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Our Perspective on the Presidential Visit at Jambo

by Michael de los Santos for the Alamo Area BSA: August 2, 2017 

Dear Scouting family, 

As I return to my home today, July 31st, from the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia—sleeping in a tent for two week, eating camp food and taking cold showers—I have a renewed appreciation for all the exciting opportunities we provide youth everyday here in Greater San Antonio. People sometimes ask me why I go to the Jamboree? I respond, "Because it rejuvenates me!" 

For all the controversy that has surrounded our movement in recent years, I keep coming back to the vision that guides the Boy Scouts of America, Alamo Area Council. This Council theme is a resounding reminder of what we offer, a "Unified Focus on Youth!" We must maintain our focus on this goal. We must continue to stand together and communicate the spirit of Scouting along with providing consistent, positive leadership to the young men, women, and Scouting families we have the privilege to serve. 

As members of the Alamo Area Council, we also share the same heart and perspective found in the recent communications from our Chief Scout Executive, Mike Surbaugh, which addresses both the celebration of Scouting at the National 2017 Jamboree and the visit of President Donald J. Trump last Monday. We ask that you do the same. I provide this text below for your review: 

From the Chief: Our Perspective on the Presidential Visit 

Scouting Family, 

In the last two weeks, we have celebrated the best of Scouting at our 20th National Jamboree with nearly 40,000 participants, volunteers, staff and visitors. The 2017 National Jamboree has showcased and furthered the Scouting mission by combining adventure and leadership development to give youth life-changing experiences. Scouts from Alaska met Scouts from Alabama; Scouts from New Mexico met those from New York, and American youth met youth from 59 other countries. 

Over the course of ten days, Scouts have taken part in adventures, learned new skills, made new and lasting friendships and completed over 200 community service projects that offered 100,000 hours of service to the community by young men and women eager to do the right thing for the right reasons. 

These character-building experiences have not diminished in recent days at the jamboree – Scouts have continued to trade patches, climb rock walls, and share stories about the day’s adventures. But for our Scouting family at home not able to see these real moments of Scouting, we know the past few days have been overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States. 

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program. 

While we live in a challenging time in a country divided along political lines, the focus of Scouting remains the same today as every day. 

Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop – in fact, they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law. 

As part of our program’s duty to country, we teach youth to become active citizens, to participate in their government, respect the variety of perspectives and to stand up for individual rights. 

Few will argue the importance of teaching values and responsibility to our youth — not only right from wrong, but specific positive values such as fairness, courage, honor and respect for others. 

For all the adventure we provide youth such as hiking, camping and zip-lining, those activities serve as proven pathways and opportunities to develop leadership skills and become people of character. 

In a time when differences seem to separate our country, we hope the true spirit of Scouting will empower our next generation of leaders to bring people together to do good in the world. 

Yours in Scouting, 

Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and my team. We are here to serve.  (I will be available just as soon as I finish my laundry and enjoy a few hot showers!) 

Yours in Scouting, 

Michael de los Santos, Scout Executive, Alamo Area Council

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