About our National Honorary National President...

Fellow Scouters, parents and Scouts/Venturers!

My email box has literally "blown up" since the election which brought President Obama to the Oval Office -- and in turn, after he accepted the traditional role of serving the BSA as its Honorary National President. The issues/questions which caused this have been "if he's the national honorary president, why isn't his signature on my Eagle Scout and/or other award certificates??" and "will he attend the National Scout Jamboree this summer in Virginia??"

Let's tackle the Jamboree first because it's a bit more complex. The answer is a strong "MAYBE". The President's schedule is worked out months in advance and is coordinated through several federal, state and in many cases local agencies before the President makes an OFFICIAL, PLANNED appearance.

We in the BSA have been spoiled in our past because our Presidents from either political party makes the time to appear in person or through the elements of technology to address the young men of today -- the young leaders of tomorrow. As the world gets smaller and smaller by way of technology and conflict, our nation -- and the elected leader who represents the citizens -- is engaged more and more which takes him away from the "traditional celebratory events" which marks what our Presidents do in relating to the people of America.

Without a doubt, President Obama loves to be around folk. He enjoys being around young people and views himself as a positive role model for all "dads" -- whatever the skin tone or part of the nation they come from. He views himself also as a man who represents and wants to represent "all of the people, not just those who voted for him or his party". He enjoys being around guys because for the most part, his nuclear family is all female except him -- he's outnumbered three to one!

Posting all of this, it is very clear to me -- and the professional and volunteer leadership of the Boy Scouts of America -- that plans be made for the STRONG POSSIBILITY that the President would be able to attend either the opening ceremony in late July OR the closing ceremony in early August during the Centennial National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill. As I mentioned earlier, there's a LOT of coordination which MUST be made and the coordination is done with a variety of agencies.

I am looking forward in having an opportunity to shake our President's hand, to take video or still images of him around Scouts and Scouters, and to reveal in my personal feeling that alongside faith and community, Scouting can make things happen in the lives of people from all backgrounds and segments of our American life and that our President is there to bring that feeling home to all Americans.

All I can ask of you is to have faith and know that if the President does not appear in person, that technology will once again play a role in his participation -- not unlike other Presidents who were unable to be physically present but emotionally connected to our premiere national event. Its not anything personal nor political -- it's just the time and days in which we live in, that's all. Even if we just saw his image on the "jambojumbos", I'll be right alongside of those Jamboree attendees and visitors screaming my lungs out in pride. Once again, the President viewed Scouting as so important in American life that he took time to provide a special message to all of us.

(and if you want to encourage his physical participation, send an email or postal mail letter to the President and let him know this. Invite him to your Troop's campsite. Invite him for coffee over at one of the Trading Posts. Challenge him to a dribble contest. Ask him to swap patches or coins with you - I did. *smiling from ear to ear*.)

About the President's signature on the Eagle Scout Award certificate and card: Here's what I wrote to a Scouting blog in October 2009 and here's a copy of an "All Hands" posting made by the BSA's Director of Communuications Services:

The question/concern was: “This is more of a question then innovation. Several of my volunteers has asked why the Eagle Certificates has GW Bush as the Honorary President and not President Obama’s signature. Is there an answer that I can give them?”

I wrote back then:

"It’s a printing issue more than anything else. The White House has to authorize the usage of the President’s signature on various BSA certificates. As of today (7 October 09), the printing has not been approved.

As with the issue with those not wanting an Eagle Scout certificate with the signature of former President Clinton while he was in office, Eagle Scouts can receive a certificate WITHOUT the signature of the Honorary President of the BSA (the President of the USA) on the certificate by request from the BSA’s Eagle Scout Service.

I personally don’t know why the disconnect between the White House Office of Public Communication (the office which handles, for instance, the Eagle Scout and Gold Award letters of commendation) and the BSA… I had thought that after the Presidents’ acceptance of serving as the Honorary President of the BSA that everything has been smoothed out and like in prior years, the neccessary approvals have been made for the certificates and other items. I guess things are “different” with this administration…or the fact that they are STILL working short-handed in many offices and those offices whereby the folks are not short-handed, they just don’t “get it” and understand the importance of a “little thing” like insuring that national organizations like the BSA has the proper stuff…"

Since that posting, a parent posted that they received a certificate (which they did not know it was an interim certificate) without the Honorary President's signature on it. Jim Wilson wrote in regard to this the following:

"The certificate identified above is the transitional certificate. As with any change in the administration at the White House, there is lag time between when the new president takes office and the processing and licensing of his electronic signature for our documents. All Eagle documents now have President Obama’s signature."

And to follow it up, the following was released to the field in the form of an "All Hands" email. Just in case you or someone in your Council did not read this:

To: Scout Executive;area directors;National E-mail;NDC;Boys Life New York;Philmont Email Group;Florida Sea Base;Northern Tier
From: Jim Wilson
BSA Must Read: President Obama-Eagle Scout Certificates

There appears to be some confusion as to President Barack Obama’s relationship with Scouting. To ensure that each of you has factual information if this issue comes up, please review the following statements that will assist you with questions.

1. President Obama is the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America. He accepted this honor soon after his inauguration last year and we appreciate his desire to serve in that position.

2. President Obama’s signature is on the Eagle Scout pocket card and Eagle Scout wall certificate. As with any change in the administration at the White House, there is lag time between when the new president takes office and the processing and licensing of his electronic signature for our documents.

3. The President of the United States signature has never appeared on any of the lifesaving awards.

4. Although he was unable to attend the 100th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C., in February, he did send a very nice letter to congratulate the BSA on its centennial. That letter can be viewed at

The Boy Scouts of America has always respected the office of President of the United States and will, as always, respect the holder of the office.

Jim Wilson, Director, Communication Services, 972-580-2010

When Scouters and parents post and ask me questions like this, I have to remind them that while I'm not an "insider" posing as a volunteer to maintain your confidence, much of what I know about Scouting is based upon my experiences and the experiences of the Boy Scouts of America. We've been through this before and chances are -- technology withstanding -- we'll go through this again.

When President Nixon left office and was replaced by his Vice President, Eagle Scout certificates still had President Nixon's signature on them even though many Scouts earned their Eagle Scout awards in a great part because of the fact that the new President -- Gerald Ford, an Eagle Scout -- would have his signature on the documents. When that did not happen, Scouts and parents complained. The BSA responded by encouraging those who wanted a certificate with the CURRENT National Honorary President's signature to simply contact their local Council office for the replacement. Problem solved but it took about four months before the new President's signature started appearing on the new certificates and cards.

My Eagle Scout pocket card carries President Ford's signature; my Eagle Scout certificate carries the name of the previous National Honorary President of the BSA, Richard Nixon. I never requested although my local Council asked me -- and other Eagle Scouts from that time period -- if I wanted a "Ford certificate." To ME, as it is with most Eagle Scouts, it is not the names which appear on the documents. It is the honor of being an Eagle Scout -- that the BSA thought that I was deserving of that title and the responsibilities which went along with that title.

Hope this helps those wanting to know a bit of "ground truth" about both issues.

This should be a blog entry, but I'm still having problems integrating the blog and its format with the rest of this site. I'll get it done however, and this will appear there. It has been posted to the US Scouting Service Project, Inc.'s Facebook site; and I have already posted a similar comments onto my personal Facebook.

(and a special "thank you" to Jim Wilson for providing the text from his communication to the field. Normally this isn't done this way. They're catching on!! )