George Bush photo

Remarks at the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Bowling Green, Virginia

August 07, 1989

Bill, thank you for that generous introduction, and to you and Ben Love, my sincere thanks for inviting us to this unbelievable gathering of Scouts from all across the country. If you will permit me a note of regional pride, I understand that my home State of Texas has a pretty good-size delegation over here. I saw that flag, and I wanted to acknowledge it. Thank you, Curtis, for the Pledge of Allegiance and, Calvin, for that national anthem. Once again, I salute the colonel and the great Marine Band over here. You guys are lucky to have them. They are outstanding, and thank you, Colonel Bourgeois.

I want to salute our Secretary of Transportation, Sam Skinner. We flew down here; you saw us coming in on Marine One. And sitting with me on that plane was Sam Skinner, our outstanding Secretary of Transportation; Andy Card, an Assistant to the President; Bob Gates, an Assistant to the President for National Security -- all three of them Eagle Scouts, so that tells you something about how we feel.

The last Jamboree, I understand you had an unwelcome visitor by the name of Bob -- Hurricane Bob. And Bill tells me you didn't have a camp out, you had a damp out. But today I want credit as the guy that brought you the cool air down here. I would like full credit for that.

But I'm told that this Jamboree has come together marvelously -- canoeing, kayak, swimming. You can race trailbikes and compete in archery. You can earn merit badges while you work your way down the midway. And some of you undoubtedly, you wise ones, will be asked to organize snipe-hunting expeditions. [Laughter] And this all sounds like a lot of fun, but there's one activity here that really tempts me to leave the White House behind and spend a few days with you here at Fort A.P. Hill. And I'm talking about Fish Hook Lane.

You see, I started fishing at age 5 or so, in the cold waters along the Atlantic coast at Maine, using a lead jig with -- [applause] -- modest, but reasonably good delegation there, I'd say; thank you very much -- you know, fishing with one of these lead jigs with a little white cloth for bait, trolling with one of those old green cotton lines. And after awhile you get the hang of it, pulling in the fish -- mackerel and maybe a flounder. But I became acquainted with the waters up there, and so well that now I think I know every reef, when the swells will break and where they will, the sea conditions and where you can find the seals on a given day.

And since the time I was your age, I've waded in a clean, clear river in Iceland next to the Prime Minister of that land, catching my first salmon up there. I've pulled in bass in many, many of the States that are represented here today, fought dolphins and kings and tarpon and bluefish in Florida on the high seas -- the earlier ones. [Applause] Good sound system here. Thank you, Florida. And as you might have guessed then, fishing, I guess, is my favorite source of relaxation. And it's with a rod and reel that I tend to count my blessings, especially if I'm out there with one of our grandkids or with Barbara, the only woman on Earth who can read and fish at the same time -- [laughter] -- and catch every word and every fish.

But no matter where I fish today, I always look back to the days when I trailed that little piece of white cloth along the shoreline. And there's a lesson here that I want to share with you. Whatever you love to do -- whether it's hiking, hunting, kayaking -- hang on to it. As you pursue success in school -- and if there is ever a group that epitomizes the pursuit of success, it's you -- and later in your careers, don't forget to find time for the things you love to do. If you stay true to the hobbies of your youth, you'll find a source of relaxation and replenishment that will never fail you.

There are other things that you will learn as a Scout that will serve you well through your entire life. Your Scout law commands you to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent -- What a mouthful! And that might sound like a lot to remember, but it isn't. For at the core of that code is something simple: a desire to serve with honor, a sincere feeling for one's fellow man and for one's country. Serving is not a lifelong chore to be carried out. As Chief Scout Citizen Teddy Roosevelt put it: "The full performance of duty is not only right in itself but also the source of the profoundest satisfaction that can come in life." In short, to serve and to serve well is the highest fulfillment we can know. Bill Swisher, who gave so much time and commitment to this Jamboree -- he certainly knows this. Around the country, Americans like you are serving others in a thousand ways, providing a Thousand Points of Light and doing a good turn daily.

I know that Boy Scouts have always helped out through times of disaster, from fires to flash floods. The Boy Scouts were there when Franklin Delano Roosevelt appealed for help during the Great Depression, gathering almost 2 million articles of clothing, household furnishings, and food for the needy. And the Boy Scouts were a strong helping hand at home when older brothers fought a war in Europe. And today the Boy Scouts have taken on a new struggle: to defeat what you call the five unacceptables: illiteracy, unemployment, child abuse, drug abuse, and hunger. In fact, fighting hunger alone, Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Explorers rounded up -- now get this -- 65 million cans of food for local food banks, the largest collection of food ever undertaken in the history of the United States of America.

And your focus, then, is right on target. Today we can be grateful as a nation that no depression or no war looms ahead of us. But this doesn't mean that the times we live in are less demanding. The Boy Scouts of this 12th National Jamboree will face challenges unimagined by your parents. Perhaps the greatest challenges of our times, I'm sorry to say, is one of the unacceptables: the continuing struggle to keep drugs out of our high schools -- a form of pollution, a poisoning of the mind, a corruption of the very soul of young America.

And we had some good news last week about drug use in America. The number of overall drug-users in the United States is down by almost 40 percent. And this is a real tribute to those who have worked in the service organizations, the youth clubs, and communities across this country. And it's especially a tribute to the Boy Scouts of America, but we cannot yet claim victory. The number of people addicted to cocaine and crack has almost doubled, and we must work harder. And I'm especially looking to you to encourage friends to refuse drugs -- any illegal drug. I don't want any young American starting down the path to cocaine and crack.

Last week, a Wall Street Journal reporter wrote movingly of his son, a boy named Ryan. Ronald Shafer remembered his Ryan as an enthusiastic collector of baseball cards who could name every batting champion back to the sixties -- the kind of bright kid for whom life was an open invitation to succeed. But Ryan started using drugs and alcohol at age 12 and soon became a stranger to his parents and his classmates. And by age 16, Ryan was dead. There are thousands of Ryans across America, thousands of young men and women who are in danger of losing their future, their very lives, to this scourge called drugs.

The Boy Scouts of America has assumed a leadership role in confronting this problem. You are teaching self-protection strategies against drugs and other dangers, and you've circulated these strategies in direct language in a very successful pamphlet called "Drugs: A Deadly Game." And you've done something else: You are leading the youth by example. For years, the Boy Scouts of America has led our nation in taking the antidrug message to every community. By actively engaging in the lives of others, you are demonstrating a central theme, a central idea of this administration: that from now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others. Now I want to challenge you to take the final steps. Ask yourself if you know someone like Ryan Shafer. And if so, have you done everything that you possibly can to help him or her?

And there are other, more positive challenges facing your generation. When the first Boy Scouts chapter was formed, Americans had just tamed the farthest reaches of the West. There were only a few remote places in the world, unseen by man. And since then, the world has become smaller, and so has the room for our imagination and daring -- a narrowed space for the restless spirit of freedom that is so much a part of our national priority and of our national identity. But you and I know that there's a new frontier, a frontier without limits -- space.

And once again, the Boy Scouts has played a leadership role in preparing a generation for space exploration. It's no coincidence that half of all astronauts were once Scouts: Admiral Richard Truly, who ably heads NASA, is an Eagle Scout; Gus Grissom, an American hero who lost his life in the early space program, was a Scout; David Scott, who operated that first lunar rover, was a Scout; And Jim Lovell, another lunar explorer, whom I'm told is with us today. And I guess, Jim, if you're here, it's true what they say: Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. And I doubt that any of the Scouts who participated in the 1969 seventh Jamboree in Idaho will ever forget Eagle Scout -- [applause] -- go Boise -- will ever forget Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong, who made man's first step on the Moon and later sent his greetings to the Jamboree from deep space. The first spacefarers were unique, the lucky few. But your generation will have a broader, greater opportunity to live in space, to travel, to establish an outpost on the Moon, and explore the mysteries of Mars. And this is the challenge of the next century -- your century, your challenge.

Near the Jamboree area is a NASA exhibit called Freedom Station, which includes a display of our nation's first permanently manned space station in the next decade. And nearby are also large-scale models of the space shuttle and other spacecraft. This is America's space fleet, and its mission is gradually changing from exploration to settlement. When we aim for the stars, it will be to stay.

And this brings to mind a small coincidence: Just a few miles away, along the Tidewater coast of Virginia, the first Englishmen arrived in the New World -- also not just to explore, but to stay. Those early Colonists faced a terrible struggle. Their first autumn brought a bitter harvest of hardship. Their first winter brought tragedy. But in the end, the generation of Captain John Smith escaped the confines of the Old World and settled the New -- a fresh frontier, a boundless promise called America.

And today, as before, some timid and chiding voices caution us against the danger, the hardship, and the expense. Perhaps they should have seen Steven Spielberg's extravaganza. Or perhaps they should listen to Ray Bradbury, a writer who once said that space will make children of us all. He meant that the strange beauty and mystery of space will teach even the most cynical and world-weary among us to rediscover the wonder of their first glimpse of the night sky. It is this sense of wonder and curiosity that draws you from the comfort of home, comfort of television, to the outdoors. And tonight, when you are lying around the campfire, surrounded by dark forest, looking up at the stars of the night sky, I want you to consider something. Perhaps you, or even your kids -- or as hard as it is for you to imagine, your grandchildren -- will one day look up at the night sky before going to sleep, and see the Earth as a faint, twinkling blue star.

It is this spirit, a spirit of wonder, of discovery and adventure, that is surely drawing us to a new destiny on new and far distant worlds. You are privileged to be the generation that will witness the first large movement of men and women into space. And as this happens, I know that the Boy Scouts of today will be in the lead. Thank you for inviting me to your Jamboree. God bless you, God bless the Boy Scouts of America, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:44 a.m. at Fort A.P. Hill. In his remarks, he referred to G. William Swisher, Jr., chairman of the National Jamboree; Ben H. Love, chief Scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America; former Scout Curtis Hawkins; entertainer Calvin Grant; and Col. John R. Bourgeois, USMC, Director of the U.S. Marine Corps Band.

George Bush, Remarks at the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Bowling Green, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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