What the last 5 U.S. Presidents said about Scouting

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Presidents Day is officially celebrated on the third Monday of February, but really there is a lot more to the holiday than that. Some people celebrate it as George Washington’s birthday only. Others include Abraham Lincoln whose birthday is also in February. And many folks celebrate this day as an homage to all our presidents and the positive qualities of their leadership. So, whether it’s called Washington’s Birthday, or Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday, or Presidents’ Day, a lot of how this holiday is named and celebrated is influenced by where you live, and how your State celebrates it.

Boy Scouts Take NYC 1917
Boy Scouts take to the streets in New York City, 1917.

One thing is for sure, Presidents Day is a day (and a season) where we celebrate our nation, patriotism, and leadership—all things that are integral to Scouting and the purpose of the Cub Scouts. Not to boast, but the BSA has had quite a history with the top leaders of our country, past and present. Here are a few highlights with the U.S. Presidents of recent years: Scouting reached a huge milestone during the presidency of Barack H. Obama, which he remarked on when visiting the National Jamboree in 2010: “For a century, Scouts just like you have served your communities and your nation in ways both large and small…Congratulations on your first hundred years. I’m sure the next hundred will be even better.”

Boy Scouts and other events the afternoon of 3/3
President Barack H. Obama shakes the hand of a Cub Scout in the Oval Office.

A Cub Scout himself, former President George W. Bush also visited the Jamboree in 2005, and said regarding the service of the organization, “On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank the Boy Scouts for serving on the front line of America’s armies of compassion.”

Former President George W. Bush poses for a photo with a Webelos in the Oval Office.

Addressing a crowd of Scouts at the Jamboree in 1997, President William J. Clinton said of the Scouts, “With every act of kindness, you’ve strengthened our nation’s commitment to community and promoted a sense of civic responsibility.”

Former President William J. Clinton shakes hands with Boy Scouts at the 1997 National Jamboree in Bowling Green, VA.

During the Presidency of George H.W. Bush, the entire country was involved in the fight against drug abuse, with Scouting being a major force in this fight. Of that, the former President said “You are teaching self-protection strategies against drugs and other dangers…And you have done something else—you are leading the youth of America by example.”

Former President George H.W. Bush addressing a crowd of Scouts at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree in Virginia.

Before he was President, Ronald W. Reagan was a sustaining member of the Los Angeles Area Council and a Scoutorama chairman. At a council recognition dinner, he said the following: “I applaud your many efforts and programs encouraging character development and leadership among American youth…These programs develop the youngster’s confidence in his ability to deal with nature, society, and a challenging world.”

Former President Ronald Reagan receiving the Silver Buffalo award from Cub and Boy Scouts in the Oval Office, 1982.

Of course, Scouting wasn’t around in the days of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, but we like to think their sentiment would have echoed that of the leaders mentioned here. This month as we honor the men who made this country great, as well as the Office held by many great men, may the tradition of recognizing excellence in Scouting from our nation’s highest leaders continue. Happy Presidents Day.