Opinion & Editorial

Rotarians, Boy Scouts share common values

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of the presentation Don Williams made at the Jan. 16 Cottage Grove Rotary luncheon.

Thank you, Madam President. And thanks to the program chair for inviting Joe (Raade) and me to make our presentation on the Paul Harris influence on the Boy Scouts of America
Today I would like to bring information to this club concerning our founding member, Paul Harris, and his involvement in the formation of the Boy Scouts of America, beginning in 1909.
As many of you know, several years after retirement, I traveled the West. Jean and I most always attended Rotary meetings for a meal and fellowship. I have attended more than 100 Rotary clubs outside of my home club, which includes a national convention and Rotary district conferences throughout District 5110.
The following information I had never learned until I visited a little town in northern Washington in 2011. Those of you who have traveled Interstate-5 north of Seattle may remember going through Mt. Vernon. Directly west of Mt. Vernon is Anacortes, gateway by water to the San Juan Islands and the Pacific Ocean.
Anacortes has one of the largest oil refineries on the West Coast. I made several Rotary meetings in this area at dinner clubs. The La Conner club’s big fundraiser is selling tulips, as Skadget County is the Tulip Capital of the coast. In years past it was made up of primarily Dutch descendants.
Burlington is the next town to the east, then Cedro Wolley, nestled in the foothills of the Cascades. I attended this club three times. The 2011 program was Paul Harris’ involvement in the Boy Scouts of America. It was a full 30-minute program with slides, and presented by a Scout leader who was also manager of the Mt. Baker National Forest, and a Rotarian from Mt. Vernon.
Paul Harris and James E. West, who was the first chief executive officer of the Scouts, were good friends. They traveled the country together, establishing Boy Scout councils. Because of the support of Rotarians, countless young men and women across the nation are able to enjoy the benefits of scouting. Our relationship is strong after all these years as we have a lot in common, close to the same age.
Recently, Rotary celebrated its 115-year anniversary. Boy Scouts of America will be celebrating 110 years.
We both have seen our nation evolve and grow. We also share strong codes of behavior, which define us.
Rotary has the four-way tests that ask: Is it the truth? Is it fair? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
These are the same principles at work in the Scout oath and law.
Scouting founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell knew the value of these kinds of principles. He knew that by placing the Scout oath and law in front of young men, it would guide their behavior, much like a compass. It continues to guide young people, urging them to become better citizens, better people, and to serve others.
You may know the Scout slogan is “Do a good turn daily,” but you may not know why. It has to do with how American scouting came to be, and why today is at the heart of a program that gives every Boy Scout a chance to serve the people around him.
In 1909, a Chicago publisher named William Boyce got lost in the London fog. A young boy helped him find his way, but wouldn’t take the shilling Boyce offered. He said Scouts don’t take payment for doing a good turn. Boyce had never heard of Scouts, but was so intrigued that he learned all about the British program, then came and helped create the Boy Scouts of America.
For 110 years the Scouts have honored that day by doing good turns.
In 2004, they created the National Call to Service that has engaged Scouts in tackling hunger, homelessness and poor health across the nation. Scouts have logged more than 5.5 million hours of community service as part of this endeavor.

Don Williams is the president of Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel and a longtime Rotarian.



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