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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.

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An Interview with Roy Williams, BSA Chief Scout Executive and Response from Mike Neubacker, Member of Scouting For All

Embattled Boy Scouts Moving Ahead
Interview: Roy L. Williams

American Legion Magazine
Issue, Vol. 150, No. 2

SAY BOY SCOUTS, and you say cheese.

Everyone smiles about these able, outdoor lads who grow with newly learned skills as they come to know themselves and the world around them in positive and enthusiastic ways.

Scouting was important to Roy L. Williams as a young man, and became his career after he served in the Air Force
and graduated from the University of Texas. Last year, with almost three decades of Scouting experience to draw upon, Williams became Chief Scout Executive of an organization with 1,100 national and 6,300 local employees that has had more
than 100 million members and participants since it began in 1910.

Williams is active in his son's troop and has served as Wood Badge instructor and Order of the Arrow chapter and lodge advisor. He is a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow. His professional posts have included district director in Texas, finance director in Arkansas, Scout executive in Kansas and Rhode Island, and western regional and national positions as Director of the Boy Scout Division.

Peter B. Rose, a contributing editor, blazed a trail through Williams' busy schedule for an interview.

The American Legion
Magazine: How did you begin in scouting?

Roy L. Williams: I was in a really good scout troop in south Dallas. It was unusual in that it was sponsored by Texas Body Shop. We'd push back the cars, bring out the flag and learn our skills. Ralph Sawyer, who owned the body shop, and a high school teacher and fireman were our leaders.

Our bunch of boys was not necessarily model kids. Most were of modest circumstances. I came from a house without a garage. I ran home and talked my parents into the cost of 50 cents for letting me join.

The guys in charge had big hearts. Ralph Sawyer would change from his mechanic's outfit into his Scout uniform and the others would change, and they'd get us going. Today, I think there are a lot of dads out there like the Mr. Sawyers of 20 to 30 years ago. I know what the power of one person can do for the life of a child. Parents looking for help realize this, too.

More than 600 million cans of food have been collected by Boy Scouts since 1988 during annual Scouting for Food National Good Turn food drives.

Q: Why were you selected the chief scout executive?

a: I served in the Air Force and went through college on the GI Bill. After that, my wife was looking for a teaching job, and as is the case with many young men, I had a couple of jobs. In 1972 I took a full-time position with the Boy Scouts, thinking 'This one will pay.' I've always tried to do my best over my 30-year career. Things have kind of taken care of themselves.

Q: Last year, the Supreme Court decided that the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to exclude gay members because opposition to homosexuality is part of the organization's expressed message. What has happened since that decision?

a: We felt 20 years ago when this legal dispute started that society agreed sexual contact in Scouting is immoral. As long as I've been in Scouting, we've been morally strong, and people have talked about us that way, and that continues to be our value. We
think that parents agree with us.

We respect the right to disagree, but the decision has magnified our number of supporters. USA Today took a poll, and seven out of 10 people agreed with the decision; The Orlando Sentinel's poll had 9 out of 10 agreeing.

I think the average person trying to raise a family and make a living gives us solid support on this issue.

Q: Where is the excitement in the Boy Scouts today?

a: For 20 years we've had strong membership growth. Most people don't realize that. During Vietnam, for some reason, our membership dipped. Once that conflict was resolved and people felt better about the country, we started picking up again.

Last year we added 128,000 members. We have 3.4 million youths in Scouting and 1.2 million adults.

I have my own theory about our growth, which I can't document. Parents are concerned about what's going on in society. They can't shield their children from violence on TV and movies and video games. So they try to get their children involved in positive activities like Scouting.

Q: Why do you think there is such a strong bond between The American Legion and the Boy Scouts?

a: At The American Legion's first convention in Minneapolis in 1919, the first resolution adopted by the delegates was in support of the Boy Scouts and encouraged Legion Posts to adopt Boy Scout troops. The Legion was one of our first national sponsors. We've established a good friendship. We're old friends.

Q: What do Scouting and the Legion have in common?

a: Both organizations have a strong commitment to God and country. Those are two things that stand out. And both work tirelessly for strong moral values and respect for the flag.

Q: Does Scouting still promote the military services?

a: Sure. I don't know if that is officially stated. You see all branches around our services. They get involved in activities like jamborees. A lot of Legionnaires have been Scouts at one time. They go together.

Q: Scouts used to wear service caps. Why have they disappeared from the Scout uniform?

a: Styles change. Now baseball caps are generally worn. That's what the kids are doing these days. We have to remain contemporary. We've had berets, service caps, baseball caps that change with the times.

Q: How does Scouting prepare youths for life and for the possibility of military service?

a: All our activities, experiences and adventures help our Scouts learn and grow. All our outdoor activities provide
learning for life. We have all kinds of activities designed to challenge and bring out the best in people. They help prepare people for life and military service. They teach responsibility, which is important in military service.

Article design: Holly K. Soria

Roy L. Williams - Scouting
for nearly 30 years

1944 - Born in Houston.
1955 - Joined the Boy Scouts of America at age 11.
1963 - 1967 - Served with the U.S. Air Force in Texas, California and Okinawa.
1971 - Gradated from the University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
1972 - Appointed Scout District Executive in Texas.
1978 - Named Scout Finance Director in Little Rock, Ark.
1981 - Appointed Scout Executive in Topeka, Kan.
1986 - Appointed Division Director of Boy Scouts.
1990 - Named Scout Executive in Providence, R.I.
1993 - Appointed Western Regional Director.
2000 - Named National Chief Scout Executive.


Letter to the Editor

Dear American Legion Magazine,

"Boy Scout Chief Failed the Boy Scout Pledge"

When asked about the Supreme Court Ruling that allows the BSA to ban gay scouts and leaders, Roy Williams failed to remember his Boy Scout pledge to be honest. He misportrayed the conflict to be about whether "sexual contact" in scouting to be immoral or not. Sexual contact within scouting was never a part of this court challenge and anyone who has followed this court challenge knows that. There are already laws prohibiting sexual contact with minors and there was no challenge to those laws or to argue that sexual contact with scouts should be allowed or considered moral. The conflict was about the Boy Scouts
being able to discriminate by excluding a scout or leader who happens to be homosexual. Perhaps, in his misinformed mind, there isn't any difference. The case was really about whether the BSA is a private organization or not and thus be able to restrict membership.

I can only surmize that he felt the arguments for the BSA policy that were presented in the court case were not strong enough to stand on their own that he felt it necessary to completely mischaracterize the struggle against the BSA policy to your readers. Perhaps he thought the A.L. members who read this interview wouldn't know any better? I am a former scout and scout leader and proud father of a gay son who also benifited from the scouting program. The wonderful values the BSA taught my son never included discrimination but he did learn the importance of honesty.

The Chief used some polling figures to support the BSA position, but as the public becomes more educated on gay issues, the support for this misguided and discriminatory BSA policy will surely fade.


Mike Neubecker - American Legion Member

23083 Arsenal Rd. Brownstown Twp., MI 48134 (734) 783-0525

P.S. Although the Supreme court has decided they are a private organization, I can only wonder why was I paid T.D.Y. for two weeks while on active duty in Naples, Italy to take scouts to a boy scout camp at Camp Dawn, Germany that was run by the U.S. Army with a full time staff?




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