National Jamboree 2017 – Day 8 Reflections
Reflections about SFE @ Jamboree, 7/26/2017
Day 8 of 10 – Justin Wilson
We had a rough start to this week, but today… well, today was a good day. Actually, it was by far my favorite day of the jamboree. It appears as if the banner controversy is a thing of the past, I had a great lunch, I spent some quality time with my SFE friends, and I had a whole lot of really meaningful conversations in our booth.
Almost immediately after arriving at the booth, two Scouts came in and asked if they could chat. The younger of the two said that his friend had originally wanted to head over to rifle shooting, but after leaving camp decided he just didn’t feel like it. This young Scout suggested to his older friend that they head into our booth because he had been there earlier in the week and really liked it. I introduced myself to both of them, sat down with them, and the older Scout’s first question for me was “what did you think of President Trump’s speech?” I paused for a moment and then said that I didn’t attend. I clarified that I had no problem with the president coming to the Jamboree, but I did have a problem with some of the political things he added into his speech and the things that some Scouts said which made others feel unwelcome or unsafe. I then turned the question back on him. He told me that he loved the speech. He began leaning into the conversation a little more and his eyes started to light up. He told me how he simply “couldn’t believe that the President of the United States – the most powerful person in the world – took time out of his day to come and speak to a bunch of Boy Scouts.” He said this made him feel really special, and that it was the highlight of his jamboree experience.
I couldn’t help but feel truly happy for this young man. Although I didn’t agree with the Scout on a lot of things, I also felt truly thankful for the opportunity to have this conversation. It didn’t take long before we moved on to other topics – everything from his home life to his hopes for a career after high school. We connected on a variety of levels, and as he left I started reflecting on my place in Scouting. I’ve always believed that my role as an adult leader in the BSA is to support all youth. By all I mean all. I ask them to be respectful of others, but I want them to be their true unfiltered selves. I’m so thankful our booth was able to provide a space where a young liberal Scout would feel comfortable bringing his staunchly conservative friend for supportive conversation with a trusted adult.
This conversation was only the beginning of a day filled with meaningful discussion and connecting with Scouts and Scouters on all different topics. I couldn’t believe the diversity of conversations! Before the day was done, I had helped a Scouter understand some of the language around transgender issues. I helped another team member support a young man who was questioning his identity and who had nobody at home to talk to about it. I debated the metaphysical nature of life and the concept of gender. I addressed questions from youth who couldn’t understand why the BSA was stopping us from handing out the “rainbow knots.” And I simply hung out with a remarkable young man who was semi-closeted and just wanted a break from having to hide himself from others.
As I discussed in my last post, this is why we’re here. To be supportive adults for all Scouts. People from within the upper echelons of the BSA have argued that we shouldn’t be here, but given the fruits of our labors I just can’t understand why they would feel this way. Mr. Surbaugh, Mr. Stephenson, Mr. Dahlquist – if you’re reading this, please consider sitting down with us to learn who we are and what we stand for. We don’t need everyone here to accept us, we just need the space to exist so that everyone else can know that they are accepted.
“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
~ James Baldwin