hundreds of magazine editorials, a devoted big game hunter, a world-class ornithologist, and the founder of the Boone & Crockett Club—the nation’s first fair-hunting and conservation organization.

And more than any other endorsement, the fledgling Boy Scouts of America wanted his.

prez_Wh-TaftWilliam Howard Taft

BSA Hon. President 1911 – 1913

“The Boy Scout movement will give the nation a substantial and efficient foundation through the proper education of American boyhood.” – The Honorable William Howard Taft, June 14, 1919

William Howard Taft was not a small man—far from it. Standing at just under six feet and weighing 330 pounds, “Big Bill’s” girth exceeded that of a baby elephant, making him the heaviest Chief Executive in American history. Perhaps attempting to exorcise the spirit of predecessor Theodore Roosevelt, the so-called “apostle of the strenuous life,” Taft expanded the White House’s West Wing and built today’s Oval Office over Roosevelt’s tennis court.

Albeit blessed with a jovial temperament, Taft may have smarted nonetheless at the many jokes aimed at his expansive waistline. “He looks like an American bison, a gentle, kind one,” declared American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane.

“Taft is the politest man in Washington,” acknowledged U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice David Josiah Brewer. “The other day he gave up his seat in a streetcar to three ladies.”

The reality was even worse—Taft once became stuck in a bathtub on the second floor of the White House and several maintenance workers were summoned to pry him loose.

Those embarrassments aside, William Taft navigated his presidency courtesy of a quality legal brain.

pres_WoodrowWilsonWoodrow Wilson

BSA Hon. President 1913 – 1921

“…the Boy Scouts of America will be a genuine contribution to the welfare of the nation.” – President Woodrow Wilson, May 1, 1919

Young Tommy Wilson seemed slow. As a ten-year-old boy in 1866, Thomas Woodrow Wilson could not read though he very much wanted to. Growing up in Georgia as the third child of Presbyterian minister Joseph Ruggles Wilson (a first-generation Irish American), at home the Word of God was revered and read constantly. A pious man of letters, the “thrifty and enterprising” Reverend Wilson excelled at taking Biblical lessons and applying them to the concerns of his congregation. And if judged by weekly attendance, he was quite effective. But amid the fiery passions of the learned Reverend’s temperament, Tommy’s inability to comprehend the written alphabet confounded and depressed him.

In a later age, clinicians would have concluded that Tommy suffered from dyslexia—the inability to interpret letters as whole words and sounds, sometimes popularly referred to as word blindness. Reverend Wilson believed his son’s disability could be overcome with diligent work, but not necessarily with reading alone.

So from an early age, Reverend Wilson took his son aside and spent many hours teaching him the fine art of debate and logical thinking—a critical skill that would take the boy far in life, exceeding his father’s expectations. According to historian Jay Winter, “Wilson’s father would give him an idea that the true test was making the world a place where justice, where goodness had a better and bigger place than it had before he came on the scene.”

“When [Tommy] finally did decode the alphabet and enter the priesthood of the literate,” relates biographer H.W. Brands, “he felt an exhilaration that stayed with him his whole life.”

prez_W-HardingWarren G. Harding

BSA Hon. President 1921 – 1923

“I am with the Scout Movement heart and soul.” – President Warren G. Harding, November 1920

In August 1923, twelve-year-old Stephen Lowe was a Boy Scout in Kearney, Nebraska. A Scout for less than a year, Stephen nonetheless was about to undertake the most important task of his Scouting career—represent his council to a nation in mourning.

Steven recently had impressed the local Scout Executive through his pursuit of a notably Scoutlike life. He was assigned to pick wild prairie flowers from Kearney and present them at the funeral train for the late President Warren G. Harding, whose flag-draped casket was to arrive at the local depot on  August 5.

Harding, 29th president of the United States, had expired just days before in San Francisco, California, suffering an unexpected heart attack in the middle of a conversation with the First Lady.

Stephen understood the importance of his assignment: to pick the most beautiful flowers his state had to offer.

“I went at it with a will,” he told a reporter. “After getting the flowers, I placed them in a large basket, all ready for the train.”

But events were not cooperating.

“The telephone rang and [Scout Executive] Joy said that the funeral train would not stop at Kearney, [and] that I must go 50 miles [east to Grand Island] where the train would change engines.”

Driven to Grand Island by his father, young Stephen, dressed in full Scout uniform, arrived at the depot. With basket in hand, he approached the presidential railroad car, Superb, and saw the soldier assigned to guard the President’s casket. Brimming with emotion, the Scout handed the container of flowers to the soldier, then snapped to attention, saluted, and stood there silently until the train pulled out of the station bound for Washington.

“What Lincoln was to the older men,” recalled Steven Lowe, “Harding is to us.”

pres_Coolidge-CalvinCalvin Coolidge

BSA Hon. President 1923 – 1929

“No organization is doing better work in developing noble virtues and strong character in our youth. This service is of incalculable value.” – President Calvin Coolidge

The Calvin Coolidge story is one about quality, not quantity. The year was 1928 and President Coolidge was passing through Fort Lauderdale via the Florida East Coast Railway. As the train pulled to a stop, a mass of eight thousand citizens—including many Girl Scouts—waved and shouted to him.

“Say something to the Girl Scouts!” screamed their enthusiastic leader.

Coolidge paused for a second, raised his head, and eloquently spun off a welcoming speech wholly consisting of the salutation: “Hello, Girl Scouts.” After dropping his hand, he turned around.

At a White House reception, the President was approached by a society matron who announced a wager with an attending gentleman that she could get Coolidge to say more than three words to her. His laconic response: “You lose.”

Asked by a former classmate to send greetings to their college reunion, Coolidge agreed. At the event, the master of ceremonies announced that he had received a telegram from the institution’s most famous alumnus.

Thunderous applause rang out. Then, with a large gesture from the speaker, the room went silent. The emcee carefully opened the envelope and read its entire contents in a loud, clear voice: “Greetings. Calvin Coolidge.”

His last will and testament was just twenty-three words long. He advised his successor, Herbert Hoover, on how to deal with the garrulous Washington elite by saying, “If you keep dead still, they will run down in three or four minutes.”

He wasn’t known as “Silent Cal” for nothing.

But when it came to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Calvin Coolidge was a passionate and vocal supporter—at least by his standards.

pres_H-HooverHerbert Hoover

BSA Hon. President 1929 – 1933

“I do not know of any form of Americanism that so produces a real American citizen as the Boy Scouts.” – The Honorable Herbert Hoover, 1920

One of the finest service projects carried out by the Boy Scouts of America each year is the Scouting for Food campaign. Every year Scouts across the nation canvass their neighborhoods collecting canned goods for local food banks.

Though this program is relatively new to Scouting, the idea of helping feed the nation goes back to the beginning of the Scouting Movement. The BSA has President Herbert Hoover to thank for formalizing this type of service project on a national scale.

Most commonly remembered as the nation’s chief executive during the Great Depression—the greatest economic downturn in American history—Hoover was once known as the “Great Humanitarian” for feeding the war-ravaged countries of Europe during the 1920s following the First World War. Based on that alone, he rightfully claimed the title of “Father of Volunteerism.”

pres_F-RooseveltFranklin D. Roosevelt

BSA Hon. President 1933 – 1945

“I firmly believe that the Boy Scout Movement represents a new era of moral force in America.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt, June 2, 1933

When Pulitzer Prize-winning political commentator Walter Lippman described Franklin D. Roosevelt as “a kind of amiable Boy Scout,” the United States was deep into the Great Depression.

Elected to the presidency in November 1932 on the promise of a “New Deal” to put Americans back to work, Roosevelt’s new programs included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Civil Works Administration (CWA), both of which created temporary manual labor jobs for unskilled workers, and the National Recovery Administration (NRA) created to regulate fair pricing practices.

Lippman may have recognized Roosevelt’s Scoutlike demeanor and generally affable personality, but he also recognized that the New Deal’s back-to-work programs resembled a series of Boy Scouting service projects.

The CWA, where formerly unemployed men and women would “shovel snow, rake leaves, and clean up through the winter,” may have been short-lived, but it was effective at putting paychecks in the hands of struggling American workers (at least for as long as it was in existence).

Maybe Roosevelt’s years of exposure to the Boy Scouts of America’s core values and ideals influenced the development of these programs; from 1921 on, he was the consummate Scouting volunteer.

pres_Harry-TrumanHarry S. Truman

BSA Hon President 1945 – 1953

What a greater nation this would be if the principles of Scouting could be woven more closely into our daily lives.” – President Harry S. Truman, June 30, 1950

On the evening of June 30, 1950, the 47,000 Scouts attending the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) 2nd National Jamboree at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, were abuzz with anticipation of the arrival of the president of the United States. The last jamboree had been held thirteen years earlier, but due to the outbreak of World War II and the aftermath of reconstruction, the second muster had been delayed.

Boys themselves wondered if Truman actually would come to their massive campsite. Only four days before, President Truman had ordered U.S. air and sea forces to the Korean Peninsula to aid South Korea in its defense against the Communist forces of North Korea, which had invaded across the 38th Parallel—the line of demarcation established as the post-World War II border between the two Koreas.

The President’s schedule filled-up quickly with meetings with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress, and international advisors. But even in the midst of a new war, President Truman left the White House at the end of that week and boarded a train at Washington’s Union Station that would take him to Valley Forge and thousands of waiting Boy Scouts.

Truman arrived at the campground at 9 p.m., took the stage five minutes later, and addressed the boys. Beginning with a brief account of George Washington’s encampment in Valley Forge during the winter of 1777, the President alluded to the aggression taking place overseas.

“If we are to succeed in our common struggle for peace,” he said,  “we must know and work with these freedom-loving people of other countries.”

He hoped this jamboree would encourage “cooperative human action” among nations.

At 9:45, Truman climbed back aboard the presidential train and left for Philadelphia’s Municipal Station, where he stepped off and motored to the Philadelphia Naval Yard for his return to Washington aboard the USS Williamsburg.

Truman’s undaunted visit underscored the positive impact Scouting was having on the nation’s youth. He understood as had the presidents before him that within BSA’s membership rolls were assembled the best young men that the country could produce.

But Truman’s appreciation of the Boy Scouts had began many years earlier, when he was a candidate for county judge in his home ground of eastern Missouri after his haberdashery business (a men’s clothing store)—failed.

Had Truman been a better entrepreneur in 1921, he might never have been approached by the Pendergast brothers (the political bosses of Jackson County and Kansas City) to run for office. By the 1920s, they controlled the entire political machine for the election of local Democratic politicians with Michael Pendergast in the eastern portion of Jackson County and Thomas Pendergast in the west. Having an open judgeship to fill, the brothers made an unexpected call on a clothing salesman, who was standing alone in his empty shop.

pres_Dwight_D-EisenhowerDwight D. Eisenhower

BSA Hon President 1953 – 1961

“If you will follow the Scout Oath, America will be better able to meet its full responsibility in cooperation with other nations in maintaining peace on earth.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower, February 7, 1953

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, was the most popular American alive in 1945. He was so beloved that President Harry S. Truman offered to stand down as the Democratic nominee for president and run for vice president on Eisenhower’s ticket should the general enter the race for the White House as a Democrat.

Putting off that decision until 1951, Eisenhower won election as a Republican under the slogan, “I Like Ike.” But to Boy Scouts across the nation, they preferred “We Love Ike” because he was “one of them.”

As a duty-minded man who answered his country’s call to war, General Eisenhower became partners with the Boy Scouts of America to get much-needed supplies to his troops overseas. The result was the General Eisenhower Waste Paper Campaign medal and the General Eisenhower Unit Award—two powerful symbols of Scout volunteerism in the mid-1940s.

In the April 1945 issue of the organization’s official organ, Boys’ Life magazine, BSA announced its intent to collect 150,000 tons of waste paper for the war effort but they gathered more than twice that amount due as a result of the Eisenhower Medal campaign’s 300,000 recipients. At the time, any Boy Scout, Senior Scout, or Cub Scout who collected a half ton (1,000 pounds) of scrap paper qualified for the award.

“This is an individual award for an outstanding personal achievement,” declared Boys’ Life.

Scout units that met requirements received a spent shell container made from collected waste paper that had been used in the European theater of war and a printed citation from Eisenhower himself that read,

To the Boy Scouts of America –

You were asked by the War Production Board to do a vital job and you have come through like a real soldier. My sincere thanks to every Scout and Cub.

Signed, Dwight D. Eisenhower
General of the Army
Supreme Allied Commander
30 April 1945

pres_John_F_KennedyJohn F. Kennedy

BSA Hon. President 1961 – 1963

“Training and associations of Boy Scout life are invaluable to the individual development of young men and to the quality of community life.” – President John F. Kennedy, February 1962

The year 1961 opened with enormous promise for the United States of America. The previous November, voters had elected a forty-two-year-old senator from Massachusetts as their next president. With youthful vigor and a glamorous family, John F. Kennedy’s era in the White House became known as “Camelot,” harking back to the mythical days of Arthurian legend when knights adorned in shining armor fought man and beast in defense of honor, virtue, and integrity.

But for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the election of John F. Kennedy marked a watershed moment in its history—a former Boy Scout now occupied the Oval Office. Until then, no elected president ever had participated in BSA as a youth because all had come of age before its founding in 1910.

Henceforth, this would not be the case.

Recognizing the impact of Scouting across the nation, Kennedy authorized a select group of Boy Scouts to take part in his Inauguration ceremonies that January 1961. BSA called it an “historic event” as 2,200 Boy Scouts, Explorers, and leaders stood along the parade route.

“Scouts served in the inaugural route as ushers and grandstand supervisory personnel,” lauds BSA’s 1961 Annual Report. “[Scouts served as] honor guards at the presidential reviewing stand, as orderlies for key government personnel at the presidential balls and other pre-inaugural and inaugural events.”

The news anchors of a television network covering the festivities had a 20-minute discussion on the relevance of the Scouting movement and of the new president’s longtime Scouting membership and volunteerism. Even the Scouting résumé of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was discussed, along with others of similar experience in Kennedy’s first cabinet.

“It is a matter of satisfaction to me that all of my cabinet and official family were Scouts as boys with the exception of two who later served in Scouting as Scouters,” Kennedy would later say.

Nearly three years later in the months following his untimely assassination in Dallas, Texas, on November 23, 1963, Chief Scout Executive Joseph A. Brunton Jr. would write about Scouting’s impact on Kennedy.

pres_L-JohnsonLyndon B. Johnson

BSA Hon. President 1963 – 1969

“I know of no greater organization that contributes more to developing the mind and the body in the way that it should be developed than the Boy Scouts of America.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, February 8, 1967

“See Washington First” was the cry of Troop 1 of Burlington, New Jersey, in 1913. Their town, situated just 150 miles from the nation’s capital, boasted an aggressive unit of twenty-six boys and a Scoutmaster of similar mind. A man of action, Carleton E. Sholl considered Washington as the place for Scouts to vacation due to the “wonderful opportunities for an enjoyable and instructive summer outing at a very small cost.”

More importantly, Scoutmaster Sholl, a thirty-year-old real estate agent, who had helped prepare the canoeing section of the 1912 Boy Scout Handbook, wrote that the organization should “strive to establish a national Boy Scout memorial of some nature that will give every Scout some special center of interest while visiting the headquarters of the country’s government.”

Forty-six years later, Sholl’s vision became reality.

On July 28, 1959, the Senate of the United States, led by majority leader and long-time Scouting volunteer, Lyndon Baines Johnson, passed Public Law 86-11, authorizing the Boy Scouts of America “to erect a memorial on public grounds in Washington, DC.”

pres_R-NixonRichard M. Nixon

BSA Hon. President 1969 – 1974

“I strongly believe that Scouting offers an exceptional opportunity to learn about good citizenship by being a good citizen.” – President Richard Nixon

On March 21, 1971, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine took the floor in a hearing room in the Hart Building on Capitol Hill to address his colleagues on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America and House Congressional Resolution 255.

“I submit, for appropriate reference a concurrent resolution commemorating the first annual National Explorers Presidents Congress,” he began. “This Congress will take place in Washington from June 2 to June 6 and is expected to bring together between 4,000 and 5,000 young people from Explorer posts around the country.”

Although the Exploring program began in 1959, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) established the Exploring division at their National office in New Jersey a decade later to provide an intensive worksite-based program of vocational training for older Scouts. Organized throughout the country in posts, Scouts were trained at police and fire stations, and professional buildings “from hospitals to space-science companies to law offices.”

Different from the original Boy Scouting program dating back to 1910, the Exploring division, in 1969, allowed girls to join as “Explorer Participants” provided they were members of the Girl Scouts of America or Camp Fire Girls. Two years later, young women could join Exploring outright without having a prior affiliation. Although some joined because they saw their brothers “having all the fun,” others simply found the vocational training exciting and challenging.

And parents agreed.

By 1971, over 23,000 Exploring posts boasted 350,000 members, a figure that was expected to rise to 1 million by the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 but ultimately fell short.

“Exploring is everywhere for reasons which should hearten Americans,” declared Reader’s Digest. “It is having its way. Upcoming generations — the ones we are always prone to despair over — will make tomorrow’s America better than ever.”

pres_Gerald_FordGerald R. Ford

BSA Hon. President 1974 – 1977

“I can say without hesitation because of Scouting principles, I know I was a better athlete, I was a better Naval officer, I was a better Congressman, and I was a better prepared President.” – President Gerald R. Ford

Chief Scout Citizen Theodore Roosevelt would have been very proud of President Gerald R. Ford. Not only was Ford a man of virtue and principle, but he also was the first president of the United States to attained the BSA’s highest rank of Eagle Scout—earned in 1927.

Ford was born in July 1913 as Leslie Lynch King Jr. His mother, the former Dorothy Ayer Gardner, divorced his father who was abusive and married Gerald R. Ford Sr. when baby Leslie was just two and a half years old. His mother and stepfather changed his name to reflect their new family, whose loving upbringing would groom him for a higher calling. As a youth, young Gerald was a gifted athlete but also “book smart.” And to compliment his budding athletic career, he threw himself into Boy Scouting.

Throughout his life of public service, Ford remained faithful to the principles and values engrained in him as a boy from the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

“There is something about Scouting that leaves an impression on you, an impression that is wholesome and is good,” Ford later recalled. “And it is a stimulant for greater effort—the Scout Oath and the Scout Law—which I could almost repeat without a mistake.”

Later in adulthood, the former senator, vice president, and president of the United States would comment that passing his Eagle Scout Board of Review was one of his of his life’s “proudest moments.”

pres_Jimmy_CarterJimmy Carter

BSA Hon. President 1977 – 1981

“I am greatly impressed by the role of your fine [Scouting] program in our national life.” – President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter once said, “A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It’s a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.”

Carter’s observation is one that could well apply to the ethos of the Boy Scouts of America.

pres_rreaganRonald Reagan

BSA Hon. President 1981 – 1989

“…the Scouts strengthen the cornerstone of individual freedom in our nation.” – President Ronald Reagan

The Bloomington, Illinois, Holiday Inn was abuzz on September 14, 1982. Sitting at the head table in a conference room filled with press was a young thirteen-year-old Eagle Scout named Alexander M. Holsinger. But Alex was no ordinary Eagle Scout—he was BSA’s one-millionth Eagle Scout.

As Boys’ Life magazine described the scene, “newspaper reporters and photographers were falling all over one another” to interview and snap photos of Alex. In the audience with Alex and his parents (Illinois State University history professor Dr. M. Paul Holsinger and his wife) were eight television cameras—including one each from the CBS, NBC, and ABC networks—as well as BSA President Edward C. Joullian and Chief Scout Executive James L. Tarr.

After being introduced, Alex took the microphone.

“I love Scouting,” he began. “Scouting has offered me the fun of outdoor activities, the challenge of leadership and the chance to build self-confidence through various skills that will last me a lifetime … I plan to remain in active in Scouting the rest of my life.”

As reporters jotted down every word and cameras flashed, the press conference was interrupted. At 11:16 a.m., in the midst of a statement by Alex’s proud Scoutmaster, someone entered bearing the news that President Ronald Reagan was calling from Washington, DC.

pres_bush-georgeGeorge H.W. Bush

BSA Hon. President 1989 – 1993

“…you are leading the youth of America by example.” – President George H.W. Bush

On March 28, 1989, in the school library at the James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, President George H.W. Bush answered a question on volunteerism. “During the campaign I heard a lot of people wonder and talk about what exactly you meant by the Thousand Points of Light?” asked a young lady.

The president, pleased to have an opportunity to clarify an allusion that his presidential opponents had lampooned throughout the 1988 presidential campaign, offered a more concise vision: “It’s almost anything you can think of that comes under the heading of volunteerism.”

From that call to action in his Inaugural Address the previous January arose a celebration of the service-oriented spirit of the country through commendation the “Daily Point of Light Award.”

One year later in 1990, the Point of Light Foundation was formed “to encourage and empower the spirit of service” across the country, and to administer the award.

pres_b-clintonWilliam J. “Bill” Clinton

BSA Hon. President 1993 – 2001

“For almost a century, the Boy Scouts of America have helped to make volunteer service an American ideal.” – President William J. Clinton, July 30, 1997

Enthusiastically greeted by a massive crowd of boys and adult volunteers cheering and waving flags, President William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton took the stage at the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) 14th National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia on the evening of July 30, 1997.

“I began as a Cub Scout in Hot Springs, Pack 1, Ramble Elementary School, Ouachita Area Council,” Clinton began. “And those are the guys that are waving those flags back there. So don’t boo them too hard. They’re just sticking up for one of their own.”

He electrified the crowd and congratulated them on their national service, which was something that he, himself, held dear. To him, holding elected office was a privilege that dated back decades.

In the days of his youth, few could have imagined the path that eventually would lead Clinton from the small American town of Hope, Arkansas, into the White House—propelled by his sparkling personality and strong work ethic. But even for the ambitious Clinton, there had to be inspiration; and that inspiration came in the presence of another United States president by the name of John F. Kennedy.

For young Bill Clinton, that brief meeting and handshake was “executive destiny.”

pres_george-w-bushGeorge W. Bush

BSA Hon. President 2001 – 2009

“I love Scouting. I think it’s one of the great mentor programs in the country.” – President George W. Bush, Dallas, TX, March 3, 2011

As President George W. Bush was preparing to leave office in 2009, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) unveiled its new slogan—“Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow”—in the approach to  its centennial celebration to take place in 2010. The campaign would combine the older, traditional Scouting model with the new vision of modern-era Scouting in an effort to appeal to more young people of Scouting age. As the movement in America was preparing for its second century of service to youth, organizational managers felt that a healthy respect for its past would help move it forward keeping service to others squarely in view.

George Bush understood its long tradition; he had been a member of Cub Scouting in his early years. With mother (and Den Mother) Barbara Bush leading the way in Midland, Texas, young George recalled exciting trips to places like Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico in the family car during the 1950s. As the president later would quip, “I think that’s when her hair started to go white.” Those American values lessons learned in Scouting as a boy had a lasting effect on him as a man.

And many years later, those American values would be challenged by foreign adversaries.

pres_ObamaBarack H. Obama

BSA Hon. President 2009 – present

“Young men like you who care about improving our world give us great hope for America’s future.” – President Barack H. Obama

From the “bully pulpit” in the Oval Office, the nation’s chief executive always has communicated his appreciation for the Boy Scouts of America and their legacy.

Barack H. Obama is no different.

Spending some of his young life in Indonesia—home to the greatest number of Scouts in the world at over 15 million—his mother believed it important for him to be a member of the Cub Scouts, known as the Siaga. While a resident of Jakarta, Obama—then known as “Barry”—was recalled by a former classmate as being a “good kid” who partook in the program at the Besuki Elementary school from 1970–1971.

“We learned, at that time, how to use rope for building camp tents, [and] climbing,” recalled his former Scout friend. “But Barry Obama never got the chance to camp outside the city… he went back to Hawaii in 1972.”