Skip to comments.Celebrating Our Survival: Why May 16 is Special for Scouting
Posted on 05/16/2006 8:51:22 AM PDT by fgoodwin
Celebrating Our Survival: Why May 16 is Special for Scouting
May 3, 1999 By MaryAnn Gardner
The founding of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 was the establishment of the National organization. It opened the door to fun and learning in the outdoors to thousands of American boys. It's founding, however, did not guarantee that the organization would survive.
Certainly, Baden-Powell had supplied the basics for Scouting in America along with Ernest Thompson Seton, founder of the Woodcraft Indians, and Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone. Seton and Beard brought emphasis on the Native American and American frontiersman influences in outdoor activities of American Scouts. While all of this was fun, interesting and exciting, it did not focus on the successful management necessary to sustain and grow the organization.
Into this mix came a man who was not an outdoorsman, who, in fact, had spent his youth in an orphanage and who had difficulty even walking because of a hip deteriorated from tuberculosis. James E. West's childhood difficulties had built him into a strong determined man. After earning his law degree he became an activist for children. As a volunteer, he worked to provide safe, clean places for children to play, helped thousands of children find foster homes, and removed troubled youth from adult courts by helping establish the first juvenile court.
West did not welcome the job of Chief Scout Executive and only intended to serve for six months. A demanding businessman, West methodically managed the organization according to the bottom line. He knew that the very survival of the Boy Scouts of America depended on a strong organization that could help itself and sustain itself through tough periods of growth. He understood that children could not benefit if the organization could not survive. Seton and Beard found West talented, but obstinate and unyielding. They believed the boys must be the first and only consideration. They also believed he knew little of the benefits of the outdoors, didn't understand their program, didn't understand boys, and lacked the intended vision of the BSA. His strong feelings and many conflicts with West led Seton to resign from the organization in 1915. West and Beard remained at odds in philosophy, but continued to work together and shape the BSA for years to come.
James West proved to be just what the BSA needed to make it a viable, accepted national organization. At age 34, he was the youngest of the founding fathers. His ability to keep the organization focused and growing kept him in that position for 30 years. During that time he established SCOUTING MAGAZINE and was the editor of BOYS LIFE for over 20 years.
In 1921 he allowed an experimental Order of the Arrow program to be established nationally. It would take almost 30 years for it to become an official part of the Scouting program.
In 1929, together with William Hillcourt, he wrote THE SCOUT JAMBOREE BOOK: American Scouts at the 3rd World Jamboree. In 1933, they wrote another book about the 4th World Jamboree. In his comments about the closing ceremony (CHAPTER XI -IN WHICH WE CLOSE THE FOURTH WORLD JAMBOREE AND LIGHT OUR LAST FIRE) , West's description of those voices can touch the hearts of Scout and Scouters today:
". . .a roar arose from the gathering. Each Scout in his own language yelled the key-word of the jamboree: 'Brother!' It rose high, spread across the arena, came back as a tremendous echo:
'Brother! Bruder! Frere! Broder! Testvor!' "
Today James E. West is remembered and celebrated as he lived. This child-welfare advocate who knew the importance of structure and support for an organization's longevity and growth, was honored by the BSA through the establishment of an award in his name. In 1993 the James E. West Fellowship Award was established to recognize major contributors to Council endowment trust funds.
In August of 1999, the Finance Support Division of the BSA is holding the first of a new type of donor seminar. James E. West Week will take place at the Philmont Training Center from August 9-13. Session topics will feature estate and trust planning.
On May 16 Scouting celebrates the birthday of James West, born on that date in 1876. Perhaps, those of us who have had the privilege of volunteering our time to work with the youth of America through the programs of the BSA, should pause with thanks and in memory of this man who showed, from the beginning, the necessity of Unit fundraisers and Friends Of Scouting(FOS) campaigns. Maybe, if only for a moment, we can show a hint of compassion to those professionals we sometimes see as "out of touch" with the grassroots, and try to understand how important is their task of providing the support necessary to continue the program we love so much.
Also the birthday of my favorite Cub Scout Den Mother. My mom. God rest her soul.
Neat. Any alumns?
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