September 12, 2012

Letters to the Editor, Sept. 12, 2012
Scouting's future in an era of change

In response to the letter submitted by Charles E. Aaskov ("Boy Scouts shouldn't alter stance on gay troop leaders," Aug. 21):

click image to enlarge

Boy Scout handbooks from over the years are shown at a campsite. Readers debate the value of proposals to change the Scouts’ policies on the involvement of gays.

2009 File Photo/The Associated Press

Currently, there is no controlling legal basis to compel a private organization to alter its membership policies. As established in the 2000 Supreme Court decision Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, private organizations, through the freedom of expressive association, reserve the ability to determine membership qualifications.

The nostalgic reference to the good old days of the 1940s and 1950s, however, deserves closer examination.

Doubtless, it was during the 1940s that this country emerged from the Great Depression through the unity of national purpose needed to defeat fascism during World War II. The Greatest Generation demonstrated exemplary self-sacrifice and a steadfast resolve that was fortified by faith.

But during that era and the subsequent decade, division and repression were the norms. It was a period of Jim Crow, severely limited opportunities for women, and accusations of disloyalty for those who expressed nonconforming opinions. Back then, violations of civil liberties were often defended as following God's will.

At 56 years of age, ever more frequently I emit an exasperated "What next?" Like Mr. Aaskov, I do not recognize the country I grew up in.

But, then again, I'm not supposed to.

Every American generation is supposed to have this disorienting experience. In a truly dynamic, free society, institutions and norms must gradually and steadily transform.

Often, this is wrenching and convulsing. The sickness of cynicism only aggravates the process. But this upset is the unavoidable cost of adhering to the indelible principles of inclusion, equality and fairness on which the country was founded.

We can only hope, and pray to God, that inevitable change will come in the form of progress and social justice for all of our foundational institutions, public and private.

Joe Wagner


Once again, I feel compelled to write all you dedicated readers of a thorn that constantly aggravated the Scouting program. It has been very costly and detrimental to our Boy and Girl Scout programs.

Just think what the cost has been in the courts to try to persuade the program to change its core beliefs. What those costly fees would mean if they were channeled to youngsters without monetary means in living the open road of Scouting, to see a beautiful sunset and a glistening waterfall!

We have read of the many abuses in many programs and the heartbreaks the abused have carried throughout their lives. It is so sad to have the uninformed people who haven't recognized the importance of a program that raises the stature of human existence. The Scout creed calls on each Scout "to keep myself mentally alert and morally straight."

As I sit here and contemplate, I recall what I feel are two outstanding quotes of our time. One comes from the Scriptures: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." In the Scout manual, it states: "Do a good turn daily."

Having been associated with the Scouting program for more than 72 years, I can point to many events that gave me self-esteem to propelled me to accomplish many personal efforts for the betterment of mankind.

Those scouters who feel that turning in their medals and awards will turn the heads of those who promote the Scout programs are hurting the overall program. (There is one good point to observe – the knowledge these scouters learned will always serve them well.)

One hundred years of Scouting have proven that Scouting lifts the well-being of our youths as well as those who lead them.

Let us, as a people, keep our sights on the target that represents a bull's-eye for our youths.

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