The Boy Scouts of America has a bright future ahead. Learn more about three big changes announced at the 2014 National Annual Meeting, including the introduction of a new BSA president, as well as updates to the Venturing and Cub Scouting programs.
CHANGE CAME IN TWO FLAVORS at May’s BSA National Annual Meeting: aspirational and practical. The aspirational: Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary and CIA director, took over as president of the Boy Scouts of America. His speech at the closing dinner, including some “blunt talk” about Scouting, sent attendees into a frenzy of excitement about where the organization is headed. The practical: Attendees got a preview of the big changes coming to Cub Scouting in 2015 and the newly released requirements for the new Venturing awards, available now. Here are three days’ worth of meetings, announcements and excitement summarized into three things you need to know:
1: Change Agent
THE APPLAUSE WAS SO HEARTY that it didn’t stop until Robert M. Gates returned for an encore and a second wave to the crowd. That kind of adulation is rare at BSA National Annual Meetings.
Gates spent 27 minutes outlining his vision for enhancing transparency, marketing, retention, recruitment and program innovation at all levels of Scouting. He expressed his support for last year’s thoughtful discussion about the membership policy, which resulted in a vote to remove the restriction that excluded youth based solely on sexual orientation. He said the discussion left the movement “divided, distracted and defensive.” Gates said he strongly supports the final, democratically decided outcome and will oppose any effort to reopen debate on the issue during his two years as president. The meeting wasn’t really a welcome for Gates; it was a welcome back. He’s a Distinguished Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, and he served as president of the National Eagle Scout Association and as a BSA board member until 2006, when he left to become secretary of defense under Presidents Bush and Obama. Gates said he has already noticed how much has changed — for the better — in the eight years since, especially in the role volunteers play in decision-making. “I believe the volunteer leadership has assumed its proper role as the guiding hand of this movement,” he said. “There is still room for improvement, but as someone who has not been involved for the past eight years, the difference between then and now is like night and day.” That renewed passion for Scouting explains why Gates wants more Scouts in the program. The recruitment process, he said, starts with our youngest potential members. “We all know the downward direction of our membership numbers,” he said. “We must first stop the decline and then begin to address how we grow again. I don’t have any easy answers to this challenge. I do believe it starts with emphasis on recruiting Cub Scouts.” Growing the number of boys in your Cub Scout pack begins with figuring out why they sign up in the first place. Gates offered a likely reason. “Teaching leadership and skills are important reasons for joining Scouts for all of us, but I suspect that for most parents of boys of Cub Scout age, what they want most of all is a chance to spend time with their kids,” he said. “Unlike many other activities available to boys, Scouting offers parents the opportunity to be fully engaged side-by-side with their child — not just cheering from the sidelines.” Hear Gates explain his vision for Scouting by watching (or reading) his full speech at bit.ly/robertgates.
2. Cub Scouting’s New Look for 2015
THE CUB SCOUT BOOTH at the National Annual Meeting needed a sign near its entrance reading “Heavy Traffic Ahead.”
There was no spot in the exhibit hall more popular than this one, where volunteers and professionals got their first look at the exciting updates to Cub Scouting that will debut in May 2015. Though some volunteers had feared belt loops and other instant-recognition items were being abandoned, the opposite is true. They’re even more a part of the new Cub Scouting. Boys will receive an adventure loop for their Cub Scout belt after completing adventures at the Tiger, Wolf and Bear levels. Boys working on Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks will receive adventure pins when each adventure is completed. These belt loops and pins have been completely redesigned — just like the new youth handbooks and new den leader guides. Meeting attendees received printed samples of these publications to see what they’re in for next year, but you didn’t have to be present in Nashville, Tenn., to get a look. Go to scouting.org/programupdates to download your copy for free. That’s also where you’ll find adventure requirements and insignia; an introduction to Ethan, the new cartoon character (shown at right) who will guide Cub Scouts through the program; a transition guide; and answers to frequently asked questions. Almost all of the brains behind Cub Scouting’s big upgrade are volunteers, and all of those volunteers are Cub Scouters. That means they understand what parents want their boys to get out of Cub Scouting because they’ve been there with their own packs. The team of more than 100 volunteers from across the country, led by Russ Hunsaker, analyzed the current Cub Scout program and literally wrote the book on Cub Scouting’s big upgrade. Look for a complete guide to the reimagined Cub Scouting program in our May-June 2015 issue.
3. Venturing Awards Reach New Heights
WE KNEW THE NAMES; now we have the requirements. The new Venturing awards are designed to help young men and women develop their personal vision into manageable goals. Venturers could start working on the Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit awards beginning June 1. Current Venturers automatically get the Venturing award and can skip to working on Discovery. New Venturers will need to start by earning the Venturing award. All Venturers have until the end of 2014 to finish any work on the soon-to-be-retired Bronze, Gold and Silver awards before they’re required to switch to the new awards. Most, though, will want to make the change from the rarely earned previous awards to the new ones, which include requirements that emphasize adventure, leadership, personal development and service. All of the new awards’ requirements fit within the context of every Venturing crew, regardless of its specialty. Venturers will realize they’re checking off requirements by doing the fun activities they’d do anyway. Find the full requirements and a look at the new insignia at scouting.org/programupdates.
MEET THE 2014 CLASS of Silver Buffaloes: bit.ly/2014silverbuffalo
SALUTING OUR OUTGOING PRESIDENT The start of Robert M. Gates’ two-year term as the BSA’s top volunteer meant the end of Wayne Perry’s presidency. But Perry, a Silver Buffalo Award recipient and co-owner of the Seattle Mariners, isn’t leaving the BSA. Gates has asked him to stay involved and help with fundraising for the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia. He’ll also continue to teach the Aviation merit badge and will serve on the BSA’s contingent at the 2015 World Scout Jamboree in Japan. Perry has given his time and treasure to Scouting, and he works for free — a point he referenced in his farewell speech. “People ask me, ‘Are you paid?’ I say, ‘Well, money does change hands.’ Why do we do it? You know why we do it,” Perry said. “No other youth-serving organization in the world can have the impact on the youth we have.” Next, Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock thanked Perry for his service and commitment. “He has such a positive, can-do attitude,” Brock said. “One of his favorite sayings is: ‘There is no try, there is only do.’ “So how’s that for motivating the Chief Scout Executive?”