The Boy Scout Law was in full effect around Maine on Tuesday in the aftermath of President Trump’s highly politicized and unprecedented speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday.

Many involved in scouting were trustworthy and loyal, to the Boy Scouts of America, not wanting to say a bad word about the speech or Trump. Several were courteous, politely declining to get involved in a potential political drama. But a few felt brave enough to say they believe Trump’s speech was inappropriate for the place and audience, and showed that Trump knew little about the traditions and values of their beloved Boy Scouts.

“The political nature of it was just not appropriate. He should have used the opportunity in a respectful manner, to promote the values of scouting, not as a political outlet or a negative message,” said Nate Dyer, 38, a structural engineer from Westbrook who was a longtime Boy Scout and former camp instructor. “I don’t think (Trump) was ever involved in scouting so I don’t expect him to have an understanding of what it means to be a Scout.”

In a tradition that spans 80 years, Trump was invited to speak before about 40,000 Scouts and leaders gathered this week at the National Scout Jamboree. The speeches made by previous presidents who have attended have been intentionally lacking in political attacks or partisan barbs. President Harry S. Truman, for instance, talked about sitting around a campfire with different kinds of people so “you get to know what the other fellow is like.” But Trump’s speech included criticism of former President Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as digs at the “fake media” covering the event, and remarks comparing Washington to a cesspool and a sewer. He also talked about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

For breaking with tradition, the president’s speech garnered headlines and the ire of people who care about scouting all over the country. The official response from the Boy Scouts of America did not offer an opinion on the speech. In a statement released to media outlets, the organization said the president’s appearance “is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.” The statement also said that the Boy Scouts are “wholly non-partisan.”

But reaction on the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page was more critical. There were some 3,500 comments about the speech by midday Tuesday. One woman wrote that as a mother, grandmother and teacher “I’m appalled and deeply troubled” by Trump’s words to the Scouts. Another woman said she had considered signing her up grandson for the Scouts but “this lunacy today (Monday) changed that.”

In Maine, the Facebook page of the Maine-based Pine Tree Council of the BSA had about a half-dozen critical comments. One commenter questioned having Trump speak at the event since “his stance on the environment, national parks and monuments is in direct conflict with scouting ideology.” That person, contacted by phone, declined further comment or to be named. One woman posted that she had hoped the local scouting officials in Maine would make a statement about the “negative impact” on Scouts and said she was glad her “scouts” weren’t attending the jamboree.

About 100 Maine Scouts were in West Virginia this week at the event, said Eric Tarbox, Scout executive and CEO of the Pine Tree Council, which has about 6,000 Scouts and 2,000 volunteers throughout Maine. Tarbox is working at the event as an “air boss,” helping to monitor air traffic, so he did not see Trump’s speech in person and said he did not know what Maine Scouts thought about it. When asked about the speech, Tarbox repeated that the BSA is “completely nonpartisan, we don’t promote any candidate or philosophy.” Tarbox explained that part of the tradition of inviting a sitting president is that each sitting president is also the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America.

“We teach all our Scouts that we are nonpartisan. That is in our education program” and is part of what Scouts need to know to earn citizenship merit badges, Tarbox said.

Seven sitting presidents have addressed the annual jamboree in person, according to, while some have addressed the crowds via video or sent a surrogate. Of those who showed up in person, two were former Boy Scouts: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The other presidents who were Boy Scouts include John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Barack Obama.

While the media attention Tuesday centered mainly on what Trump said, it’s not the first time the Boy Scouts have been tied to controversy in recent years. In 2013 the BSA decided to allow openly gay youths to participate, ending a highly criticized ban on gay Scouts. In 2012 two former Eagle Scouts from Maine made strong public statements protesting the ban on gay Scouts by returning their Eagle Scout medals. One was Mark Varnum, a Bangor optometrist, and the other was Austin Smith, a Portland architect.

Reached Tuesday, Smith said he hadn’t heard or read enough of the president’s speech to have an opinion on it. He said he was still “very satisfied” with his decision to give back his medal in protest.

Others involved in Maine scouting echoed Smith on Tuesday, saying they had not heard or read enough of the speech to have an opinion, including Jack Waite Jr., director of the Pine Tree Council’s Camp Hinds in Raymond, where several Scout troops are camping this week. Several other scouting officials and leaders did not return calls seeking comment, including Scott Harvey, head of the Orono-based Katahdin Area Council of the BSA.

Dyer, the longtime Scout who disapproved of the president’s speech, said the incident would not diminish his overall support for the organization. He has a young son and is hopeful he will be a Scout one day. During a phone conversation for this story, Dyer recited all 12 points of the Boy Scout Law, principles he says are worth remembering.

According to the Boy Scout Law, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

“I think as an organization the goals still hold true, despite controversies and growing pains that come up,” Dyer said.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 210-1183 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier

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