Remarks at a White House Luncheon Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America

February 8, 1985

Good afternoon and welcome. And forgive me for interrupting our lunch.

I'm delighted to be able to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. I'm delighted to celebrate anything that's older than I am -- [laughter] -- but 75 years of unparalleled service to the youth and the families and the communities of our nation.

As you might imagine, in my job there's some things I must do and some I want to do and a few special things that I just can't wait to do. And this celebration is one of those special moments.

On Inauguration Day I spoke of the American sound -- those symbols of our democracy and echoes of our past that give us purpose and guide us forward. And I said that sound -- our heritage, our song -- is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. And you know, come to think of it, I could have added trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and the rest of the Scout law, because the Boy Scouts of America and the values that you hold close are an important part of the American sound and have been for 75 proud years.

And it was in the early days of scouting that the life of a young New Yorker was changed forever. Manhattan's Lower East Side was a very tough neighborhood, and far too many young men were drawn into the turmoil and the violence there and never recovered.

But this particular youngster from the Lower East Side found the Boy Scouts. He was challenged to learn positive values -- leadership, camping, fitness. Aaron took up the challenge and gained in moral strength, confidence, and ambition. He became a successful attorney. And his son became the second Eagle Scout in the family.

But Aaron never forgot his roots and, in 1943, left the practice of law to give more of his time to Boy Scout fundraising.

And his son? Well, during our first term, Ken Duberstein served here in the White House as my Assistant for Legislative Affairs. So, I'm very pleased that they're both here today.

You know, America sure turns out winners. And much of the credit belongs to organizations like the Boy Scouts. And so it's not surprising that yesterday's Scouts have helped to shape our today -- in business, government, the media, science, medicine, education, show business, and -- well, the list goes on and on.

Former Scouts have walked on the Moon, become President, and won the Heisman Trophy. Today they serve as Cabinet Secretaries, as my Press Secretary, and in the Congress. In fact, about two-thirds of the Members of the Congress have been in the Boy Scouts. I can't help but think, two-thirds of them Boy Scouts -- [laughter] -- how nice it would have been if the Boy Scouts had a merit badge for a balanced budget amendment. [Laughter]

But you can be certain that today's Scouts will help shape America. And when they do, I'll bet there'll be Scouts like the ones who are with us today, like Randy Reed of nearby Vienna, Virginia. Two days ago Randy received the Boy Scouts highest and rarest award -- the Honor Medal for Lifesaving with Crossed Palms for extraordinary heroism.

And he's not alone. I've just been sitting beside a young man here, Freddie Hill, who also is wearing that medal very proudly. But Randy, also, at the extreme risk of his own life, rescued a young man who had slipped, who had struck his head and fell unconscious, wedged between rocks in 14 feet of murky water. With great bravery and skill, Randy did everything his Scout training would tell him to do and more. And, Randy, congratulations and God bless you.

Let me ask: Freddie, how many others in here are wearing that medal also? Which Scouts? Look at you, too. Freddie is wearing the medal.

Thank you. Well, it's easy to understand why the Boy Scout badge, the American eagle superimposed on the north sign of the mariners compass, means Follow me, I know the way. The Boy Scouts of America do know the way, the way to set high standards and how to live by them, and the way to build character, train in citizenship, and foster fitness of mind and body.

And here's one last thought: Without the thousands of adult leaders, corporate sponsors, and other caring Americans, it would not be possible for young Americans to capture the Scouting spirit and the special joys of camping, fellowship, service, and love of country.

So, thank all of you for what you're doing for our young people and for America's future. We're in good hands. So, God bless you all, and God bless the Boy Scouts of America.

Note: The President spoke at 12:53 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.