Robert Gates, Eagle Scout and former defense secretary, begins term as BSA president

national-key-3-2014The Boy Scouts of America today elected Robert M. Gates, Eagle Scout, former defense secretary and former CIA director as its national president. He officially begins his two-year term as the BSA’s 35th president today.

The BSA’s volunteer and professional delegates attending this week’s National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., voted to confirm Gates as president. You may remember I first blogged about his selection as president-elect in October of last year.

Gates will lead the National Executive Board and be the newest member of the National Key 3, which you can learn more about in the sidebar at right.

His election means that all three members of the National Key 3 are Distinguished Eagle Scouts. Impressive.

Speaking of impressive, Gates’ professional career — during which he served under eight U.S. presidents — is just as awe-inspiring as his Scouting career. He’s a past member of the National Executive Board, past president of the National Eagle Scout Association, recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow.

His vision for why he wanted to take on this role proves that he believes in the Boy Scouts of America now more than ever.

“I can say without hesitation that my memories of Scouting are every bit as vivid and meaningful as what came later in my life,” Gates said. “I believe every child deserves an opportunity to experience what Scouting offers.”

Wayne Brock, the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive and another member of the National Key 3, officially welcomed Gates on behalf of the BSA.

“As one of our nation’s most respected public servants and a proven leader of the highest caliber,” Brock said, “Dr. Gates is a shining example of how our organization positions individuals for success, and he will be a great ambassador for sharing the Scouting story throughout the country.”

Scouting magazine spoke with Gates earlier this year and published the interview in our May-June 2014 edition. Read that interview after the jump.

Scouting magazine interview with Gates

SCOUTING: What are some of your great memories of Scouting as a boy?

ROBERT GATES: Scouting has been a big part of my family’s life. I have a photograph of my father in a Scout uniform in 1918, when he was 12 years old. In Wichita, Kan., in those days — before videogames and the Internet and all the rest — life pretty much revolved around family and school and church and Scouts. I went to Philmont twice, once as a hiker and once as part of what was then called the National Junior Leader Training Program. I’ve always joked that it was the best and only leadership course I ever took.

SCOUTING: Do you recall how you felt when you earned your Eagle?

GATES: Probably a sense of relief. I was only 15 years old, and I was sort of stuck with three or four merit badges to go. The national meeting of the OA was being held that summer of 1958 at the University of Kansas, and the only way you could get to be a VIP escort was by being an Eagle Scout. That provided the additional motivation for me to finish those badges. As with a lot of kids, the primary motivator was my mother keeping on me to get it done.

SCOUTING: How did your time in Scouting prepare you for your career?

GATES: Scouting taught me an enormous amount about leadership, particularly how to persuade people. One of the great things about Scouting is that it’s a volunteer organization, so no matter whether you’re an adult or a kid, a Scoutmaster or a patrol leader, you have to persuade people to do things rather than just telling them what to do. I think that approach to leadership, trying to get people on one side working together, was a very important learning experience for me.

SCOUTING: You told a great story at the jamboree about a father-son campout with your son.

GATES: Yes, it was when I was director of the CIA. We had black vans with satellite dishes and a lot of armed CIA agents around the campsite. The security guys got really nervous because the Sunday morning activity was teaching all these kids to shoot skeet, so you had the CIA director out there with a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds firing shotguns.

SCOUTING: What’s your view of Scouting’s youth membership policy change?

GATES: I think it’s an important step forward, and I strongly support it. No question that it was the right thing. Now we need to turn our attention to further improving the quality of the program, getting more kids into Scouting and re-establishing our unity as a movement.

SCOUTING: As president, what will you say to parents considering Scouting for their kids?

GATES: Scouting offers uniquely the experience that makes boys into leaders, gives them a sense of responsibility, makes them self-reliant and clearly builds character. I don’t know of any other institution that gives boys that foundation for future leadership. Scouting certainly did that for me.

See also

For more on this story, check out the release on Scouting Newsroom.

30 thoughts on “Robert Gates, Eagle Scout and former defense secretary, begins term as BSA president

  1. Brian, you forgot to add that he was the President of NESA too!
    I think we are privilaged to have such a well qualified man to be our National President. Welcome!!

    • When my son went to NYLT, he came home a different and better person. He matured a lot in that one week. The next year he was invited back as an instructor. I was so proud the way I saw him mature into a leader when he used this training as his troop’s SPL. HE also showed his leadership (and as Mr Gates said, the power of persuasion) when getting his Eagle project done. As one kid in our troop said when he designed our troop Class B t-shirt… “Leaders are not born, they are made”

  2. Robert Gates was instrumental in removing “don’t ask don’t tell” from the military. I wonder where he will take scouts in relation to gay adult leaders?

      • I expect he will. That is why after many years my family and I left the Scouting Program with many tears. Actually we stayed where we are, Scouting left us.

    • You know where. We are being primed for “gay all the way” in the next few years. I only hope my sons finish the program before that happens.

  3. Welcome Mr. Gates, the future of Boy Scouts of America lies in your hands. Before you lie multiple paths to take us down, “choose wisely”.

  4. Robert Gates could arguably be the most well qualified person to lead Boy Scouts EVER. His background in Scouts and national leadership is indeed impressive.

    No question he was central in removing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the Armed Forces, but was well thought through, even if you don’t agree with it. That being said, he will probably bring that same focus to the issue as it pertains to adult Scout leaders.

    That hot button issue aside, there are plenty of challenges facing Scouting, including keeping it relevant to today’s youth. So I’m hoping President Gates, focuses on the really important issues and Scouts is healthier for it in the long run.

    • Military personnel don’t get to walk away when their Commander in Chief makes a bad decision. It was actually fairly easy for Mr. Gates to force Clinton’s policy on the armed forces.

      If Mr. Gates thinks he can bring gay adults into Scouting without a huge downturn in membership and donations then he is deluding himself.

      • Lockheed already pulled their funding in Georgia and Disney is pulling their funding in 2015 if BSA does NOT allow gay adult leaders.

        It’s all about money. That’s why the other vote ever came up. Big “Supporters” threatening to pull there funding. Especially AT&T. They built the new Summit base for the National Jamboree. Couldn’t lose those dollars.

        I was there. Wi-Fi everywhere. Boy encouraged to bring their electronics and surf the web. Unfiltered Wi-Fi provided by AT&T. 30,000 boys able to surf the web for what ever they could find. That’s just irresponsible. But is an indicator to where BSA is heading. The new “Leadership” is going to get it there.

        We have to “appeal” to the boys some say. We have to be “relevant”. Have they even read any of what Baden Powel said? He taught building fires with a bow and string and said himself it was an inefficient and unpractical way of doing it. But the exercise taught the boy patience and perseverance. Appealing to society and being relevant is exactly what Baden was fighting against. BSA is trying to be everything to everyone. That’s a terrible vision. Aims and Methods, Aims and Methods, Aims and Methods. I wonder if they have even read them.

        Sorry for the rant. I am just sick of all of this.

        • I agree with your sentiments! One thing though, the biggest source of income for BSA is donations from alumni, not big business. It hurts to lose the Lockheed and Disney money, but not as much as a big drop in private donor giving. I’m hearing whispers that the private donations are down in a big way and scaring BSA leadership about what would happen if the rules change for the adults.

          We’ll have to wait and see I guess. 🙂

        • “We have to ‘appeal’ to the boys some say. We have to be ‘relevant’. Have they even read any of what Baden Powel said? He taught building fires with a bow and string and said himself it was an inefficient and unpractical way of doing it. But the exercise taught the boy patience and perseverance. Appealing to society and being relevant is exactly what Baden was fighting against.”

          A week or so ago someone posted a link to an old issue of Scouting magazine and in that issue was an article, “Is Scouting Out of Date?” The answer was a resounding “YES” and it was out of date purposely. instead of encouraging boys to stay inside listening to the radio or watching television, Scouting got them outdoors and into the sun, the rain, the snow; building fires and living in tents, and tracking and reading trail signs and sending messages via code. Well now all that’s gone by the wayside. Now we have Game Design merit badge: sit at your computer for hours and hours.

  5. I hope he will have the courage to uphold the scout oath…particularly the part about boys (and leaders) staying morally straight.
    The BSA is not the military. It’s an organization dedicated to building character in young men and a big part of character is being morally straight.
    Let’s all pray for him to have the wisdom to do what is right.

    • I hate it when people enforce their own morality on others. so long as they are not causing harm to others it is none of your business what they do.

      • Acceptance and normalization of homosexuality is being forced on me and my sons by the one organization that was safe. That is my business.

      • You and everyone involved in Scouting took an oath on your honor to keep yourself morally straight, to do your duty to God. No one is forcing their morality on you, you agreed to follow a set of standards when you took the Oath.

        Baden-Powell Aids to Scoutmastership ever read it? You should.

        Character- which we teach through: the Patrol System, the Scout Law,
        Scout lore, woodcraft, responsibility of the Patrol Leader, team games and
        the resourcefulness involved in camp work. This includes the realization
        of God the Creator through His works; the appreciation of beauty in
        Nature; and through the love of plants or animals with which outdoor life
        has made one familiar.

        Scoutcraft is a means through which the veriest hooligan can be brought
        to higher thought and to the elements of faith in God; and, coupled with
        the Scout’s obligation to do a Good Turn every day, it gives the base of
        Duty to God and to Neighbor on which the parent or pastor can build with
        greater ease the form of belief that is desired.

        This is in addition to the realization of God the Creator through His
        wondrous work, which when coupled with active performance of His will
        in service for others constitutes the concrete foundation of religion.

        (c) Good Turns – With a little encouragement on the part of the
        Scoutmaster the practice of daily Good Turns soon becomes a sort of fashion with boys, and it is the very best step towards making a Christian in
        fact, and not merely in theory.

        …but under the law of the Creator; these are the best of sermons for boys…

        …and leads them directly to recognize the hand of God in this world of wonders…

        (c) Good Turns – With a little encouragement on the part of the
        Scoutmaster the practice of daily Good Turns soon becomes a sort of fashion with boys, and it is the very best step towards making a Christian in
        fact, and not merely in theory….The boy has a natural instinct for good if he
        only sees a practical way to exercise it, and this Good Turn business meets
        it and develops it, and in developing it brings out the spirit of Christian
        charity towards his neighbor.

        …The anatomy of plants, or birds, or shell-fish may be studied
        and shown to be the wonderful work of the Creator….

        ..Raise the boy’s idea of the wonderful body which is given to him
        to keep and develop as God’s own handiwork and temple;one which is
        physically capable of good work and brave deeds if guided by sense of
        duty and chivalry, that is by -a high moral tone….

    • I suspect everyone is going to follow the money. Homosexuality can be rationalized but bankruptcy is not so easily philosophized away. Money is needed to fund all those capital projects. Someone please tell me (this is about the 12th time I’ve asked), just how much is BSA in hock for that Summit place? I mean someone who knows, give me hard numbers.

  6. If Mr. Gates aims to want to change the BSA for the better, perhaps he could create a committee to look into making the uniform more casual. Examples: troop T-shirts, ball caps, and sweatshirts. Scouts don’t wear their uniforms outside of Scouting activities because they don’t want to be laughed at. The BSA has known about the uniform problem for years, but chooses not to act. It’s just one more example of the BSA being behind the times. Remember how many years the BSA kept selling canvas tents after everyone else dumped them?

    • And where would you have Scouts wear their uniforms other than a Scouting event? To the beach? To the movies? Shopping?

    • It’s not a camping club. It’s not about being relevant. It’s not about being up with the times. It’s not about being popular. It’s not about being cool and fitting in. It’s not for the bully’s, the jocks, cool kids.

      If the boys are embarrassed by the uniform, it is the Adult Leaders who have caused it.

      Baden Powell – Aids to Scoutmastership

      I have often said, “I don’t care a fig whether a Scout wears a uniform or not so long as his heart is in his work and he carries out the Scout Law.” But the fact is that there is hardly a Scout who does not wear uniform if he can afford to buy it. The spirit prompts him to it.

      The same rule applies naturally to those who carry on the Scout
      Movement, the Scoutmasters and Commissioners; there is no obligation on them to wear uniform if they don’t like it. At the same time, they have in their positions to think of others rather than of themselves.

      Personally, I put on uniform, even if I have only a Patrol to inspect, because I am certain that it raises the moral tone of the boys. It heightens their estimation of their uniform when they see it is not beneath a grown man to wear it; it heightens their estimation of themselves when they find themselves taken seriously by men who also count it of importance to be
      in the same brotherhood with them.

      Smartness in uniform and correctness in detail may seem a small matter, but has, its value in the development of self-respect, and means an immense deal to the reputation of the Movement among outsiders who judge by what they see.
      It is largely a matter of example. Show me a slackly-dressed Troop and I can “Sherlock” a slackly-dressed Scoutmaster. Think of it, when you are fitting on your uniform or putting that final saucy cock to your hat.

      You are the model to your boys and your smartness will reflect itself in them.

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