Over the past few months, a widely circulated e-mail has reported that President Barack Obama is not signing Eagle Scout certificates, which only 4-5 percent of Boy Scouts attain. Categorically, Internet watchdog sites, such as snopes.com, have classified the claims as "hogwash." But I have found a steady stream of White House whitewashing when it comes to the Boy Scouts of America.
A new entry on snopes.com defends that "President Obama's signature has been appearing on Eagle Scout certificates since late 2009," roughly one year into his presidency. But the Boy Scouts of America National Council confessed that Scout candidates who'd had board reviews before the spring of 2010 had received unsigned certificates.
"No Eagle recognition letters have been received this year from the president," said Richard Meyers, who attained his Eagle rank in 1957 -- during the Eisenhower presidency -- and is now assistant scoutmaster for Troop 162 in Arlington County, Va. Meyers made this clarification at a Chain Bridge District 2010 Life to Eagle seminar Jan. 30.
Why the tardiness? The Boy Scouts of America says the primary reason is an administrative delay in authorizing the president's signature. But does anyone else find it strange that the president has sent out 13,000 letters of congratulations to Eagle Scouts since the beginning of his presidency (with his signature on them, to boot) yet, a year after Obama's inauguration, Eagle Scouts can't get a presidential signature on their certificates?
But the delay is even more peculiar because Obama became the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America way back on March 3, 2009 -- an event that was done almost completely in secret in the Oval Office. Since President William Howard Taft in 1910, U.S. presidents have proudly fulfilled the position of honorary president of the BSA. But neither the honor nor the event was highlighted in any official White House communication. Nothing mentioned at the March 3 White House briefing. Nothing noted anywhere on the White House's official website. Obama simply accepted the honorary presidential position behind closed doors in the Oval Office with seven or so Boy Scouts present.
Could the secrecy of that meeting be a result of social pressure from, for example, the January 2009 letter from the American Humanist Association and 18 other nontheistic organizations, which pleaded with Obama to be the first president in 100 years not to serve as the BSA's honorary president? He's a progressive, so you can imagine the pickle Obama was in. But he is no political fool and was unwilling to deal with the collateral damage that would have happened had he denied the honorary post of one of the largest and oldest youth organizations in the U.S.
Interestingly, though the White House cloaked Obama's acceptance of the post in mystery, on that single day of March 3, 2009, the White House considered a host of other events as newsworthy enough to post on its official website, e.g., "President Obama Announces More Key Appointments," "Message to Congress from the President Regarding Export Certification," "Remarks by the President and Vice President on transportation infrastructure," "Remarks of President Obama to AFL-CIO Executive Council" and the "Remarks of the President to Commemorate the 160th Anniversary of the Department of Interior."
Yet not a peep mentioned about the president's acceptance of BSA's honorary presidency. Could it be that the 160th anniversary of the Department of the Interior ranked of higher importance than Obama's acceptance of the BSA's position in its 100th year?
I suppose it's also coincidental that Obama was unable to attend the 100th anniversary gala of the Boy Scouts of America in his own backyard (Washington, D.C.) Feb. 9, 2010. Why? Because that evening he had his first national news conference. Is it just me, or would you have delayed the news conference to any other evening in February to attend this unique centennial celebration of one of the oldest and most influential boys organizations in U.S. history? How about at least a quick shout-out at the news conference for the BSA's 100th anniversary? No such luck.
The president did, however, send a semi-congratulatory letter to the BSA on its centennial -- though at the same time, he subtly distanced himself from being a celebratory participant: "I send greetings to all those celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. ... I wish you all the best." Seems like a rather flat centennial note for the honorary president of the BSA, wouldn't you say? Actually, he never even thanked the organization or mentioned that he's its honorary president in the body of his letter. But I'm sure that's just a minimalist coincidence, too!
To be frank, I think Obama's delay in signing Eagle Scout certificates has more to do with White House political correctness and establishing an arm's-length relationship with the BSA than it has to do with any simple "administrative delay," especially when lawsuits have been levied against the BSA because of its stand against atheists, agnostics and homosexuals.
For years, I've signed and sent out hundreds of Eagle Scout recognition letters. And I know a host of Boy Scouts, Eagle Scouts and Boy Scout leaders personally. These individuals epitomize the best of America. Indeed, the BSA is as integral a part of American life and culture as hot dogs, baseball and Grandma's apple pie.
I couldn't agree more with Bob Gates, former director of the CIA, when he explained: "I think that American leadership is vital to peace and prosperity and the advancement of democracy in the world, and that requires having strong leaders. And I don't think there's any organization in the world, certainly not in the United States, that better prepares young men for leadership in this country than the Boy Scouts of America -- in teaching leadership skills, in teaching values, in teaching importance of standing up for what's right."
Mr. President, do you agree?