The Presidents of the United States and the Boy Scouts of America
One of the causes contributing to the success of the Boy Scouts of America
has been the thoughtful, wholehearted way in which each President of the United
States since William Howard Taft in 1910 has taken an active part in the work
of the movement. Each served as Honorary President during his term in
George W. Bush
President Bush, a former Cub Scout, praised Scouting and its enduring values
when he appeared by video to the 40,000 Scouts, volunteers, and leaders at the
15th National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in July 2001.
"Times and challenges change, yet the values of Scouting will never
change. Scouts of any era would recognize every word that you live by today,
because those words have always defined Scouting. The goodness of a person and
of the society he or she lives in often comes down to very simple things, and
the words found in the Scout Law. Every society depends on trust and loyalty,
on courtesy and kindness, on bravery and reverence. These are the values of
Scouting, and these are the values of America."
President Clinton greeted 30,000 Scouts and leaders and 6,000 staff at the
1997 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. He challenged Scouts and
Scouters to spread the word of the importance of service to other Scouts and
Scouters back home.
"For almost a century, the Boy Scouts of America have helped to
make volunteer service an American ideal. With every act of kindness, you've
strengthened our nation's commitment to community and promoted a sense of
George H. Bush
President Bush voiced strong support for Scouting and lauded the BSA for
its fight against drug abuse. He appeared at the 12th National Jamboree at
Fort A.P. Hill, Va., on August 7, 1989.
"The Boy Scouts of America has assumed a leadership role in
confronting this problem [drug abuse]. You are teaching self-protection
strategies against drugs and other dangers. You have circulated these
strategies in direct language in a very successful pamphlet called Drugs:
A Deadly Game. And you have done something elseyou are leading the youth
of America by example."
President Reagan became involved in Scouting with the Golden Empire Council
in Sacramento, Calif., while serving as governor of the state. During his 8
years in office, he chaired Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources), served
as membership roundup chairman, participated in annual Report to the Governor
ceremonies, and served on the council's advisory board. For his service to
youth, he was awarded the Silver Beaver Award. As a member of the Los Angeles
Area Council, he served as Scoutorama chairman, as a speaker for the council
recognition dinner, and as a sustaining member.
"I applaud your many efforts and programs encouraging character
development and leadership among American youth. By sponsoring many useful
physical, mental, and social activities designed to promote self-responsibility,
the Scouts strengthen the cornerstone of individual freedom in our nation.
These programs develop the youngster's confidence in his ability to deal with
nature, society, and a challenging world."
President Carter was involved in Scouting as a troop committee chairman and
Scoutmaster. In support of the President's appeal for an energy conservation
program, the Boy Scouts of America held a Scouting Environment Day, April 23,
1977, with other programs planned to make a major contribution toward achieving
national energy conservation goals.
"As a former volunteer Scout leader ... I am greatly impressed by
the role of your fine program in our national life. It is a constructive initiative
on the part of young Americans to explore career interests and to become better
prepared for a more satisfying and rewarding future."
Gerald R. Ford
Gerald Ford was the first Eagle Scout to become Vice President and later
President. He began his Scouting career on December 17, 1924, when he became a
member of Troop 15, sponsored by the Trinity M.E. Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
He was recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award "for his service to
the Nation and community," by the Grand Valley Council at Grand Rapids, Mich.,
in May 1970. He received the Scouter of the Year Award on December 2, 1974, from
the National Capitol Area Council, Washington, D.C.
"One of the proudest moments of my life came in the Court of Honor
when I was awarded the Eagle Scout badge. I still have that badge. It is a
treasured possession. I am the first Eagle Scout Vice President. The three great
principles which Scouting providesself-discipline, teamwork, and moral
and patriotic valuesare the basic building blocks of leadership. I applaud
the Scouting program for continuing to emphasize them. I am confident that your
ability to bring ideals, values, and leadership training to millions of our young
people will help to bring about a new eraa time in which not only our
Republic will progress in peace and freedom, but a time in which the entire world
shall be secure, and all its people free."
Richard M. Nixon
President Nixon hosted the First National Explorer Presidents' Congress in 1971
on the White House lawn. As Vice President he visited and spoke at the national
jamborees held at Irvine Ranch, Calif., in 1953, and at Valley Forge State Park,
Pa., in 1957.
"I welcome your determination to seek out new members in our great
and growing cities, as well as throughout rural America. For through Scouting many
of these young citizens can more fully develop their potential for public service
and become effective leaders in their communities and in our nation.
"I strongly believe that Scouting offers an exceptional opportunity
to learn about good citizenship by being a good citizen, and I am glad to hear
that we can count on you to carry on the very important work ... in encouraging
America's boys to make themselves into the men our country needs."
Lyndon B. Johnson
President Johnson was an active Scout leader with the Capitol Area Council at
Austin, Texas, serving on its Exploring committee. He was a member of the National
Capitol Area Council from 1959 through 1963. In 1963 he helped to organize Post
1200 in Washington, D.C., which was chartered to the House of Representatives for
page boys working in the U.S. Congress.
"I welcome this opportunity to express my pride and deep sense of
gratitude for the outstanding example and enviable reputation for human understanding
and fair play which have throughout the productive life of your organization been
hallmarks of Scouting everywhere. Your conduct, both individually and in your group
activities, has been worthy of admiration by all the young citizens of our land.
Today, as we face the challenges of an increasingly complex and frequently disturbing
world, America needs an alert, responsible, and energetic youth to provide her with
a vital resource in a hopefully happier and fuller future for all. As I applaud your
past, I also urge you to rededicate yourselves to the ideals of the Scout Oath, and
to reaffirm your obligations to your God and to your country. In so doing, you will
contribute to the strengthening of America's heritage and thereby to the realization
of our common goals in the Great Society."
John F. Kennedy
The first Scout to become President was John F. Kennedy, who was a member of Troop
2, Bronxville, N.Y., from 1929 to 1931 and a leader of the Boston Council.
"For more than 50 years Scouting has played an important part in the
lives of the Boy Scouts of this nation. It has helped to mold character, to form
friendships, to provide a worthwhile outlet for the natural energies of growing boys,
and to train these boys to become good citizens of the future.
"In a very real sense, the principles learned and practiced as Boy Scouts
add to the strength of America and her ideals."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Eisenhower became a member of the national Executive Board of the Boy Scouts
of America in 1948. He had been a staunch supporter of Scouting ever since his son was a
"The Boy Scout movement merits the unstinted support of every American who
wants to make his country and his world a better place in which to live. Its emphasis on
community service and tolerance and world friendship promotes a speedier attainment of
the enduring peace among men for which we all strive. By developing among its members
both a spirit of sturdiness, self-reliance, and a realization of the need for cooperative
effort in every major enterprise, the movement is a prime force in preparing tomorrow's
men for their duty to themselves, their country, and their world. Here in the United
States the Boy Scouts of America have accomplished much in its years of service. But
today, more than ever before, we need expansion of its membership and influence."
Harry S. Truman
President Truman gave strong support to the Boy Scouts of America at every opportunity.
He traveled to Valley Forge, Pa., in June 1950 to open personally the Second National
"The Boy Scouts of America, since it was founded in 1910, has contributed
greatly to the character training of our youth. What a greater nation this would be if
the principles of Scouting could be woven more closely into our daily lives. If we can
impress upon our youth principles of friendliness and mutual respect, we shall go a long
way toward establishing a better understanding among the nations of the world. The Boy
Scouts of America is making a vital contribution to the character building of our boys
and young men. Let us work together to make the program of the Boy Scouts available to
every American boy."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Roosevelt was the first to enter the White House with a record as an active
Scout leader. He was president of the Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of
America. In 1934 hundreds of thousands of Scouts assembled to hear President Roosevelt's
broadcast appealing for help for the needy. In response, Scouts contributed by collecting
nearly 2 million articles of clothing, household furnishings, and other articles for needy
families. When FDR died in 1945, he had a record of 24 years' service in Scouting.
"As one who has been interested in Scouting over many years it has been most
heartening to have so many evidences of the practical values of Scout training. We must
remember that next to active military service itself, there is no higher opportunity for
serving our country than helping youth to carry on in their efforts to make themselves
physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight, and prepared to help their
country to the full in time of war, as well as in time of peace. We must make sure that
those volunteer agencies which are supplementing the church, the home, and the school by
providing programs that will help equip the present generation to cope with life problems
in the difficult days ahead are maintained to their maximum capacity and effectiveness."
Herbert C. Hoover
President Hoover launched a forward movement and development program for the Boy Scouts
of America at a dinner commemorating Scouting's 20th anniversary.
"The first test of democracy is that each individual shall have the opportunity
to take that position of leadership in the community to which his character, his ability, and
his ambition entitle him; and because the progress of our country is thus directly related to
the training in leadership we can give the youth of the Nation. In meeting the vital need that
when the oncoming generation takes over our national affairs it shall be a generation
bulwarked with character, the Boy Scout movement plays a most useful part.
"The Boy Scout movement has opened for him the portals to adventure and
constructive joy, by reviving the lore of the frontier and the campfire; by establishing
contacts with the birds and sometimes with the bees; by matching his patience to the
deliberate character of fish; by efficient operations of the swimming hole; and by peeps
into the thousand mysteries of the streams, the trees, and the stars."
President Coolidge's two sons were Scouts, and he had many opportunities to see the Scout
program at work. He participated in the 16th Annual Meeting of the National Council in
Washington, D.C., in 1926 by presenting the first Silver Buffalo Awards for distinguished
service to boyhood.
"The more I have studied this movement, its inception, purposes, organization,
and principles, the more I have been impressed. Not only is it based on the fundamental
rules of right thinking and acting, but it seems to embrace in its code almost every virtue
needed in the personal and social life of mankind. It is a wonderful instrument for good.
If every boy in the United States could be placed under the wholesome influences of the
Scout program and should live up to the Scout Oath and rules, we would hear fewer pessimistic
words as to the future of our nation."
Warren G. Harding
"Harding Awards" authorized by President Harding went to 5,058 Scout troops
in 1923 for having increases in membership.
"I am with the Scout movement heart and soul. It is an organization teaching
the spirit of service and honor which we must always have in our citizenship. It is a school
of democracy because in it, standing is won only by taking the equal opportunity given all
individuals to show their own merit, capacity, and worth. I wish every boy in our America
could have the advantage and the honor of being in the Boy Scout organization."
President Wilson signed a bill on June 15, 1916, which was passed by both Houses of
Congress by unanimous consent, granting the organization federal incorporation.
"The Boy Scouts have not only demonstrated their worth to the Nation, but
have also materially contributed to a deeper appreciation by the American people of the
higher conception of patriotism and good citizenship. Every nation depends for its future
upon the proper training and development of its youth. The American boy must have the best
training and discipline our great democracy can provide if America is to maintain her
ideals, her standards, and her influence in the world. Anything that is done to increase
the effectiveness of the Boy Scouts of America will be a genuine contribution to the welfare
of the Nation."
William Howard Taft
When President Taft in 1910 agreed to be Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America,
he set a precedent accepted by each of his successors. President Taft accepted to "thus
sustain a similar relation to the movement as does King George V to a similar movement in
England." The First Annual Meeting of the organization was held in the White House at the
invitation of President Taft.
"I am very glad to give my sympathy and support to such a movement as this.
Anything that directs the boy's spirit in the right channel for usefulness and for the
making of manly men should be encouraged."
Theodore Roosevelt was no longer President of the United States when the Boy Scouts of
America was started in 1910. But he was an ardent booster of the organization. He was a
troop committeeman of Troop 39, Oyster Bay, N.Y., and first council commissioner of Nassau
County Council. As a former President he was elected an Honorary Vice-President of the Boy
Scouts of America. He was the first and only man designated as the "Chief Scout Citizen."
For many years after his death in 1919, several thousand Scouts and leaders in the New York
area made annual pilgrimages to his grave in Oyster Bay.
"More and more I have grown to believe in the Boy Scout movement. I regard it
as one of the movements most full of promise for the future here in America. The Boy Scout
movement is distinctly an asset to our country for the development of efficiency, virility,
and good citizenship. It is essential that its leaders be men of strong, wholesome character;
of unmistakable devotion to our country, its customs and ideals, as well as in soul and by
law citizens thereof, whose wholehearted loyalty is given to this nation, and to this nation
Honorary President and Vice-Presidents
Clause 1. The President of the United States may, during term of office, be elected to be
the Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America. In addition, living former Presidents
of the United States and other citizens who have rendered distinguished service to our
country through work for young people may be elected to be honorary vice-presidents. Such
election shall be by the Executive Board upon the recommendation of the Nominating Committee
for such terms as the Executive Board shall specify.