Few achievements in my life have been as meaningful, or as impactful, as becoming an “Eagle” in the Boy Scouts. I remember the lessons of my earliest days in scouting more vividly than any college lecture. Never can I hear the words, “On my honor…” without adding “to do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, to obey the Scout law…” And that’s why Gov. Perry’s book on scouting strikes such a nerve.
I typically avoid books written by people who spend their time asking for votes, but the exception made in this case has proved to be well-spent. Anyone who has sat around a campfire in knee-high green socks, or known someone who has, can find much to appreciate in the governor’s book.
And so too, in fact, can anyone worried about the ongoing “cultural wars.” Perry clearly articulates the view that the battle against scouting is both a microcosm of the broader issue, and the best example of how one must strive to win with dignity.
Whatever one might think of Rick Perry as a governor, as a dad and a scout he stands tall.
His book “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For” is a robust defense of the lasting values of scouting — which cross all political lines — sprinkled with readily indentifiable memories of his time in scouting as a youth, and reconnection to it as an adult during his son’s journey through the Boy Scouts of America.
Reasonable people can disagree about the governor’s political priorities, but the governor’s commitment to the principles of scouting is clearly a motivating force behin his day job as Texas’ chief executive.
Of course, when one understands the impact scouting made in his early years, it’s easy to see the lines connecting his enthusiasm for A&M’s Corps of Cadets (which I share), his service as an Air Force pilot, and the policy decisions he has pursued in public life.
It would be easy to dismiss the book as just another politician’s tome, a clever gimmick on the campaign trail. Except, of course, the governor isn’t on the campaign trail.
Or, maybe he is. But itâ€™s not a campaign for office.
The BSA has been under attack for decades — for declaring loyalty to God, for refusing to bow to cultural fads and fashions. More and more local governments are raising hurdles against the Boy Scouts — claiming paradoxically to want to “protect” diversity (the rights of gays, of atheists, etc.) by seeking to change the scouts, dry up their funding, and punish them for existing.
(As a note, all proceeds from the book go to the scoutsâ€™ legal defense fund.)
The campaign against the BSA has been relentless. While some major-state governors might use their “first book” as an opportunity to trumpet policy prescriptions or promote their political future, Perry is using his to draw attention to the battle engulfing the Boy Scouts. It is an unabashed call-to-arms in defense of both the institution and its principles.
The question of scouting’s survival formally occupies the last chapter of Perry’s book, but obviously is the foremost concern in his mind. Perry’s answer to the question is clear and direct: yes, it can survive, if scouting doesn’t waiver from its principles.
If there is a political lesson in the book, perhaps it is found here: When we let our core principles rule our actions, and resist calls to cave to the conveniences of the day’s fads, we will survive. People respond positively to those who exercise the courage of their convictions, when those convictions are grounded in lasting values. It’s only when we jettison our principles that we find ourselves temporarily popular, but universally disrespected.
As long as scouts remain “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent” they will continue to occupy a prominent place in the lives of thousands of young men — and the future of our Republic.
As an Eagle Scout, and the father of a young son who will one day be a scout, I find Governor Perry’s book to be both an enjoyable reminder why I so loved the institution, and a well-needed call-to-action in defense of it.