The Boy Scouts of America is an organization focused on teaching and giving experiences to boys aged 12-18. The Boy Scouts teach the values of friendship and loyalty, as well as kindness, compassion, trustworthiness. The organization also teaches scouts skills such as swimming, camping, and hiking in the form of merit badges. Every four years, The Boy Scouts of America holds a nationwide gathering of Boy Scouts called the National Jamboree, held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. From July 19-28, the Jamboree gives scouts from all corners of the nation a chance to come together and experience scouting on a large scale. The 5,000 acre Summit site easily held the 40,000 scouts, and I was lucky enough to attend after first touring New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
The camp was massive with activities everywhere. Some activities were miles apart from each other so we had to decide in advance “what, where, and when” for the next day’s agenda so we would not have to hike 15 miles back and forth. I experienced so many new adventures such as BMX racing and mountain bike racing, neither of which I had ever done. I even rode down a giant 1/2 mile long zip line! In addition, the camp provided shooting ranges for pistols, rifles, shotguns and even crossbows. Every night a band performed in the huge concert arena where I heard the Ex-ambassadors and the Plain White T’s. Patch trading provided another interesting activity. Each scout group created a unique patch and traded with other groups, but the Jamboree took this to another level. Our sub-camp transformed into a patch market-place. Scouts even brought their cots and used them as tables to display and trade their designs, and some Scouts hiked two miles to join in.
President Trump made a surprise visit to the Jamboree announcing his arrival only two days prior. His controversial speech, which made national news, was both interesting and confusing! Part of his message emphasized patriotic values and was very relevant to us, causing many to chant, “USA! USA! USA!” However, Trump often veered off-topic which confused his audience. He thanked the Scouts for voting for him, for example, even though we were not old enough to have voted. At one point, he told a story about his friend’s “extravagant yacht life,” and that we were too young to understand his situation. Confused or not, we were still enthusiastic to see and hear the President of the United States up close and personal! When Trump followed a written script, his message was uplifting and inspiring; but when he meandered into unrelated topics, it was difficult to follow his points. Although it was not an organized and focused speech, I was thrilled to have experienced it “live!”
The Jamboree as a whole was an amazing adventure. It opened my eyes and mind to new opportunities and allowed me to participate in completely new experiences. Prior to this trip, I would gravitate to familiar activities only, but the Jamboree atmosphere encouraged me to approach the “new” with an optimistic outlook. Overall, the experience not only helped me to appreciate diverse viewpoints, but also made Boy Scout values such as loyalty, friendship, and compassion more than just words and brought them to life.