By Judge Kemp
The Random House Dictionary defines a role model as a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.
More than ever our youth need a leader to look up to. It’s often asked of children what they want to be when they grow up. The responses usually range from doctors, nurses, firefighters, veterinarians, to even the President of the United States; all admirable positions, with the latter garnering potential mass appeal, status, and even admiration. Though the position of President may be one to strive for, it’s the individual in that role who can inspire and embolden citizens to act.
President Trump’s speech at last month’s 20th National Boy Scout Jamboree personally angered me. Not just because of the continued political rhetoric he vomited throughout his dialogue about Secretary Hillary Clinton (a woman) and former President Obama (a man of color), but because of the bullying nature of his boasting.
As our 45th President of the United States and honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America organization, this leader is supposed to be an example of integrity and humility for the thousands of star-struck scouts in attendance. But even before the Presidential elections of last year, this “businessman” would never be described as a positive role model, with his public admission of grabbing females by their genitals and other disparaging comments.
It’s upsetting that the leader of our country can’t seem to focus on a message that is strictly aimed at empowering youth to be good civic stewards, without the misogynistic and political jabs.
As an Eagle Scout and member of the National Eagle Scout Association, I live by the principles defined in the Scout Law. These laws, along with my mother and a cast of other positive adult role models, have helped shape me into the man I am today. The Boy Scout National Jamboree is supposed to be a place where scouts from all corners of the globe come together to learn new skills, experience new friendships, and have adventures a scout will always remember. Sadly, I never made it to a jamboree. My mother lacked the resources to send me and scholarships weren’t available at that time.
It’s sad that the leader of our country can’t seem to focus on a message that is strictly aimed at empowering youth to be good civic stewards, without the misogynistic and political jabs. Should we blame White House Communications for not previewing the text ahead of time, or is it simply that our Commander-in-Chief doesn’t seem to give a damn about the content of a message and can’t help grandstanding, regardless of the audience?
Is this really the message we want our youth to digest? These are young and potentially vulnerable minds that don’t need to be given the impression, spoken or otherwise, that this Presidential behavior should be emulated and viewed as acceptable or tolerated.
In 1937, the Boy Scouts of America first opened the door for any sitting President of the United States to attend the jamboree. This year’s invitation may be one the Boy Scouts will regret. Since the President’s less than eloquent speech, parents and other concerned citizens have articulated their outrage at our President’s speech. Many have compared the President’s appearance at the jamboree to a Hitler Nazi Youth Rally. This can’t be good news for an organization that continues to struggle with its own identity issues due to a history of discrimination against LGBTQ scouts and adults.
In response to the numerous complaints, and even some accolades, the Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, issued his apologies to anyone who was offended by the President’s message. Closer to home, the Cascade Pacific Council Executive Scout Matt Devore, found himself in a similar situation when he too had to issue an apology for his initial response to the President Trump’s speech as a “teachable moment.”
We don’t want our children to grow up feeling like they are less worthy of success based on their gender identity or the color of their skin. That’s not progress; that’s oppression.
No matter your opinion about the Boy Scouts of America or President Trump’s message, the responses from the scouting professionals and the general population shows real concern for the well-being of our youth and the influences presented to them. Honestly, I’ve been spoiled by the person who previously held the position in the White House for being a great orator (his wife too). He passionately believed in what he was saying and was able to address an audience to create a movement of progress. Maybe all of “this” is exactly that, a teachable moment, as Devore noted in his message; a conversation on what a role model looks like—and what a megalomaniac looks like.
This current administration also continues to erode and erase civic advances of LGBTQ people and further suppress our diverse communities. While we are all strongly encouraged to resist the further degradation of our queer community and people of color, the struggles continue with each new assault.
The messages our President continues to tout are very clear. If you are a woman, you don’t know how to work hard. If your skin doesn’t look like his, you are a loser. Lastly, if you don’t do things his way, you’re fired or forced to resign. We don’t want our children to grow up feeling like they are less worthy of success based on their gender identity or the color of their skin. That’s not progress; that’s oppression.
Planting the seeds of ignorance as our President has done doesn’t necessarily guarantee a future of young Alt-Right thinkers, but it does raise questions about how people in power can assert negative influence. How the future plays out really depends on forward thinking communities collectively working together to force the current hand to change the narrative of ignorance. No one ever said life would be fair, but if we sit on our hands and do nothing, we are allowing the negative influences on our youth to take hold, and setting ourselves up for a future in which we continue to have to battle racism, bigotry, and hate.