President Trump opened his speech before the National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia on Monday with what turned out to be a rhetorical question. “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts, right?”
Trump wasn’t the first president to address a crowd of tens of thousands of Scouts, brought together from all over the country. Franklin D. Roosevelt started the tradition when he wrote a message to the very first National Jamboree, held on the Mall in 1937. At that gathering, Scouts from each of the 48 states brought wood and built a collective campfire, which was lit by Dan Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, using only flint and steel. Attorney General Homer Cummings delivered Roosevelt’s words, urging the boys to carry home with them the spirit of the Jamboree, “for sooner than we who are older realize, you will assume the full responsibilities of citizenship.” Since then, six of the 10 U.S. presidents who were in office at the time of a Jamboree have come in person to address these national gatherings of Scouts. Presidents from both parties have used the opportunity to praise the service and commitment of the boys and challenged them to become young men of even greater character.
Not Trump. He talked about himself. He bragged about “that famous night on television” when he won the election. He complained about “fake polls” and “fake news.” Apparently still smarting from Inauguration Day, he predicted that the media would underestimate the size of the crowd at the Jamboree.