Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For

Cross-posted from JohnScout:

It may be one of the worst kept secrets in modern politics, but before Texas Gov. Rick Perry throws his hat in the Presidential ring and this topic gets all political on us, I wanted to say a few words about a book he wrote.

In 2008, Perry published a semi-autobiographical commentary titled On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting for.  I bought this book as soon as it came out and read it, then read it again…. and held onto it trying to decide how to say what I’m going to say without getting all political on my Scouting blog.  Three years later current events force my hand.  So here goes…

On My Honor is the sort of book I would want to write, should I happen to become successful in public service.  First off, this book is not fine literature.  I’m sure you can pick it apart, and plenty of critics will.  Second, this book is nonpartisan, but not a-political.  In fact, all profits were dedicated to the Boy Scouts of America Legal Defense Fund.  The twelve chapters, like the 12 points of the Scout Law, lay out a lifetime, warts and all.

The book opens with personal recollections of Perry’s time growing up in rural West Texas in Troop 48, and the influence of his Scoutmaster, being elected to the Order of the Arrow and serving as Scribe for the 1964 National Jamboree at Valley Forge, and on earning the rank of Eagle Scout.  “I can’t say that Scouting planted the idea of public service in my head, but I can say it prepared me for it,” he writes.  The rest, as they say, is history:  Perry moved from the Texas legislature as a Blue Dog Democrat to State Commissioner of Agriculture as a Republican, then Liet. Governor and Governor when G.W. Bush was elected president.

As he explains the values of Scouting to a general audience, Perry also takes on all comers in the “War on the Scouts”, which he links to the larger “culture war” pitting traditional values of service against new doctrines of selfishness and moral relativity.  He takes on feel-good sports leagues and parents looking for Baby-Sitters of America; the 30 lawsuits in 30 years against the BSA’s membership standards; the ACLU and Mitt Romney‘s exclusion of Scout volunteers from the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City (that should make for an interesting campaign debate).

It would be easy to think this book is a partisan hack—it prominently features blurbs from David Keene, Sean Hannity, Ken Blackwell, and Newt Gingrich (again with the campaign debates and they shared a book last year).  Yet Rick Perry, like Ronald Reagan, grew up a Democrat.  He talked to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and FBI Director William Sessions, Ohio State University president Gordon Gee and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Michael Dukakis.  He talked to J.W. Marriott Jr, CEO of the largest hotel chain in the world, and he talked to his old friend Riley Couch, who remenised, “We completed things, and we received merit badges that proved it.”  As Perry notes:

The Boy Scouts didn’t hand out badges for trying.  They handed out badges for getting the job done.

That’s the thing I see in this book.  Yes, I get excited about defending the BSA, but the thing of this book is that it defends the Values of Scouting.  Its not about defending institutions, although it does that.  On My Honor is about defending the values that make America great.  I can get excited about that.
p.s. I’m keeping my powder dry in the GOP Presidential Race a bit longer, but you might guess I’m leaning Perry’s way.


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