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Title: Address of President Coolidge before the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America: Washington, D. C., May 1, 1926
Author: Coolidge, Calvin
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address of President Coolidge before the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America: Washington, D. C., May 1, 1926" ***

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                          PRESIDENT COOLIDGE


                      THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE
                         BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

                           Washington, D. C.
                              May 1, 1926


                      GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE



_Members of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America_:

The strength and hope of civilization lies in its power to adapt
itself to changing circumstances. Development and character are not
passive accomplishments. They can be secured only through action. The
strengthening of the physical body, the sharpening of the senses, the
quickening of the intellect, are all the result of that mighty effort
which we call the struggle for existence. Down through the ages it was
carried on for the most part in the open, out in the fields, along the
streams, and over the surface of the sea. It was there that mankind met
the great struggle which has been waged with the forces of nature. We
are what that struggle has made us. When the race ceases to be engaged
in that great strength-giving effort the race will not be what it is
now――it will change to something else. These age-old activities or
their equivalent are vital to a continuation of human development. They
are invaluable in the growth and training of youth.

Towns and cities and industrial life are very recent and modern
acquirements. Such an environment did not contribute to the making of
the race, nor was it bred in the lap of present-day luxury. It was
born of adversity and nurtured by necessity. Though the environment
has greatly changed, human nature has not changed. If the same natural
life in the open requiring something of the same struggle, surrounded
by the same elements of adversity and necessity, is gradually passing
away in the experience of the great mass of the people; if the old
struggle with nature no longer goes on; if the usual environment has
been very largely changed, it becomes exceedingly necessary that an
artificial environment be created to supply the necessary process for a
continuation of the development and character of the race. The cinder
track must be substituted for the chase.

Art therefore has been brought in to take the place of nature. One of
the great efforts in that direction is represented by the Boy Scout
movement. It was founded in the United States in 1910. In September
of that year the organization was given a great impetus by the visit
of the man whom we are delighted to honor this evening, Sir Robert
Baden-Powell. This distinguished British general is now known all over
the world as the originator of this idea. That it has been introduced
into almost every civilized country must be to him a constant source
of great gratification. The first annual meeting was held in the East
Room of the White House in February, 1911, when President Taft made
an address, and each of his successors has been pleased to serve as
the honorary president of the association. It has been dignified by a
Federal charter granted by the Congress to the Boy Scouts of America
in 1916, and thereby ranks in the popular mind with the only two other
organizations which have been similarly honored, the Red Cross and the
American Legion.

The Boy Scouts have been fortunate in enlisting the interest of
prominent men of our country to serve as the active head of the
organization. For the current year that position was held by no less a
figure than the late James J. Storrow. His untimely taking off was a
sad experience to all of us who knew him. I cherished him personally
as a friend. I admired him for the broad public spirit that he always
exhibited. Amid all the varied and exacting activities as one of our
foremost business men, he yet found time to devote his thought and
energy and personal attention to the advancement of this movement. His
memory will constantly bring to us all that sentiment which he uttered
in the New Year message that he gave to the scouts, in expressing the
hope that it might bring “A more vivid realization that it is the
spirit and the spiritual sides of life that count.”

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. It is an inspiration to you whose duty and privilege it is
to widen its horizon and extend its influence. If every boy in the
United States between the ages of 12 and 17 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.

The boy on becoming a scout binds himself on his honor to do his best,
as the oath reads:

    “1. To do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the scout

    “2. To help other people at all times.

    “3. To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and
    morally straight.”

The 12 articles in these scout laws are not prohibitions, but
obligations; affirmative rules of conduct. Members must promise to
be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient,
cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. How comprehensive this
list! What a formula for developing moral and spiritual character!
What an opportunity for splendid service in working to strengthen
their observance by all scouts and to extend their influence to all
boys eligible for membership! It would be a perfect world if everyone
exemplified these virtues in daily life.

Acting under these principles, remarkable progress has been made. Since
1910, 3,000,000 boys in the United States have been scouts――one out
of every seven eligible. Who can estimate the physical, mental, and
spiritual force that would have been added to our national life during
this period if the other six also had been scouts?

On January 1, 1926, there was an enrollment of nearly 600,000 boys,
directed by 165,000 volunteer leaders and divided among 23,000 troops.
Such is the field that has been cultivated. The great need now is for
more leaders, inspired for service and properly equipped to carry out
the program. It is estimated that 1,000,000 additional boys could be
enrolled immediately if adequate leadership could be provided. We can
not do too much honor to the 500,000 men who in the past 16 years have
given freely of their time and energy as scout masters and assistant
scout masters. Such service is service to God and to country. The
efforts to get more devoted volunteers and to find and train those
fitted and willing to make this their life work is worthy of the most
complete success.

Because the principles of this movement are affirmative, I believe
they are sound. The boy may not be merely passive in his allegiance
to righteousness. He must be an active force in his home, his church,
and his community. Too few people have a clear realization of the real
purposes of the Boy Scouts. In the popular mind the program is arranged
for play, for recreation, is designed solely to utilize the spare time
of the boy in such a way that he may develop physically while engaged
in pleasurable pursuits. This is but a faint conception, one almost
wholly misleading. The program is a means to an end. Its fundamental
object is to use modern environment in character building and training
for citizenship.

Character is what a person is; it represents the aggregate of
distinctive mental and moral qualities belonging to an individual or a
race. Good character means a mental and moral fiber of high order, one
which may be woven into the fabric of the community and State, going to
make a great nation――great in the broadest meaning of that word.

The organization of the scouts is particularly suitable for a
representative democracy such as ours, where our institutions rest
on the theory of self-government and public functions are exercised
through delegated authority. The boys are taught to practice the basic
virtues and principles of right living and to act for themselves in
accordance with such virtues and principles. They learn self-direction
and self-control.

The organization is not intended to take the place of the home or
religion, but to supplement and cooperate with those important
factors in our national life. We hear much talk of the decline in the
influence of religion, of the loosening of the home ties, of the lack
of discipline――all tending to break down reverence and respect for the
laws of God and of man. Such thought as I have been able to give to
the subject and such observations as have come within my experience
have convinced me that there is no substitute for the influences of
the home and of religion. These take hold of the innermost nature
of the individual and play a very dominant part in the formation of
personality and character. This most necessary and most valuable
service has to be performed by the parents, or it is not performed at
all. It is the root of the family life. Nothing else can ever take its
place. These duties can be performed by foster parents with partial
success, but any attempt on the part of the Government to function in
these directions breaks down almost entirely. The Boy Scout movement
can never be a success as a substitute but only as an ally of strict
parental control and family life under religious influences. Parents
can not shift their responsibility. If they fail to exercise proper
control, nobody else can do it for them.

The last item in the scout “duodecalogue” is impressive. It declares
that a scout shall be reverent. “He is reverent toward God,” the
paragraph reads. “He is faithful in his religious duty――respects the
convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.” In the past
I have declared my conviction that our Government rests upon religion;
that religion is the source from which we derive our reverence for
truth and justice, for equality and liberty, and for the rights of
mankind. So wisely and liberally is the Boy Scout movement designed
that the various religious denominations have found it a most helpful
agency in arousing and maintaining interest in the work of their
various societies. This has helped to emphasize in the minds of youth
the importance of teaching our boys to respect the religious opinions
and social customs of others.

The scout theory takes the boy at an age when he is apt to get ensnared
in the complexities and false values of our latter-day life, and it
turns his attention toward the simple, the natural, the genuine. It
provides a program for the utilization of his spare time outside his
home and school and church duties. While ofttimes recreational, it is
in the best sense constructive. It aims to give a useful outlet for
the abundant energies of the boy, to have valuable knowledge follow
innate curiosity, to develop skill and self-reliance――the power to
bring things to pass――by teaching one how to use both the hand and
the head. In the city-bred boy is developed love for the country, a
realization of what nature means, of its power to heal the wounds
and to soothe the frayed nerves incident to modern civilization. He
learns that in the woods and on the hillside, on the plain, and by the
stream, he has a chance to think upon the eternal verities, to get a
clarity of vision――a chance which the confusion and speed of city life
too often renders difficult if not impossible of attainment. There
is a very real value in implanting this idea in our boys. When they
take up the burdens of manhood they may be led to return to the simple
life for periods of physical, mental, and spiritual refreshment and

Scouting very definitely teaches that rewards come only after
achievement through personal effort and self-discipline. The boy enters
as a tenderfoot. As he develops he becomes a second-class scout and
then a first-class scout. Still there is before him the opportunity, in
accordance with ability and hard work, to advance and get merit badges
for proficiency in some 70 subjects pertaining to the arts, trades, and
sciences. It is interesting to learn that in the year 1925, 195,000
merit badges were awarded as compared with 140,000 in 1924. Twenty-one
such awards make the boy an “eagle scout,” the highest rank. Not only
does one learn to do things, but in many instances he learns what he
can do best. He is guided to his life work. Vocational experts will
tell you in dollars and cents what this means to society where so often
much valuable time and effort is wasted by the young before they have
tested, proven, and trained their individual powers.

The boy learns “to be prepared.” This is the motto of the scouts. They
are prepared to take their proper place in life, prepared to meet any
unusual situation arising in their personal or civic relations. The
scout is taught to be courageous and self-sacrificing. Individually
he must do one good deed each day. He is made to understand that he
is a part of organized society; that he owes an obligation to that
society. Among the many activities in which the scouts have rendered
public service are those for the protection of birds and wild life
generally, for the conservation of natural resources, reforestation,
for carrying out the “Safety first” idea. They have taken part in
campaigns for church cooperation, in drives against harmful literature,
and the promotion of an interest in wholesome, worth-while reading.
In many communities they have cooperated with the police and fire
departments. In some instances they have studied the machinery of
government by temporary and volunteer participation in the city and
State administration. During the war they helped in the Liberty-loan
campaigns, and more recently they have assisted in “Get out the vote”

All of this is exceedingly practical. It provides a method both for
the training of youth and adapting him to modern life. The age-old
principle of education through action and character through effort
is well exemplified, but in addition the very valuable element has
been added of a training for community life. It has been necessary
for society to discard some of its old individualistic tendencies
and promote a larger liberty and a more abundant life by cooperative
effort. This theory has been developed under the principle of the
division of labor, but the division of labor fails completely if any
one of the divisions ceases to function.

It is well that boys should learn that lesson at an early age. Very
soon they will be engaged in carrying on the work of the world. Some
will enter the field of transportation, some of banking, some of
industry, some of agriculture; some will be in the public service,
in the police department, in the fire department, in the Post Office
Department, in the health department. The public welfare, success,
and prosperity of the Nation will depend upon the proper coordination
of all these various efforts and upon each loyally performing the
service undertaken. It will no longer do for those who have assumed the
obligation to society of carrying on these different functions to say
that as a body they are absolutely free and independent and responsible
to no one but themselves. The public interest is greater than the
interest of any one of these groups, and it is absolutely necessary
that this interest be made supreme. But there is just as great a
necessity on the part of the public to see that each of these groups is
justly treated. Otherwise, government and society will be thrown into
chaos. On each one of us rests a moral obligation to do our share of
the world’s work. We have no right to refuse.

The training of the Boy Scouts fits them to an early realization of
this great principle and adapts them in habits and thoughts and life
to its observances. We know too well what fortune overtakes those
who attempt to live in opposition to these standards. They become at
once rightfully and truly branded as outlaws. However much they may
boast of their freedom from all restraints and their disregard of all
conventionalities of society, they are immediately the recognized foes
of their brethren. Their short existence is lived under greater and
greater restrictions, in terror of the law, in flight from arrest, or
in imprisonment. Instead of gaining freedom, they become the slaves of
their own evil doing, realizing the scriptural assertion that they who
sin are the servants of sin and that the wages of sin is death. The Boy
Scout movement has been instituted in order that the youth, instead of
falling under the domination of habits and actions that lead only to
destruction, may come under the discipline of a training that leads to
eternal life. They learn that they secure freedom and prosperity by
observing the law.

This is but one of the many organizations that are working for good in
our country. Some of them have a racial basis, some a denominational
basis. All of them in their essence are patriotic and religious. Their
steady growth and widening influence go very far to justify our faith
in the abiding fitness of things. We can not deny that there are evil
forces all about us, but a critical examination of what is going on in
the world can not fail to justify the belief that wherever these powers
of evil may be located, however great may be their apparent extent,
they are not realities, and somewhere there is developing an even
greater power of good by which they will be overcome.

We need a greater faith in the strength of right living. We need a
greater faith in the power of righteousness. These are the realities
which do not pass away. On these everlasting principles rests the
movement of the Boy Scouts of America. It is one of the growing
institutions by which our country is working out the fulfillment of an
eternal promise.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address of President Coolidge before the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America: Washington, D. C., May 1, 1926" ***

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