The trouble with the Boy Scouts of America (and how to fix it)

The Boy Scouts of America (the BSA) are in an insurmountable position politically. Long targeted by the left for its refusal to admit gay boys and leaders, the group recently earned the ire of the right by agreeing to welcome transgender kids. “For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the group said in a statement on its website. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Then, in October of 2017, the BSA announced its plan to welcome girls to participate in the program from its lowest Cub Scout ranks right up to Eagle Scout, the highest rank the program offers. “The values of Scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh. “We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

The divisive move angered, among others, Girls Scouts of America. “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today,” the group shared in a statement, “and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.”

Think of the general public’s perception of Boy Scouts of America:

  1. The boys help little old ladies cross the street.
  2. The don’t let gays in.
  3. They’re staffed by child molesters.
  4. They’re politically conservative.

While the first three points are patently false, number four is based in fact. The BSA has long been a bedrock of conservative American life; a stronghold of morality and traditional manliness. Its goal has always been to produce God-fearing male patriots, loyal to traditional values. It’s no surprise to me that the contemporary BSA still is a politically conservative organization.

That position alienates left-leaning families. Current changes do the same to the right, and the public’s perception is either archaic or flat-out wrong.

Oh boy.

The Boy Scouts of America needs a complete, top-to-bottom PR overhaul. I’d love to see a nation-wide campaign that hits everything: print, TV, online, social. The works. Here’s my proposal for exactly that.

The message is twofold: 1.) this is not your father’s Boy Scout Troop. 2.) the values you’ve always treasured are still in place.

One campaign would address the former. Imagine a TV spot like the following.

  • Video of uniformed boys on community service projects. Improving a park, working in a soup kitchen, building a sandbox for a preschool. One boy turns to the camera and says, “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • Boys and girls collaborating on an awesome STEM project as equals. A rocket launches into the air. One turns to the camera: “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • A teenage boy helps a younger kid light a campfire. He struggles and then gets it. They high-five and the younger kid obviously feels great. “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • A young girl sits in front of a display typing code. She executes the code; a robot on the desk does a dance. “I am a Scout.”
  • A busy film set. A middle-aged man is looking into a camera. People are walking back and forth. The man turns around. It’s Steven Spielberg. “I am a Boy Scout.” (Steve is an Eagle Scout).
  • An inflatable raft full of frantically paddling young men passes by on a river of rapids. They shout, “We are Boy Scouts!” before passing by, ushered along by the white water.

Mike Rowe – Star of “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” on the Discovery Channel — emerges from some nasty situation, covered in who-knows-what, and stands along side smiling boys and girls. “You can be a Boy Scout, too.” (Mike is an Eagle Scout).

I see another campaign that addresses the notion that the values you’ve treasured as a Scout or or adult leader are still in place. This one uses the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

A voiceover of several young voices begins: “A scout is loyal,”

The scene opens with a young teenage boy taking with an adult. They shake hands and apparently seal an agreement.

“loyal,”

A boy and girl are walking home from school. They stop as a third kid calls out and then joins them. The group smiles and continues to walk…

“helpful,”

A uniformed Scout helping a member of the community, or a friend or teacher,”

“friendly,”

…camaraderie around a campfire…

“courteous,”

…Scouts being kind to adults…

and so on with kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I see kids having fun, laughing, doing activities. Camping, yes. Saluting the flag, of course. Participating in ceremonies, you bet. Also being pulled around a snowy pass by sled dogs, climbing a rock wall, cleaning a beach, handing out water to runners at a marathon, and cheering each other on in a variety of situations. All ages, all genders, all equal.

Each would make a nice 15-second spot for Instagram, too.

Finally, perhaps an obvious change to the uniform could also signify the changes in contemporary scouting: Girls welcome. Gay scouts welcome. All creeds welcome, and every one of them is “…physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

It’s very much needed and I believe would lead to a huge jump in membership as well as a major shift in the perception of Boy Scouts.

An insurmountable situation? Yes. An impossible one? Not a chance.

JFK vs Trump

Recently I visited the JFK Museum in Hyannis, Massachusetts. As 2017 would have been President Kennedy’s 100th birthday, it seemed appropriate. It’s a great museum with many remarkable and moving artifacts, film reels and more.

At one point, you can watch the president’s inaugural address from January 20th, 1961. Most people remember its most famous line:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

It’s an iconic moment in American history and a call we all should answer. But the rest of the speech is just as remarkable, especially when compared to the words of our current leader.

President Donald Trump recently addressed the UN for the first time. Startled murmurs filled the hall as Trump said the following:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He continued, leveling a juvenile nickname at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”

Compare that to these words from Kennedy’s first address to the nation as its President:

“Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”

Back at the UN this week, Trump said, ”Major portions of the world are in conflict and some in fact are going to hell.” In a 40-minute speech, he attacked Iran’s nuclear ambitions, belittled Venezuela’s collapsing democracy, and fanned the threat of Islamist extremists.

Back in 1961, John Kennedy surveyed the politics of his time, and instead name-calling and threatening nuclear war, said the following:

“But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.”

“So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

“Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.”

“Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

“Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to ‘undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.’”

How far we have fallen. How dire our lives have become, when America’s leader can stand before a world body of 193 leaders and threaten to “totally destroy” one of its members, including the women, children, elderly, disabled…heck the pets who call that country home.

“My fellow citizens of the world,” said President Kennedy, “ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
Donald Trump makes no such call. Instead, his is a call to war. To misery. To suffering. How long before we’re all gone?

Know what you’re supporting, Trump voters

If you’re going to vote for Trump, know what you’re voting for:

These aren’t the typical political gaffes that happen during a campaign. They are threats to humanity.

I quote Louis C.K.:

Trump is a messed up guy with a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with money and attention. He can never ever have enough of either and he’ll never stop trying. He’s sick.”

It genuinely scares me to think about a Trump presidency. You should be scared, too.

Game over

After much heart-wrenching deliberation, I think it’s time to close Board Games Weekly down. It pains me to do so, as I love it so very much, but I don’t have the time anymore. At least, not at the scope I had imagined for it.

My goal was to produce the twice-weekly podcasts, a weekly live news show, the game play videos with my friends and a Twitch channel, as well as daily blog posts. That would have been a lot of work before I lost my job, but now it would be irresponsible for me to spend that much time on something other than billable hours as it were. Plus, my partner, Matt, has gone on to bigger and better things in the meantime (I don’t blame him), that will include many of the goals I’ve just described.

One of the things I learned while working on this project is that a podcast that features people talking about tabletop games isn’t very exciting. This topic demands video, and I don’t have the bandwidth to pull that off. So, put the dice away. It’s time to go home.

A simple, audio-only podcast supported by a Tumblr or something (or nothing, really) would be possible. Unfortunately, the fun, social hobby of tabletop gaming is not served well by that format.

Flying for iPhone looks like a great flight app

Flying – an iPhone app for all your air travel from Flying on Vimeo.

Flying for iPhone, still in public beta, wants to be on my iPhone so badly I can hear it whispering, “Install meeeee.” This seriously good-looking app shares information you’d expect like departure and arrival times, terminal and gate info (both sides) and weather. It’s also a bit playful, presenting your route data in a fun, novel way (see the video above).

The social aspect looks great, and reminds me of the bits of Gowalla that I enjoyed so much. You can receive “stamps” for achievements and share/compete with your traveling friends. For example, “You crossed the Atlantic Ocean!” Who among your buddies has racked up the most miles?

I don’t have any flights planned in the immediate future (I *might* go to Florida in a few weeks), but I’ll try out Flying as soon as I do. It looks great.

Use your iPhone to book a private jet

blackjetappThere’s an app for today’s mobile one-percenter. BlackJet‘s private jet service is now taking reservations via its iPhone app.

You can book a seat up to two days in advance of your departure date and travel between San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston and South Florida. As you might expect, it ain’t cheap. I searched for an AM flight between Boston and “South Florida” (I don’t know which airport, actually) and was quoted $2,368.90.

To protect itself from people who would waste their time (like me), BlackJet booking requires a membership plus a one-time membership fee of $2,500. But the benefit is, if you can swing it, you get a guaranteed seat in your preferred time frame on a very nice airplane.

BlackJet says additional cities are coming soon and that well-behaved pets are welcome on board. The company recently received $5 million in funding, according to Galding, and Ashton Kutcher is reportedly a customer.

All I can say is the headphones better be free.